Legislative Council: Wednesday, November 30, 2022



Australian Red Cross

Adjourned debate on motion of Hon. J.S. Lee:

That this council—

1. Recognises that the Australian Red Cross has been supporting communities in need through its humanitarian work and community support services since 1914;

2. Acknowledges the significant contributions that the Australian Red Cross makes in providing a wide range of programs and support to refugees, asylum seekers, immigration detainees, and migrant communities; and

3. Notes the success of the Australian Red Cross’ partnership with the Multicultural Centre for Women’s Health in delivering the Health in My Language program to support bilingual health education for vulnerable women from culturally and linguistically diverse communities in South Australia.

(Continued from 16 November 2022.)

The Hon. R.B. MARTIN (17:22): I rise to support the motion introduced by the Hon. Jing Lee, which recognises the significant contributions made by the Australian Red Cross to the South Australian community. One of the first meetings I had when I was elected to this house was with the South Australian branch of the Red Cross. I had the privilege of touring the Red Cross offices here and meeting with their South Australian director, Jai O'Toole.

The thing that he said that stuck with me is that everyone knows the Red Cross for bloods and floods, but there is actually so much more that they do. I must admit that before I met with them I, too, was under the misapprehension that the scope of their work was quite narrow. What surprised and impressed me the most was the sheer breadth of work not related to bloods and floods that the Red Cross undertakes in South Australia.

During the pandemic and with COVID, the Red Cross had a significant part to play. In response to the pandemic in Australia, the Red Cross significantly expanded their remit to include assisting at COVID testing clinics by providing over 18,000 care packages to people waiting for COVID tests. They provided community support and translation services to vulnerable people and delivered over 60,000 wellbeing calls to South Australians in mandatory self-isolation or quarantine.

They delivered food and hygiene items and health information to young people experiencing homelessness, and they provided emergency relief funds and helped with complex casework, food parcel delivery and service referrals to 131,000 migrants and CALD communities. They also had a big role in disseminating daily community health and hygiene information to refugee and asylum seeker communities in 18 different languages.

Importantly, during the pandemic the Australian Red Cross also partnered with the Multicultural Centre for Women's Health to deliver a bilingual health education program to South Australians. These health education sessions, which were conducted in over 20 languages and dialects to migrant and refugee communities, were critical in helping our culturally and linguistically diverse communities feel more confident in understanding vaccine information in a supportive environment, leading to a greater uptake of COVID-19 vaccinations within these communities. I have no doubt that the valuable work of the Red Cross greatly assisted a number of people during the COVID-19 pandemic.

One of the other roles that the Red Cross is involved in is community justice. The Red Cross has committed to reducing the over-representation of vulnerable people in the criminal justice system in South Australia. They run some amazing targeted support programs such as community-based health first aid, Sisters Alongside Sisters, the prison transport program, and Working it Out to Step Out.

The Red Cross is working to reduce recidivism, help people in custody better manage their safety, health and wellbeing, increase the connection between at-risk people, their families and the broader community, and help at-risk individuals gain improved opportunities and greater resilience and access to positive social connections. These fantastic programs, which are conducted across metropolitan, rural and regional South Australia, work to increase the safety of individuals and the community as a whole.

The Red Cross is also involved in a number of community programs. Some of the community programs in South Australia are designed to support older people to be more independent and to improve their social and emotional wellbeing. Over one in four adults, or 4.5 million Australians, say that they experience social isolation. Many of these people are older and vulnerable. Sadly, it is widely understood that older people who experience isolation and disconnection are more likely to experience negative health and wellbeing outcomes.

The Red Cross in South Australia are working to assist our older committee members by conducting a Telecross program which provides older people with a daily phone call to check on their wellbeing. This program is run every day of the year, and in 2021 over 200,000 Telecross phone calls were made to South Australian participants.

The Red Cross is also assisting with transport through the transport support program which provides a door-to-door service for members of the community who have difficulties getting to their non-urgent medical or social appointments. This service is available across metropolitan, rural and regional South Australia, and in 2021 a team of over 300 dedicated volunteer drivers made 28,000 trips to support older South Australians.

In the past decade, the number of people displaced from their homes worldwide has almost doubled from 41 million to 79.5 million. The Australian Red Cross has been working with recently arrived immigrants for over 30 years, including people seeking asylum, refugees, people in detention or separated from family, those on temporary visas and people experiencing or at risk of modern-day slavery. In South Australia in 2021 the Red Cross provided 10,401 individuals with food relief, made 4,625 payments through their COVID response program, reached 3,677 participants through community conversations, and supported over 100 individuals in gaining employment and employment-related roles.

One of the amazing things about the Red Cross is that so much of their work is done by volunteers. The Red Cross is supported by over 100 million volunteers worldwide who are guided by the organisation's fundamental principles of humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence, voluntary service, unity and universality.

The Red Cross encourages diversity in their volunteer network, including people of varying ages, cultural backgrounds, and many people who speak different languages, have different skills and are differently abled. I was able to meet a number of these people while I was visiting the Red Cross, and I put on the record my appreciation for every one of them who commits their time to helping other members of the community.

I would certainly encourage anyone who is looking to volunteer their time to help their local community by considering working with the Red Cross to assist them with their valuable programs. I commend the Red Cross and in particular the South Australian Red Cross for the wide-ranging work they do supporting our community, and I thank the honourable member for introducing this motion.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (17:29): The motion brought to us by the Hon. Jing Lee provides an opportunity for this chamber to acknowledge the valuable work of the Australian Red Cross for more than 100 years. Indeed, I first met with representatives from the Red Cross in July and heard about the many programs that are being run to support communities, and many of these have been outlined by my colleague the Hon. Reggie Martin. The Red Cross have been a lifeline for marginal communities for many years, with their programs covering the justice system, First Nations' support, migrant support and, particularly relevant at the moment, disaster response.

This year, the Red Cross celebrated 50 years of providing their telecross program. This service makes daily wellbeing calls to people who are older, who have a disability or are housebound or are recovering from an accident or illness. These calls are also made during heatwaves and during other extreme weather events. I want to commend the honourable member for bringing this motion to the chamber and indicate that, of course, the Greens will be supporting it.

The Hon. J.S. LEE (Deputy Leader of the Opposition) (17:30): Can I just express, wholeheartedly, my thanks to the Hon. Reggie Martin and also the Hon. Robert Simms for their most heartfelt contributions to this motion, and I thank all honourable members for supporting this motion to have a successful passage.

Motion carried.