Thursday, 3 December 2020
Australian Red Cross
As we all know, and as a number of speakers have spoken about this evening, 2020 has been an incredibly difficult and trying year for us Australians. We've contended with drought, fires, floods and now COVID-19. It's been the year of the Aussie battler, without doubt, where our strong values of hard work, perseverance and steadfastness in the face of adversity have certainly been put to the test. It's also been a year in which Australians have stepped up to the plate and given generously of their time, money and volunteer hours to help out others in their community, a year in which charitable organisations have been working tirelessly to support those in need.
So today I rise to speak about the Australian Red Cross, an organisation whose work at times goes largely underreported but which has a profound impact on the lives of many Australians. Not since World War II has there been so much demand for Red Cross services. Staff and volunteers have been involved in three significant, back-to-back, long-term emergencies—drought, bushfires and now COVID-19. From 1 July 2019 to 30 June this year, the Australian Red Cross emergency services activated 4,789 volunteers and staff. They helped 83,715 people across 63 events—including the summer bushfires, drought and COVID-19—in one single year.
The drought that has afflicted many areas around Australia has seen our farmers and regional communities face incredible adversity. But they've not faced it alone. The Red Cross and other charitable organisations have stepped up and helped out those in need. In 2019, Red Cross launched an appeal for Aussie farmers who were battling severe drought, and Australians stepped up and donated $11.5 million. A total of 7,452 grants of up to $3,000 were distributed, with the support of partners like the CWA and the Rural Financial Counselling Service. They've helped relieve financial stress for farmers and their families caused by the drought.
Then came the Black Summer bushfires, fires that were on a scale never seen before in Australia—tens of millions of hectares burnt, 33 lives lost, 3,000 houses burnt down and millions of animals killed or displaced. The Red Cross and other charities faced public pressure on several fronts, with public demands to get money to people quickly and claims that they were holding onto money. A key part of disaster support and recovery is getting funds to those affected as quickly as possible, but that comes with the responsibility of ensuring the funds are managed properly and the money goes where it is supposed to go. Another key aspect of disaster recovery is ensuring that there are funds remaining to support people weeks and months after the disaster. In the case of the Black Summer bushfires, since June the Red Cross has had more than 1,739 people come forward seeking financial assistance for the first time, months after the last fires were extinguished. When it comes to providing grants in a disaster, there are several phases: immediate emergency grants, rebuilding and long-term recovery. The Red Cross is one of the few emergency management organisations that operate in all three stages: in preparedness, in response and in recovery. This is why funds should not be spent all at once during an emergency. This is why the Red Cross is still able to be out there helping people in the community now.
However, just as many communities were starting to recover, along came COVID-19 and many Australians were plunged into economic hardship. Once again, organisations like the Red Cross came to the fore. Since April this year, federal government funding of $13 million has been provided to Red Cross under the government's $200 million Community Support Package.
Today I would like to thank the Australian Red Cross for everything they've done this year to support those in need. There are thousands of Australians around our great country who have a roof over their head and food on the table thanks to the work of the Red Cross. I would ask all Australians during Christmas, during this time of giving, to remember the Red Cross, to be generous and to make a donation.