Red Cross director visits
The Australian Red Cross Director of Services and International Operations was in Ballina last week as the key speaker at the Red Cross Country Zone 2 Conference hosted by the Ballina branch.
He previously has held a string of positions as a public policy advocate, including president of the global president of the International Council of Social Welfare, president of the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) and deputy director of ACTU overseas aid.
He was awarded the Australian Human Rights Medal by HREOC in 2002 and the Justice Medal by the Law and Justice Foundation in 2007.
He joined Red Cross last year and leads the delivery of Red Cross programs both in Australia and internationally.
And he attributes his passion for helping people to his parents, who were from Alstonville, the late Tottie Raper (nee Daley) and Bill Raper.
Bill worked at the former NSW Department of Agriculture’s experimental farm at Wollongbar, before taking a transfer to Sydney, where Michael grew up.
He said his parents ‘had a real commitment to helping others’.
And his father, 84, continues working as a volunteer in his local community in Sydney.
Michael said his message to the Red Cross members in the Zone 2 region, which covers an area from Tabulam to Broadwater and north to Byron Bay – including all the Ballina Shire branches – was that Red Cross had to ‘respect the work of the past’, but move on to meet changing needs.
He told the gathering that Red Cross had seven key priority areas: disaster relief and emergency services; international aid; international humanitarian law (laws of law); migration (asylum seekers); helping reduce disadvantages of Indigenous people; helping those suffering from social exclusion (like the homeless and those with mental illness); and helping overcome locational disadvantage. He said the key areas focused on ‘old strengths and provided new challenges’.
While he said Red Cross still had plenty of support from the broader community – citing the $370 million raised to help the victims of the Victorian bushfires earlier this year – membership of branches was declining.
“What’s not declining is the number of volunteers in our services,” he said. “But (membership) is a challenge for all membership organisations.”
He said Red Cross also was targeting issue-based membership, which was more attractive to young people, like groups at tackling climate change.
He cited a recent Red Cross report which stated that in the 1970s, there was an average of 100 natural disasters globally, while in the last eight years, there has been an average of 400.
Meanwhile, at the Ballina Red Cross annual general meeting, held recently, Lucy Lomax was elected president; Ginny Silver secretary; Linda Henry treasurer; and Beth Fox publicity.