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Thursday, 25 March 2004
Page: 27359

Mr NEVILLE (12:30 PM) —Before I commence, I would like to commend the government's focus on the very great, important matter of road funding for regional Australia. I am talking about the national highway, Roads of National Importance, Roads to Recovery and, of course, the black spot program, which I chair in Queensland. I can assure members that the next round will be warmly received in all states.

The main focus of my address today is the 90th anniversary of the Red Cross. I would like to pay tribute to the members and volunteers who freely give their time and resources in order to help their fellow citizens. The Red Cross began life in 1914, as a branch of the British Red Cross, nine days after the outbreak of World War I. It is now the world's largest humanitarian network, comprising 97 million members and volunteers worldwide. March is `Red Cross Calling' month in Australia and I encourage fellow members and everyone else to show their support for this marvellous organisation. Last weekend I attended the official launch of the Red Cross Calling campaign in Bundaberg and learned a little more about the support services they provide locally.

Last year, the statewide campaign raised around $1.4 million, with $85,000 of that coming directly from the Bundaberg area. Every year the Queensland branch of the Red Cross uses that money to help more than 76,000 vulnerable children, 10,800 families and people in crisis, and 116,000 elderly people. You might ask: how does the organisation achieve such an outreach? It does so with the generous support of the public, its 110 branches throughout the state and 10,100 Queensland members.

I pay tribute to the public's ongoing support for the Red Cross, because the generosity of the public provides vital assistance to children's services, disability services, aged care services, youth services, blood collection services, and first aid training. I am proud that Hinkler is the home of 500 Red Cross members and volunteers. Around 100 of them—led by branch president, Jeanette Davey; vice-president, Betty Taylor; and secretary, Chris Thompson—are associated with the Bundaberg branch, which has been operational since 1937. During the war years, the branch was very active in fundraising. They conducted street stalls, organised prisoner of war street collections, participated in button and flag days, and organised concerts. Members worked frantically to knit items and prepare wound dressings for hospitals in Australia and overseas. Memorabilia of those days is now displayed at the Bundaberg Historical Museum and the Bundaberg RSL Memorial Club.

For many years branch business was conducted from a small cottage in the grounds of the liquor merchants Fred Baker Wine and Spirits, free of rent. Fred and Agnes Baker's unfailing support extended to Mrs Baker filling the role of branch president for 27 years, while her husband's estate, upon his death, allowed the Red Cross to continue operating rent-free from the cottage. Mrs Baker's efforts were rewarded with a Red Cross Distinguished Service Medal in 1967. While the business was eventually sold, a small piece of land was given to the Red Cross and donations and fundraising eventually resulted in the new Wide Bay premises on the corner of Barolin Street and Woongarra Street in Bundaberg.

One of the most prominent modern-day Red Cross projects came to fruition in 1983, with the completion of the Myra Boreham rest rooms and chapel in the grounds of the Bundaberg Base Hospital. I was a member of the hospital board at that time and I am very proud to be associated with that project. These rooms, which are similar to motel rooms, are available free of charge for the families of critically ill patients and clients from outlying areas requiring treatment.

Gladstone also has a long association with the Red Cross, with the local branch formed in the wake of the cyclone which hit the city in 1914. The membership list holds some distinguished individuals: Mrs Joyce Staples, the longest serving member of the branch, and Mrs Kathleen Kahler, who was awarded the BEM by the Queen when the Britannia berthed at Gladstone in 1970, in recognition of her service to the Red Cross, after being branch president for 21 years. Current branch president Rowena Krone should also be congratulated on maintaining a commitment to providing emergency family hospital accommodation, and a variety of other programs in the Gladstone and Calliope areas.

Between the two Red Cross branches within my electorate, the public can have access to hospital library services, cosmetic care programs, a visiting service, youth groups, blood services, disaster preparedness training and medical equipment hire—a truly outstanding contribution, and I salute that organisation.