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Monday, 1 September 2014
Page: 9267

Mr HAWKE (Mitchell) (11:16): I rise to support this motion on the Red Cross. This organisation is fantastic and has great bipartisan support. I say to the member for Fowler that I know secretly he would have been behind the scenes opposing the waste of $667 billion of taxpayers' money putting us into debt. There would be plenty of money for every organisation. It is just that we cannot find on the record where you opposed all that wasteful spending, but please feel free to in the future.

This motion is so important because there is bipartisanship about a great organisation working on humanitarian issues. I congratulate the member for Sydney for putting forward this motion, because it gives me the opportunity to say that 100 years is a significant achievement for any community organisation. Particularly in Australia, Red Cross has had some remarkable achievements and been a remarkable success. Citizens working for the betterment of other human beings is the best model and Red Cross, of course, has been a key humanitarian partner for Australia for the last 100 years.

The Australian aid program has a partnership agreement with the Australian Red Cross. That means that the government is providing $9 million in funding this year to support humanitarian training, disaster preparedness and disaster risk reduction activities in disaster prone countries in the region. In addition, we fund the Australian Red Cross to implement development projects throughout the region, such as health services in Afghanistan and water, sanitation and hygiene in Bangladesh and Nepal. During humanitarian crises, Australians regularly channel additional funding to Australian Red Cross to assist vulnerable and disaster affected people. It is a fantastic model that ensures money is well spent by an effective agency like Red Cross.

For example, in response to the floods we saw in the Solomons, Australians provided $250,000 for humanitarian supplies, including tarpaulins, blankets, mosquito nets, kitchen sets and hygiene kits. In response to Typhoon Haiyan, the ARC provided more than one million people with food, water, household items and emergency shelter material, assisting 75,000 families with cash grants and immediate needs and supplying 41 emergency workers. When you think about the success and the generosity of Australians there, it is an amazing record of achievement. The Australian Red Cross is also the managing partner of the Australian Volunteers for International Development program. This program places Australians overseas to share skills and build relationships.

It is important to note today that the network of one million volunteers, members, staff, donors, blood donors, aid workers and supporters over the years has made this organisation into what it is. When I reflect on the 100 years of achievement, I think about all of the local branches across the country which we have heard about from so many members today. I would add the Red Cross branch of Castle Hill.

It is also the centenary of Red Cross at Kellyville-Rouse Hill, with the Kellyville-Rouse Hill Red Cross branch being formed on the same day—13 August 1914—as the British Red Cross Society was formed. It was amazing, in an era when they did not have internet, emails, texts or mobile phones, that they managed to form on the same day—and something of minor miracle—with most meetings occurring in the schoolroom of the home of the Rouse family, which is today is known as Rouse Hill House and Farm.

I really want to commend my local branches, particularly the Kellyville-Rouse Hill branch, for their commitment to serving humanity. The Castle Hill Red Cross branch is the largest fundraising branch, I am told, in New South Wales and perhaps Australia. It was formed at the beginning of September 1914. At its first meeting at St Paul's Church it raised 10 pounds and 18 shillings and promptly arranged to kit out six soldiers' bags and one hospital bag.

The generosity of our community continues to this day. The Castle Hill branch has often raised the most money in Australia during Red Cross Calling and other appeals. I want to acknowledge the generosity of the people in the suburbs of Mitchell, who often appear at the top of the charitable donor lists in all kinds of charities, not because we are an extremely wealthy community—we do not have the wealth and privilege of the North Shore or the eastern suburbs—but because we have people who are very dedicated to serving other people. I really acknowledge the generosity of my community for consistently being at the top of so many charitable giving lists. It is a great culmination of community spirit.

I want to congratulate, in particular, Mrs Jean Swayne and all of the men and women of the Castle Hill branch, and our long-term committee members such as former president Ann Coupland, who have ensured that this branch's dedication to serving humanity is continuing a century later. When I visit these branches today, that same dedication that was there 100 years ago is still there today; that same concern for common humanity, for decency, is still the driving principle. For an organisation to be able to sustain its principles—not just from 100 years ago, but to sustain it over the course of that 100 years—and to be capable of modernising and presenting to a world the same values but in a new, current, contemporary format is a real and significant achievement. We ought to thank everyone who has been involved in Red Cross, not just in Australia but in the world, and particularly all those generous people who have given so much.

Debate adjourned.