Red Cross learning from locals

ROBERT Tickner is on the Coffs Coast this week, learning from the locals.

THE secretary-general and chief executive officer of the Australian Red Cross spent yesterday in Nambucca, Bellingen and Coffs Harbour and today he will have lunch with the Woolgoolga branch of the Red Cross before travelling on to Yamba.

He is touring the North Coast 'listening and learning' but says as someone who grew up in Foster, the trip has also been somewhat of a return home for him.

While he has been speaking to branch members during the visit as well as touring charity shops, schools and Red Cross programs, he says he is picking the brains of local volunteers on what they see as the future direction of the organisation.

He said he was taking the opportunity to listen to the wisdom and experience of very senior members of the organisation, some of whom have been working for the organisation for 40 and even 50 years and were often the greatest advocates for renewal of the organisation, because they wanted to 'pass on the baton.'

As a CEO looking forward to the centenary of the Red Cross in 2014, he has been impressed with the stability and dedication of these Coffs Coast volunteers. He said during the 'wonderful welcome' he was given by the Bellingen branch, he discovered that the average length of time Bellingen members had spent in their community was 45 years - close to half the lifetime of Red Cross.

He has visited Coffs Harbour's new Red Cross Good Start Breakfast Club at Tyalla School, was looking forward to seeing Telecross volunteers in action and said the city's Swim Stroke program was an example of a Red Cross program with a 'homespun and local' flavour.

“While my work has a huge domestic Australian component, it is good to be able to talk to people in small towns and emphasise how they fit in to a global movement,” Mr Tickner said. “Australians are extremely generous to the Red Cross.”

He said Australia had contributed $1209 million to the Red Cross for aid following the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami; $8 million following the Chinese earthquake and $5.5 million following the Myanmar cyclone earlier this year.

He said while Australian governments had donated large sums, rural and regional areas were also generous donors. A former Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Mr Tickner sayshis years as a politician have proved a valuable background for his new job - which includes the expansion of the Red Cross breakfast clubs into remote Aboriginal communities as part of its diversification and outreach to young people.

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