Region celebrates World Red Cross Day

RAISING THE FLAG: Mayor Lynette Martin and Vice Patron Libby Furner. Pictures: MELANIE RILEY.

Melanie Riley

REGIONAL Red Cross Australia staff, members and volunteers, joined with Mount Gambier City Council mayor Lynette Martin gathered in the Cave Gardens/Thugi this week for the celebration of the annual World Red Cross Day and Red Crescent Day.

The event is held on the birthday of the founder of the Red Cross, Red Crescent Movement, Henri Dunant, who founded the initiative in 1863.

The event included the raising of the Red Cross flag, a presentation of long service awards, certificates of recognition and a morning tea.

Special guest, Red Cross Australia vice patron Libby Furner gave a speech, recognising the hard work and dedication of those involved in the Red Cross locally.

Linda Cruise, Heather Jones and Betsy Bowden were recognised for their efforts, volunteering for the Telecross/TeleCHAT service.

There were volunteers also recognised for their efforts within the transport services of the Red Cross Australia.

Barbara Thompson celebrated 10 years of service, while Isabel Badenoch and Michael Riley – who was absent on the day – celebrated five years.

Ms Furner said her connection with the Red Cross began through her mother as she grew up in Melbourne.

When Ms Furner joined her mother as a secondary student during the Red Cross calling month, she had an experience that encouraged her to later get involved herself in volunteering.

Collecting in North Balwyn, Ms Furner said there was a fairly strong Jewish community, and they had come across a woman that was very pleased to see them and was happy to donate.

“This was a long time before dollars came in so it was shillings and pence, and a lot of people would give mum two or five shillings but she gave us 10 pounds,” Ms Furner said.

“As she handed it over, there was this number on her arm, and she said ‘Red Cross was so wonderful to our family during the war.’

“They had lived in Europe and she said ‘I always wanted to do things to support the Red Cross’ and that sort of resonated with me.

“That was when I first saw evidence – I think I had read Diary of Anne Frank – but this was somebody that was real in the suburb I had lived in.”

Later, Ms Furner and her husband moved to Mount Gambier/Berrin for teaching roles, and Ms Furner decided to get involved with the Red Cross Service Group in 1982.

She is now the vice patron for the lower part of South Australia, joining three others across the state.

Ms Furner encouraged others to get involved with volunteering where they can.

“To do something for somebody else is very satisfying,” she said.

“There are so many people out there that are finding it hard for so many reasons.

“As well as doing something for someone, you’re mixing with people and enjoying the company of other like minded people.”

Ms Martin reflected on her own experiences within the Red Cross organisation, which also began with her becoming a member of the Red Cross Service Group in 1982 after leaving work to give birth to her son.

“I found being at home on my own that I was missing that interaction having left full time employment and being home with the bub,” Ms Martin said.

“I missed that interaction with people. The Red Cross Service Group used to meet in the evenings, so I would go to that.

“I have always enjoyed volunteering.”

The main focus of the Red Cross Service Group was to raise money for the Red Cross, which they did successfully offering catering and running events.

A notable annual event was the Christmas tree competition in the old Town Hall, where schools would be invited to come and decorate Christmas trees, which resulted in the chosen winner having their decorated tree included in the Christmas parade.

Another notable event that made a huge impact at the time was the Boys Day Out lunch, attended only by men.

The first Boys Day Out lunch held locally saw the group make $28,000 profit and with that, the first transport car for the region was purchased.

Ms Martin extended her gratitude and recognised the efforts of the local Red Cross volunteers.

“On behalf of the City of Mount Gambier, I certainly thank the volunteers for their commitment to the Red Cross and the services they provide in our community,” Ms Martin said.

“It’s just so important to connect with people in our community that may not be able to be out in the community like we are, so the service they provide is really important in keeping these people connected.

“We certainly do thank the volunteers for the role they play.”