This year we celebrate the 100th anniversary of Red Cross serving our Australian community. The Red Cross have earned an impeccable reputation in carrying out humanitarian work in times of conflict and disaster and for their world-leading blood donor service.
Just as important is their everyday work in communities helping the most vulnerable people who are experiencing personal family crises. After Cyclone Yasi, the Cairns branch of the Red Cross assisted with disaster recovery leadership, supporting local state governments and NGOs in delivering community services.
In 2014, Red Cross Cairns has marked its own milestone celebrating 100 years since its establishment. Although it closed temporarily after the Second World War, it reopened in 1954 and the first group of volunteers were instrumental in getting the blood donor service established in Cairns. It has been operating continuously since then and in February I attended the opening of the Cairns Health and Wellness Stay Centre, the Pat Gosper Place.
This new building, constructed with some financial assistance from the Commonwealth, is on the same site where the Red Cross has provided medical accommodation more than 50 years. The new four-storey centre is not just a bed for the night, however. It is a place to find calm, comfort and recovery for body and spirit.
Pat Gosper, after whom the centre is named, was an active Red Cross worker in Far North Queensland for almost 70 years. Pat was instrumental in facilitating the fundraising and purchase of the original block of land and the neighbouring building and is described as “a force to be reckoned with”.
I certainly would not argue with that description. I also recognise Win Murray, who has recently turned 90; she too has dedicated decades to the Red Cross in Cairns. Both women have been awarded medals of the Order of Australia for their contributions.
Speaking to the President of the Cairns branch, Pam Clayton, I was pleased to learn that the organisation certainly is not resting on its laurels. In recognition of the centenary, they have started an International Humanitarian Law interest group which meets to discuss topical issues in IHL, and to promote awareness of the work undertaken in this field. Initiatives like this not only acknowledge the past but also recognise contemporary needs, and will contribute to the ongoing regeneration of the Red Cross.
I would like to congratulate Red Cross Cairns members and volunteers in my electorate of Leichhardt, whose everyday work makes such a positive, lasting difference to the lives of very vulnerable people in our community.
Those members and volunteers also provide a fabulous service and a home away from home for people that are forced to remove themselves from many of the remote communities in Cape York and the Torres Strait in order to seek medical help in our city.