Australian Red Cross

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The Australian Red Cross
Australian Red Cross Logo.jpg
Motto The power of humanity
Formation 1914
Type Non-governmental organisation
Legal status Incorporated by Royal Charter
Purpose Humanitarian aid
Headquarters Melbourne, Victoria
Governor-General of Australia (ex-officio)
Sir Peter Cosgrove AK, MC (Ret'd)
Judy Slatyer
Affiliations International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement
Mission To be a leading humanitarian organisation in Australia, improving the lives of vulnerable people through services delivered and promotion of humanitarian laws and values
Formerly called
British Red Cross (Australian Branch)
The Australian postage stamp (1954) commemorated for Australian Red Cross Society

Australian Red Cross is one of the many international Red Cross societies around the world. The Australian organisation was established in 1914, nine days after the starting of World War I, by Lady Helen Munro Ferguson, when she formed a branch of the British Red Cross, which is a branch of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. The mission of the Australian Red Cross is "To be a leading humanitarian organisation in Australia, improving the lives of vulnerable people through services delivered and promotion of humanitarian laws and values."

The Australian Red Cross supports and runs a number of projects whilst raising awareness to the Australian public about the current issues or problems which may affect them. Some of the projects which are either run by or assisted by the Australian Red Cross are blood services, first aid projects, disaster and emergency services and education services. The Red Cross is paid to maintain Australia's blood and organ donation services.

His Excellency General The Honourable Sir Peter Cosgrove AK, MC (Retd), Governor-General of Australia, is the Patron of the Australian Red Cross Society. He is a non-voting member of the Council. This council administers a limited number of duties and is made up of the President and 53 voting members. All other responsibilities are held by the Board which consists of 16 persons.[1]


Australia Hall in Pembroke, Malta, which was built in 1915 by the Australian Branch of the British Red Cross Society as an entertainment hall for soldiers from the British Empire

The organisation grew at a rapid rate. Lady Helen wrote to the mayors of every shire and municipality in Australia asking them to initiate a local branch. Typically, a letter was published in the local newspaper and a meeting called. By November 1914, New South Wales had 88 city or suburban branches and 249 country branches, all established within the previous four months. The Society was accepted by the community from the beginning. Much of the World War I home front activities such as knitting socks and rolling bandages was done by local Red Cross branches. The Red Cross Information Bureau was established in 1915 in order to coordinate information gathered on the dead and their burial beyond what was provided by the armed forces. The Red Cross Wounded and Missing files were extensive with searchers sometimes sent overseas to clarify information, make better judgements and to resolve conflicting accounts.[2] In 1916 the Australian Red Cross Society sent a team of 21 civilian nurses to France; these nurses were dubbed the "Bluebirds" in reference to the colours of their specially-designed uniforms.[3]

During World War II the Red Cross provided assistance to the sick, wounded, maimed and their dependents.[4] By agreement with the federal government they provided hostel accommodation to those with no living relatives or friends to support them upon returning home from war.[5] At the time the majority of the volunteers were unemployed married women. High rates of membership in the organisation were attributed to their annual, national, recruitment drive.[4] Membership grew from 260,000 in 1941 to 450,00 in 1944. The Australian Red Cross proved to be an important link between the public and Japanese prisoners of war.[4]

In 2005, the organisation made an agreement with the Maldives Government to help clear debris created by the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami.[6] In December 2010, aid workers from the Australian Red Cross were sent to Christmas Island to assist the survivors of the 2010 Christmas Island boat disaster.[7] Australian Red Cross volunteers were also active after Cyclone Tracy hit Darwin, the Ash Wednesday bushfires, the Black Saturday bushfires and the 2010–2011 Queensland floods.[8]


The Australian Red Cross is part of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, the largest humanitarian movement in the world. The movement comprises over 97 million volunteers worldwide and prides itself on being neutral, impartial and independent.


The passion and commitment of the volunteers is widely acknowledged. They rise to natural disaster or personal crisis from bushfire to flood or drought. Today there are more than 60,000 trained volunteers and the entire Australian Red Cross program is funded by public donations and corporate partnerships.


The eight priority areas of Red Cross in Australia are:

  • Strengthening national emergency preparedness, response and recovery
  • Increasing international aid and development
  • Strengthening communities in areas of locational disadvantage
  • Championing international humanitarian law(IHL or ‘the laws of war’)
  • Addressing the impact of migration
  • Partnering with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
  • Overcoming social exclusion by providing bridges back into the community
  • Provide a safe, secure supply of blood and blood products - through the Australian Red Cross Blood Service


  1. ^ "Governance". Australian Red Cross. Retrieved 16 April 2013. 
  2. ^ Jalland, Patricia (2006). Changing Ways of Death in Twentieth Century Australia: War, Medicine and the Funeral Business. UNSW Pres. p. 64. Retrieved 16 April 2013. 
  3. ^ Hetherington, Les (January 2009). "The Bluebirds in France". Wartime 45: 58–60. 
  4. ^ a b c Oppenheimer, Melanie (2008). Volunteering: Why We Can't Survive Without it. UNSW Press. pp. 43–47. ISBN 1742240437. Retrieved 16 April 2013. 
  5. ^ Twomey, Christina (2007). Australia's Forgotten Prisoners: Civilians Interned by the Japanese in World War Two. Cambridge University Press. p. 147. ISBN 0521612896. Retrieved 16 April 2013. 
  6. ^ Mark Colvin (17 May 2005). "Australian Red Cross to clean up Maldives". PM (Australian Broadcasting Corporation). Retrieved 16 April 2013. 
  7. ^ Phillips, Brenda D.; David M. Neal; Gary R. Webb (2011). Introduction to Emergency Management. CRC Press. p. 408. ISBN 1439830703. Retrieved 16 April 2013. 
  8. ^ "History". Australian Red Cross. Retrieved 16 April 2013. 

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