Around NT

A message from the Chair and Executive Director

Welcome to another newsletter full of exciting news and information from across Australia and the Territory.

We’ve been kept busy since the last issue with the emergency response to both Cyclone Lam and Cyclone Nathan. During both emergencies we supported the evacuation of the Warruwi community from Goulburn Island to Darwin, as well as helping out at evacuation centres and opening our Register.Find.Reunite. service, enabling people to register their location so their loved ones could know they were safe.

Cyclone Lam was particularly tough on Elcho Island, where it left hundreds of homes damaged in the community of Galiwin’ku. We sent teams there to support the community and our local staff in what will be a long recovery process. Our local centre for infant health and nutrition, the Baby Hub was sadly destroyed in the cyclone. We are working with the community to re-establish this service.

The response to our emergency activation was terrific and clearly shows how when a crisis hits, our well-trained staff and volunteers just shine. The feedback to our support has been excellent.

In other news, we celebrated 100 years of Red Cross in the Northern Territory with a reception and Divisional Advisory Board meeting at Government House on 19 May. This was the same location where our first Territory meeting was held a century ago.

Our Membership Coordinator, Tahlia Conway, has been busy holding membership events and developing a calendar for the rest of the year. Once again, the feedback has been excellent and we urge you to take advantage of these exciting new events to meet other members and volunteers and learn more about our work. The Youth Advisory Committee has also been reinvigorated under the new Chair Cazandra Mariano, and they are already working on new programs for our youth hub in Darwin, The Shak (which is featured in this issue).

As always, thanks to our members and volunteers for your support and hard work, especially during the past months’ emergencies.

Charles Burkitt
NT Divisional Advisory Board Chair
Sandra Cannon
Executive Director NT

Caught in the storm

On 19 February, Cyclone Lam swept over the 40-kilometre coastline of Elcho Island, displacing the community of Galiwin’ku and 15 outstations.

A significant proportion of the island’s population was affected by this disaster, with 50 homes destroyed or deemed uninhabitable. Our staff and volunteers moved into the area as soon as they could safely do so, and we helped to manage an evacuation ‘tent city’ on the town oval which accommodated more than 300 people for weeks after the cyclone. We also provided psychological and emotional support to the community and will continue to check in with them to make sure they’re OK.

Trees were knocked down and houses destroyed when Cyclone Lam hit Elcho Island.

Trees were knocked down and houses destroyed when Cyclone Lam hit Elcho Island.
Photo: Australian Red Cross

“I found the people of Galiwin’ku exceptionally resilient, kind-hearted and generous in their appreciation of all the assistance being delivered by all the agencies, particularly Australian Red Cross,” says Donna Warland, one of our emergency services volunteers. “Red Cross volunteers are considered by the general community in such a light that simply being present in a difficult environment helps to lighten emotions and offer solace and support.”

Open doors at The Shak

We recently reopened The Shak, our Darwin youth drop-in centre which has been there for kids since 1983 but was briefly closed for the first few months of this year.

Times are tough for not-for-profit youth centres, and The Shak is now the only one left in Darwin’s northern suburbs. This is why we’re committed to keeping it open and accessible not just to Red Cross people, but to other organisations and groups in the local community.

Young people promoting the Shak back in the 90s.

Young people promoting the Shak back in the 90s.
Photo: Australian Red Cross

During The Shak’s short closure, we consulted with scores of young people in Darwin and more than 30 non-government organisations and businesses to determine how we can make this centre a safe and fun place for youths. Together with other organisations, we plan to offer counselling, support services, sport and recreation activities, emergency services training, healthy food workshops and voting workshops through the centre. The indoor sports court, computer and music rooms, games and chill-out spaces will be available for kids after school hours.

“The Shak is an essential space for young people and their families, particularly for those who are going through social and financial hardship,” says Freya Bundey, one of our Darwin staff members. “It stands for ‘Safe Hangout for All Kids’ and offers fun and meaningful activities to build up the confidence of young people.”

Interested in volunteering at The Shak? Get in touch with Freya by emailing

100 years up north

On 19 May, we marked 100 years to the day since Red Cross began in the Northern Territory with a celebration at Government House.

This was also the venue for our first meeting during the First World War. During the war, NT Red Cross members focussed mostly on fundraising, collecting more than 13,000 pounds.

While Red Cross activities in the Territory ceased in the interwar period, they picked back up again from 1939. Volunteers provided care in hospitals, first aid training and tracing of prisoners of war, as well as sending supplies overseas during World War Two. As the war reached the Pacific, Red Cross headquarters were moved from Darwin to Alice Springs to escape the encroaching Japanese air raids. Sadly, some hardworking early Red Cross members lost their lives during the air attacks, but others thankfully survived and were able to meet refugees arriving from around the Pacific.

Red Cross was there to help in 1974 when Darwin was devastated by Cyclone Tracy, which claimed 65 lives. A Red Cross worker carries several aluminium food containers in front of a 'Queenslander' house which has been badly damaged by the cyclone.

Red Cross was there to help in 1974 when Darwin was devastated by Cyclone Tracy, which claimed 65 lives. A Red Cross worker carries several aluminium food containers in front of a ‘Queenslander’ house which has been badly damaged by the cyclone.
Photo: Australian Red Cross

In the decades since, Red Cross in the Territory has supplied clothes for sick Aboriginal children, visited patients in hospitals, led the intake of East Timorese refugees in the 1970s, provided home care for ill or housebound people, picked up the pieces after Cyclone Tracy, provided eye checks and surgery for those in remote communities, and set up breakfast clubs for disadvantaged children―the list goes on!

It’s been an extraordinary 100 years. Thank you to all who have promoted the spirit of humanity in the NT.

Stories from Cyclone Tracy

At our exhibition earlier this year to commemorate 40 years since Cyclone Tracy, we touched base with some of the volunteers who were involved in the recovery effort right after the cyclone hit.

Betty Watchman worked with Red Cross in New South Wales and was sent to Darwin on Boxing Day 1974. Helen Murphy was President of the Red Cross Branch in Katherine and helped people who were evacuating Darwin.

Both Betty and Helen provided us with their accounts of that difficult period. Read their stories here.

New events mean more for members

Darwin members have been busy holding a number of meet and greet events. Our first ever ‘members only’ event was held in February, providing members with an overview of local programs in the NT.

For many people this was their first face-to-face opportunity to learn more about what Red Cross does and meet other members in their area, and with the great feedback we held another event soon after in March.

Member Jane Davies at a recent event.

Member Jane Davies at a recent event.
Photo: Australian Red Cross

So what’s next?

We are planning an event for International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples in August. Other events to be held in 2015 include preparing cyclone readiness kits with our emergency services team and finding out more about international humanitarian law, as well as our annual AGM and International Volunteer Day in December.

How do I find out more?

Our membership base has increased by over 100% in the past year and we are keen to grow further! If you are interested in hearing about other opportunities for members or just want to give your feedback, please contact Tahlia Conway on (08) 8924 3933 or

Three cheers for volunteers

A special mention is in order for four Northern Territory volunteers who received honours at the recent 2015 NT Volunteer of the Year Awards.

Congratulations to Heather Prendergast, Rosemary Burkitt, Kylie Dempsey and Susan Alsford. Thank you for your wonderful work!

Heather Prendergast, Susan Alsford and Kylie Dempsey at the awards ceremony.

Heather Prendergast, Susan Alsford and Kylie Dempsey at the awards ceremony.
Photo: Australian Red Cross

Never too young to help

At six years old, Flynn may well be the Northern Territory’s youngest fundraiser.

Pictures of destroyed buildings and distressed communities motivated Flynn to approach his own community in Darwin and raise money for our Nepal Region Earthquake Appeal.

“I saw [the Nepal earthquakes] on the news and it made me cry,” Flynn says. “I wanted to help.”

Flynn visited our Larrakeyah office to give us his fundraised money and receive a big congratulations. Photo: Australian Red Cross

Flynn visited our Larrakeyah office to give us the funds he raised and receive a big congratulations.
Photo: Australian Red Cross

At first he struggled to find any information on Google, but after mum Belinda made a few tweaks on his spelling, the dimensions of the disaster were very clear to her son.

“It was Flynn who took the initiative,” Belinda says.

“I organised some iceblocks, an esky and a bucket, and helped the children make a sign to explain their goal. They did all the fundraising.”

Assisted by his older sister Bonnie, Flynn approached people in the area around the popular Parap Village Markets near Darwin.

The children raised $282.85 that morning, which we think is a fantastic achievement!

Although the weather was hot and windy, Flynn emphasises that “lots of people gave us money without even taking an icy pole!”

Our appeal for the 5.6 million people affected by the Nepal earthquakes is still open. Please help spread the word in your communities – and if you’d like to fundraise for us, we have plenty of resources available online.

Contact your local Red Cross office for more information

Northern Territory
Cnr Lambell Terrace & Schultz St
Larrakeyah NT 0820
Phone: 08 8924 3900