13 Australian heroes you haven't heard of: Isadora Quay, CARE International Gender in Emergencies Specialist.

Each week we will be running Q&As with Australian women doing vital humanitarian and aid work. Women you may not have heard of.

With that in mind, let us introduce you to Isadora Quay, CARE International Gender in Emergencies Specialist.

1. What does your role entail on a day-to-day basis? 

I make sure CARE International’s emergency response meets the different needs of women and men, girls and boys. One week, I might be in a refugee camp in Jordan leading assessments. Another week, in Canberra working with Parliamentarians. Then in Geneva meeting with the rest of the CARE International team. And, the week after that, training people about why the different needs of women and men are important.

2. How did you become involved in humanitarian/aid work?

I grew up in an ex-mining town in Scotland where poverty and drug abuse was the norm. I always wanted to do something to help. My travels showed me that poverty wasn’t limited to Scotland and that it required global solutions.

3. What are the most rewarding/challenging parts of your job?

The most rewarding part of my job is knowing I can do something to make a difference when I see the awful humanitarian crises going on around the world, such as conflicts in Syria, Yemen and South Sudan.

Most people just turn off the TV when they see this because it is all too much to handle. I think I’m privileged that with my job, I can try to do something to help some of the millions of people who are suffering.

Isadora Quay works for CARE International. Image: Supplied.

4. In general, do you think Australians are generous givers?

Yes, in general, I think Australians are very generous people with their time and their money. Australians volunteer in massive numbers in Australia and abroad. We have a great reputation for helping those in need, especially in Asia and in the Pacific.

5. Do you think that the Australian government is currently meeting its global responsibilities in terms of aid?


Not by a long shot. The amount of Australian aid that we are currently providing is tiny by world standards and the recent budget cuts, the biggest in our history, were devastating.

The fact these aid cuts came after the 2012/13 budget confirmed bipartisan support for increasing the Australian aid budget, shows just how far support has fallen.

What’s really interesting to me is that most Australians support the Australian aid cuts, when by nature, we are generally a generous people. I think the issue is a lack of understanding around how little money the Government actually gives in aid, when compared to the budget as a whole and the incredible impact that aid can have on poor communities around the world.

6. What are the most significant humanitarian crises we are facing, both at home and abroad?

One is El Nino, which is in many ways, a hidden crisis and the effects are only just becoming visible. We are starting to see droughts in Australia, parts of the Pacific, the Horn of Africa and southern Africa that are leading to severe food shortages in countries as close to us as Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea. At the same time, there are predictions of stronger storms in other parts of the Pacific and flooding in Central and South America.

Secondly, I’d focus on Yemen, a country in the Middle East just south of Saudi Arabia, which is in the midst of a bloody civil war. Almost every person in Yemen is affected by the war: that’s nearly 20 million people – more than the number of people affected by the wars in Syria and South Sudan combined.

At home, I’m concerned about the state and treatment of our indigenous people and refugees.

7. What do you see as the most significant challenges for women in the developed and developing world?

Change. There continues to be massive changes to women’s roles in many societies around the world, both in developed and developing countries.

This change is difficult for many men and women to handle and I think one of the consequences of this is domestic or gender based violence.

8. What can everyday Australians do each day to make a difference?

We’ve all got a role to play in helping to positively change the role of women and girls in our societies. There are some amazing initiatives happening around Australia to help us do that. CARE Australia also does a lot of work around the world in community outreach and educating young people, which you can support.

9. Do you have any advice for young women who want to do aid work? 

The best advice I can give is that they get out there and get experience in different countries and cultures. That will sound impossible to many people, but it’s not. I worked four jobs, seven days a week after I finished university to save up to travel to Rwanda. Once I got there, I gave myself six months to find an internship and in three weeks I managed to find a position volunteering with an aid organisation. I’ve never looked back.