real life

Meet the 10 kick ass Aussie women who stand for all women, every single day.

On International Women’s Day, we want you to meet 10 great women we know.

Back in 1914, a trailblazing woman by the name of Helen Munro Ferguson stood up for what she believed in and inspired a nation to get behind her. That woman was the founder of Australian Red Cross.

Strong women have been the backbone of our organisation ever since. Every day, we’re honoured to have the friendship and support of this humanitarian sisterhood. We know without them we wouldn’t be where we are today.

Side note – here’s what it’d look like if a man spent a day as a woman… make sure you watch this right to the end. Post continues after video.

Video by MMC

On IWD, we want to introduce you to 10 of them. It’s not an honours board, rather, these women stand for tens of thousands of others – our volunteers, members, staff, aid workers, supporters of all kinds – who are all making the world a better place.

To all women who support a more humane world and the work of Red Cross, you are truly remarkable. Thank you.

1. Helen Munro Ferguson.

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The woman who began it all.

Helen set up Australian Red Cross in 1914, just nine days after the outbreak of WWI. She quickly turned the ballroom of Melbourne’s Government House into a workshop for Red Cross relief war efforts and rallied the support of women across the country. The daughter of a viceroy and governor-general’s wife, she was made Dame Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire.

2. Dorsa Nazemi-Salman.

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This Aussie aid worker is currently heading operations in war-torn South Sudan with the International Committee of the Red Cross, whose role is to help victims of armed conflict.

South Sudan is one of the the most dangerous places in the world for humanitarian workers – 40 were killed there in the past two years. Multi-lingual Dorsa, who grew up in Iran, has also worked for Red Cross in Afghanistan, Nigeria and Uzbekistan.

3. Judy Slatyer.

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Our present day CEO, Judy Slatyer (pictured on the left) drives strategy, ensuring we deliver on our mission of supporting and advocating for the most vulnerable people.

Judy, who spent eight years with WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature) in Switzerland, has a passion for collaboration, innovation and empowered communities.

“I struggle with injustice and unfairness in this world. I believe in the importance of inclusive communities, where everybody has a role and a place and feels part of something bigger.”

4. Ada Hanson.

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Ada is passionate about reconciliation and tackling racism, discrimination and disadvantage.

This Ardyaloon woman helps coordinate big reconciliation events in Kalgoorlie in Western Australian, bringing the community together to foster respect and understanding. Among her roles, Ada organises a holiday p​rogram for young Aboriginal people in the remote community of Tjuntjuntjara in the Great Victoria Desert and for at-risk Aboriginal young people in town.

She currently works supporting young Aboriginal men to gain their drivers’ licence and increase their job opportunities.

5. Mali Hawkins.

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Mali has recently been appointed as Tasmanian Director – most likely the youngest ever the Red Cross director.

“The beauty of working with a not-for-profit is that you’re working with people who wake up every day to create a better world,” says Mali.

“They choose to help people they don’t know, they have no real obligation to, just because.”

The 34-year-old leader, has a real passion for social enterprise – that’s using business models to help solve social problems.

6. Dr Helen Durham.

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Helen has devoted her career to promoting the laws of war, which aim to protect civilians caught up in fighting and limit the weapons that can be used.

“Every time there is a humanitarian pause in the fighting in Yemen and thousands of civilians get access to humanitarian assistance … this is the law of war in action,” she says.

Her work has helped ensure that rape is now legally classified as a war crime. Helen currently works for the International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC) in Geneva as Director of Law and Policy – the first woman in this role and the first Australian director at the ICRC in its 150 year history.

7. Jean Lang.

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Jean was 18 when she joined Red Cross and almost 80 years later she remains a staunch supporter. She is one of our 108 honorary life members.

Jean’s done it all – from teaching children first aid and handicrafts, to a stint in the Philippines during WWII, to volunteering with the blood service. Add to that her time as local Red Cross branch president, the staging of fundraising concerts and fashion parades at her home and you have a thoroughly amazing humanitarian.

These days Jean, in her 90s, isn’t slowing down as she continues to be an active and committed member of her branch.

8. Mary Edwards.

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Mary, who volunteers for us every week, is well known around the Red Cross Adelaide office for her beaming smile. One of her colleagues says she brings a spark to the room.

One of thousands of Red Cross volunteers around the country, Mary, is a mainstay helping to deliver services to people in crisis. Mary has lived with a disability since she was a child; it means she can’t walk, but she loves volunteering for the community spirit, comradery and friendship.


9. Loretta Bin Omar.

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Loretta, a Traditional Owner from the Nyikina nation, brings the strength of her culture to her role as regional manager in Kimberley, Western Australia.

She emphasises the importance of connecting Aboriginal children and young people with their culture and to be on country to support their health and wellbeing. Loretta’s roles see her providing culturally and regionally-specific support for Red Cross Kimberley activities, along with cultural competency training and guidance for staff and volunteers across the country.

10. Anne Carey.

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Nurse, midwife and aid worker Anne Carey has spent her life helping others; sometimes in extremely dangerous circumstances.

Anne has been with us on the front lines of the world’s humanitarian crises, from Sierra Leone, at the height of the biggest ever Ebola epidemic, to tackling malnutrition among children and babies amid armed conflict in Sudan and Kenya.

In 2016, Western Australia, Anne’s home state, named her Australian of the Year. More recently, she was awarded the Florence Nightingale Medal – the highest international honour a nurse can receive.

Thank you to these 10 women, and every woman around the world helping to make the world a better place in her own way.

Inspired to help make the world a better, kinder place too? Find out how with The Australian Red Cross' guide to making a difference here.

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