Red Cross to close office

Plans by the Red Cross to close down their regional office at Lismore and move it to Kempsey have infuriated Lismore MP Thomas George and Mayor Jenny Dowell.

The Red Cross provides a range of support programs in the community and is often the first port of call for people who have been affected by floods or other natural disasters.

In a statement provided by the Red Cross about the decision to move, they said they were “making a long term commitment to the Northern Rivers”.

“Red Cross will continue to deliver its existing range of services in the Northern Rivers including Telecross, the Community Visitors Scheme and support services for members and volunteers; and continue to work with Red Cross branches across the region to build community resilience,” executive director Lewis Kaplan said.

Mr Kaplan was not available to make any further comment to The Echo at the time of going to press.

Thomas George has invited Mr Kaplan and Red Cross CEO Robert Tickner to come to Lismore and explain their decision to the local members and asked them not to act until that meeting has happened. He has also called a meeting for Red Cross members and the general public to be held on Monday, May 24, at the Red Dove cafe (venue still to be confirmed.)

Mr George said he had spoken to Mr Kaplan and was disappointed by his comments.

“I told him we had a lot of disappointed people up here and he said there were a lot of happy people at Kempsey,” Mr George said.

Mr Kaplan has made assurances that no positions will be lost in the move, but MrGeorge said he is aware of one person being offered to have her position relocated to Kempsey, which was not acceptable. He also believes there could be positions in youth services that may go.

“From Murwillumbah to Bonalbo and Tabulam, people in the local area are just shattered. They don’t want to see a wind-back of services to this area... Not having people based here will have a detrimental affect to services. They will be relying on field officers, and they won’t have that support on the ground,” he said.

In a strongly worded letter to Mr Tickner, Mayor Dowell said the announcement was a “great shock” coming on top of the decision last year to dismiss its Voluntary Aid Services program.

“I frankly cannot understand why Red Cross would wish to damage its fine reputation in rural and regional areas. Our residents are strong supporters of Red Cross as an organisation... many local women give so much of their time to assist with fundraising for the organisation they love,” Mayor Dowell said. “While not wishing to deny that Kempsey has significant social needs, I am dismayed that there is a lack of awareness of the high levels of social disadvantage in this region.”

On Tuesday night Council unanimously resolved to also write to Mr Tickner, expressing grave concern and urgently request that Red Cross reconsider its decision to close the Lismore branch considering the low socio-economic profile of the Lismore LGA; Lismore’s flood susceptibility and the need for emergency care; and the 90 year association of the Red Cross with the Lismore area.


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