Joan Cockburn – Red Cross

Michael Fowler: [Noisy background] Welcome everybody. Pleasure to have tonight Joan Cockburn from the Red Cross. Just a little bit of background information about Joan – she’s been involved with the Red Cross since the 1960s. She’s actually been the National President from 1986 to 1992 and was on the Executive for ten years, and in 1992 was awarded the honour of Councillor of Honour which is the highest honour that the Red Cross can give, and also was recognised with a gong … or a CBE … in 1992, so it’s a real pleasure for us to have you along here tonight – especially topical with the week the Red Cross are doing on at the moment, so you may have just arranged all this obviously for the earthquake and everything else. So welcome, Joan.

Joan: Thank you. [Applause] Thank you, Michael, and thank you everybody for inviting me here to talk to you about eighty years of New Zealand Red Cross. I’m going to give you a little piece about International Red Cross, then about the National level and then bring it down to Hastings so that you get a broad brush of what happens at this Red Cross. Some things change of course and some things stay the same.

So how did it all begin? Well in 1859 there was a battle on the plains of Lombardy in Italy round a village called Solferino, and it’s a little bit east of Milan to give you some idea of where it is. This was a battle between the French and some of the Italian states. It wasn’t Italy at that stage, [?] all the little principalities against the Austrians. And Henri Dunant was a Swiss banker and his desire was to find Napoleon and do a business deal with Napoleon.

Audience member: Napoleon III, this is?

Joan: Yes. And he came across this battlefield and he was absolutely horrified at the damage that was done to the soldiers of both sides and their horses any other animals that they used. And the fact that the wounded were just left in the fields where they fell, and nobody bothered to help them and they just stayed there until they died. He was often referred to as ‘the man in white’, and I don’t quite know why a businessman would be travelling through that part of Italy in a white suit, but he was. And he decided that he had to do something, and he walked into the village of Solferino and said to the women, “Help me to help these people, and bring these men into your churches and your halls”, and whatever. And the women did. The men couldn’t because they were all fighting. And it has been a part of Red Cross for some considerable time that a large part of the work has been done by the women involved in the organisation in whatever country you may find. So he was actually awarded the first Nobel Peace prize in 1901.

So when the things had settled down and he got back to Switzerland, this battle scene really stuck in his mind, and he decided he really had to do something. So he wrote a book called ‘A Memory of Solferino’, and it is still available, and it may even be in the Hastings Library. I hope it is. And what he said was, “would it not be possible in times of peace to train volunteers to look after the wounded in times of war?” And that phrase has stuck with the Red Cross right throughout.

This book had an astonishing effect in Europe at this time. They were just coming to the stage of their humanitarian desires and expanding their thinking, and as a result of this book a group of Swiss gentlemen got together and talked about this idea of training volunteers. And of course volunteers is right throughout Red Cross in the work that we do, and we are all volunteers except for one or two paid staff. That book was published in 1862 . So he got a committee of five together – two doctors, an army General, a lawyer and a banker, who was Henri Dunant, and the International Red Cross was born. There’s now a hundred and eighty-six National Societies right throughout the world. I think there’s a hundred and ninety-two in the United Nations. You cannot have a National Society in a country until the government of that country has signed the Geneva Conventions, so once that happens you can then have a Red Cross or a Red Crescent or a Red Crystal Society.

So in 1864 the first Geneva Convention was agreed upon and that dealt with ‘The Wounded in the Battlefield’. So that was a natural follow-on from what he had seen there. This was later followed by ‘The Wounded at Sea’, and after World War 1, the Convention on ‘Prisoners of War’. Then in 1949 after the Second World War, ‘The Convention to Protect Civilians’ was developed, and the other three were all updated and so they are now referred to as the Geneva Conventions of 1949. There have now been three Protocols added to that – rather than go through the very legal and ponderous exercise of doing another Convention, they now have three Protocols, and New Zealand signed the Geneva Conventions in 1958.

It is interesting that in the Falklands War in 1982, when Argentine [Argentina] and Britain were fighting over the Falklands, it’s the only time that the Convention on ‘The Wounded at Sea’ has been put into action. Both sides honoured the Convention and they worked out a square in the ocean – so many degrees North, so many degrees South, East and West – and this was a clear neutral zone and the hospital ships just seamed up and down inside this zone. Both sides had their hospital ships and the International Red Cross visited the soldiers on the ships and the wounded ones, and the prisoners of war, and they were not happy with the fact that the British … POWs that the British had caught were down in the holds of the ship in this very cold area, and they were asked to do something about it and the British did. So both sides honoured the Geneva Convention and it’s the only time this actual Convention has been in force or operated on. And Uruguay of course was the neutral society that looked after anybody that was on the land.

They had the situation of the emblem – the Red Cross on a white background is a protected emblem and is used in times of war. As a National Society our emblem is the Red Cross with the words underneath it in black ‘New Zealand Red Cross’. It is actually protected in New Zealand by an Act of Parliament, and as you will appreciate, it is often misused. And sometimes the worst offenders are the medical centres. We haven’t got any press here, have we? I wouldn’t [laughter] want that to go too far. And often it’s used as a fat plus sign, and when we have any problems with that sort of thing we just take it to our National Office and they deal with it and you know, point out the fact that there is a whopping big fine if we want to take them to Court, but of course we don’t want to.

The Cross is actually five equal squares, so if you look at the Cross and have a square in the middle, then there’s the two squares that side, two squares that side, that’s how you get to five equal squares. It is not quite the reverse of the Swiss flag – almost. They have very definite lines of the sizes of their arms, and the easiest thing is to say it’s five equal squares and that’s what we’ve done for many long years now. In 1864 the Red Cross on an arm band was first used. Indeed they never use that now, but many of you would have seen that armband.

In 1920 Turkey was having a little spat with Greece and they decided that they would use the Red Crescent for the first time, and this has been used by Muslim countries for some time now and it is of equal value. And there is a Shah of Iran decided he wanted something too, so he had the Red Sun and Lion, so at that stage we had three emblems. And it wasn’t until the Shah was deposed that the Ayatollah said “we’re not going to have this – we don’t want anything to do with the Shah so we’ll go back and we’ll have the Red Crescent.” So for many years there was the Red Cross and the Red Crescent and everything went along pretty well.

And then … this of course made no provision for Israel. In 1948 when Israel was formed, the state of Palestine ceased to exist. But Palestine had its own Red Cross Society, or Red Crescent Society if they wanted to call it that. So this has been a debate for some time and it has finally been resolved. And it was still being debated when I was in Office, and its taken until just a few years back now – and there’s a folder round about the three emblems of the Red Crystal – so we have the three Cs … the Cross, the Crescent, and the Crystal. Now this is what Israel would accept – the crystal going that way – and Israel would accept that. They wanted to have the red star of David, but nobody else was going to accept that. So I had some very interesting debates with a Rabbi from New York at one stage, when I was foolish enough to say “I do have some sympathy for you”, and after several back and forth emails and letters and all the rest of it, I had to say “I can’t do anything about it, but I sympathise with you.” Thank goodness I got out of that one! It’s caused a problem in that the Palestinian Red Crescent … there’s not really have an official group because there’s no longer a state of Palestine. So the trade off was that the Crystal was introduced which Israel could use, and the Red Crescent Society of Palestine would be recognised. So everybody’s happy, at the moment anyway. So we’ve got the three emblems.

We also have what is now called the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies which was originally called The League. That was formed in 1919 by an American called Henry Davidson. He was actually another banker – I don’t quite know why it’s bankers that seem to get things going, but they did. And the position of the Federation is a peacetime operation that looks after earthquakes, tsunamis, floods and all the rest of it, and refugees at times. And of course every now and again the refugees are war refugees as well as being misplaced or displaced people, so that they do interlap sometimes. But they are quite separate organisations, but all under the banner of Red Cross.

It wasn’t until 1919 that New Zealand first sent a delegation to Geneva, but of course at that stage we were not yet a National Society. We are governed by seven principles that were brought in and agreed to at the International Conference in 1946. The seven principles are humanity, which is pretty easy to understand, impartiality and neutrality, which is very hard sometimes, when you are in a situation when you know jolly well the other guy’s wrong, but you’re impartial and you‘re neutral, and that’s what you have to do. And that’s why I don’t like press being here when I talk, because now and again I say something that really should not be recorded. Neutral of course; we are independent, which means we are not controlled by government – we are a completely independent National Society and we do not do the government’s bidding. But by the same token the government, particularly in New Zealand, will channel some of its aid through New Zealand Red Cross. And this happens in quite a few countries, but they know that it’s done on a neutral basis. And if they were to say to us “well, you can only give it to yellow people, you can’t give it to blue people”, then we would not take it. And we have in the past said “no, we won’t take that unless we can do it on a neutral, impartial basis.” Voluntary service of course, and unity and universality. Unity means that there is only one Red Cross in every country – you can’t have different groups calling themselves Red Cross – we’re all one. And universality means we’re worldwide.

So in New Zealand – how did it all begin in New Zealand? Well, round about 1914 which is just at the time of the First World War, there were little groups around the country … sewing groups mainly … for men going overseas to fight. And I’ve got to be very careful how I say this – they were ‘sister Susies sewing shirts for soldiers’. [Laughter] And sending socks too. [Laughter]

So Wallingford in Central Hawke’s Bay were one of the first to have a group and they used to have … they had six sewing machines there, and they were the – you may know them, the hand-operated ones you know, ‘cause there was no power. And they used to come in a horse and gig or on horseback to Wallingford. And it’s a big homestead and they had a room set aside where these machines were set up and the ladies would come do their work. And it’s the homestead of course of Mrs J Ormond, originally.

So the Governor General, who was the Earl of Liverpool, decided that all these groups throughout the country should sort of get together, and he suggested that we become a branch of the British Red Cross. So we became the New Zealand branch of the British Red Cross, and the Order of St John. And for many years we operated in conjunction with the Order of St John, and we put out first aid books and did training and all the rest of it together. But we’re now quite separate now, but for quite some time we were.

There was a hospital ship that went off – the ‘Maheni’ [Maheno] and the medical officer on board was Colonel WE Collins, who ended up being one of our National Officers in the very beginning, but his daughter, Dr Judy Wilson, has been a long-serving member of Red Cross in Wellington. But her husband who’s just died last year at ninety-three, was one of the prisoners of war on the railway over the River Kwai. So that family has had a particular involvement in Red Cross.

This first hospital ship was out on ANZAC Beach. When I first took office, our constitution said that the Red Cross would supply hospital ships and hospital camps and all sorts of other things, and he sort of looked at it and he said “I concede in this day and age there’s no way we can supply a hospital ship.” So we changed our constitution and it’s gone through several changes since then.

One of the things that came over from the early days was the VADs – the Voluntary Aid Detachments – and some of you may have family members who – I know there’s some Red Cross people here – who have involvement with VADs. It was an order that was founded in 1909 in England, and they were field nurses mainly in hospitals in UK and Europe. Many VADs in the time of the First World War had actually trained in England so they went back to England to serve, not as New Zealanders, but as part of the English structure where they had done their training, and most of them paid their own way to get back there. And they served in Alexandria and in hospitals in England – mainly Brocklehurst, Forest Park, Walton-on-Thames and Codford.

The VADs trained in first aid, home nursing, health and hygiene. Their uniform was a blue serge suit – had to be over twenty-three years of age and done at least three months’ training in hospitals before you could go overseas. So they served as nurses mainly, ambulance drivers, cooks – nearly always on the Western Front in Mesopotamia and Gallipoli. Agatha Christie was famous World War 1 VAD, and Hattie Jacques, who was Hancock’s Half Hour – she was another one in World War 2. Violet Jessop trained as a VAD – she was a stewardess on the ‘Titanic’ in 1912. She survived that, and was aboard the ‘Britannic’ as a Red Cross nurse when it sank in 1916, and she survived that. So she actually died in Sussex at the age of seventy-three, so – I would love you to hear her complete story – so it’s just amazing that those two major things …

New Zealand had its own training from 1924 onwards, and it was about the 1960s that it was actually disbanded because circumstances changed – the hospitals didn’t particularly want what they saw as amateurs being in their hospital. But at the time and certainly in the war years, they served a valuable service and were very much welcomed, particularly when they worked over the weekend and they gave ordinary nurses a spell. ‘Course there are several VADs still alive … quite elderly now, but one in particular, Margaret Rankin in Wellington, can still fit into her VAD uniform and she’s in her nineties. I’m very envious of that. [Chuckles] But just a matter of probably eighteen months, two years ago she came across a road accident, so out she hopped and did her first aid, and she was there until the ambulance came. And she still knew her training so yeah … think that’s quite an amazing thing. And she has received the Paul Harris Fellowship from Rotary, which is quite unique for somebody outside of Rotary to get it.

Our fundraising in 1917 – there was a copper trail along the railway line from Auckland to Wellington, and the competition was to see who could get past the half-way mark first, whether it was Wellington or Auckland. And of course just recently we’ve had ‘Coins for Christchurch’ here in Hastings and in Napier, and over $13,000 was raised for the earthquake – you may have seen the photograph in the paper – I think it was last night.

So we worked in Pukeora Sanatorium with the wounded soldiers coming back, and the Waipuk [Waipukurau] Branch looked after that. And they now have long since been closed as a sanatorium, but there’s now a gala weekend and the Red Cross are still involved there, as a fundraiser.

So as you know in 1931 Hawke’s Bay got hit by an earthquake, and although some people refer to it as the Napier earthquake, I always refer to it as the Hawke’s Bay Earthquake. And although Napier was absolutely destroyed, Hastings was as well to not quite the same extent.

But – now there’s a book there called ‘The Geneva Connection’, which was written for the fiftieth anniversary of New Zealand Red Cross, and the first … most gorgeous photograph in that one was Anna King. Now she was a hairdresser in a building on the Marine Parade, and when the earthquake struck, she quietly closed up her business, put her hat on, got her bag, climbed down – it was on the second floor – climbed down the stairs which was pretty badly damaged, and walked down to the Red Cross office, which I think at that stage was the Willard hall in Carlyle Street which is about where the optometrist Bennett & Pearson are now … think that’s about where that hall was – it’s long since gone. But can’t you just imagine it? Putting her hat on, getting her bag, and off she went. She knew exactly what she had to do. And it’s a lovely photograph in that book as well. And Margaret and Tom Hope from Waipukurau – some of you may know her – they were on their way to a wedding in Hastings and of course couldn’t get there, so they turned around and went back and sorted everything out in Waipuk for the Red Cross as things developed.

So in Wellington in the National Office at that stage, they got the message about twelve o’clock … twelve noon … that there was this big earthquake. And by six thirty pm they were on the road. They had doctors and nurses, they had medical supplies, blankets, crockery and food, and they got to Hastings about two am in the morning. Now you’ll appreciate it, that they’re what we would now call vintage cars – some of them probably were canvas tops – in fact I would think most of them were canvas tops. So travelling through, although February is quite a warm month, and it was quite an achievement for them to get there. They came first to Hastings, and then when they saw everything was going okay in Hastings they then went on to Napier. The Taranaki Red Cross came through to Greenmeadows and looked after the patients that were on the racecourse in Greenmeadows. The both … Nelson Park in Napier and in Hastings were set up with Army tents and was a Red Cross base, and there were also depots in Waipuk, Dannevirke and Palmerston North where people being evacuated were given food and drink and any help that they may need. And of course as the hospitals filled … first Waipuk was filled, and then Dannevirke, then Palmerston North … they were taken by train to Wellington. And there were ten patients per van; there were eight vans and each had a trained nurse plus a VAD.

So this was the jolt that got New Zealand deciding that we really needed to be a National Society in our own right, and got the word through to Geneva that – hey, we wanted to be a New Zealand Society not a branch of the British Red Cross. So on the 22nd of December 1931 we became the New Zealand Red Cross Society, and our first President was Dr Collins, who was the Medical Officer on the first hospital ship in the First World War. It’s interesting, and it’s always a joke between the Australians and ourselves, who were in the same situation: they were a branch of British Red Cross. They take their Foundation date from 1914 when they were a branch of British Red Cross. We take it from when we became a National Society in our own right. So yeah … we like to tease each other about that.

Right throughout the history of those very early days, Mrs TH Lowry. The name features in just about every branch and every occasion. She was elected President in 1936 and served until 1939. She was the first woman President of New Zealand Red Cross and it was fifty years before the next one was elected, and that was 1986. And that was my honour, to be the second woman elected as a National President.

So we had [a] Hawke’s Bay centre, and Hastings was a branch of Hawke’s Bay centre, and Napier was a branch. Then we split into three, and it became Northern Hawke’s Bay Centre, Hastings and Districts Centre, and Central Hawke’s Bay. There were sub-groups out of Hastings – from Hastings branch there was Havelock North … it had a very distinguished history while it was still operating; Te Awanga, which took on Haumoana and Clive; Waimarama and Maraetotara; Elsthorpe and Maraekakaho. Now we’re back to Hastings branch, and we’re now part of the East Coast area. You’ll appreciate, this is an organisation that changes and moves with the time, as is necessary.

So the Hastings branch was actually formed on the 23rd of February 1932, so virtually a year after the earthquake. And the Mayor of Hastings, Mr GF Roach, called a meeting – he was to play a pivotal role in the Red Cross in the early days, and following on from his position, so did the following mayors, in many ways getting Red Cross get established. And if you read the early minute books – quite frankly it’s a who’s who of Hawke’s Bay names – it’s just amazing. Mrs Helen Lowry of course was very active in it; Mrs EJ Herrick; Mrs Pickering, who was the first woman JP in Hawke’s Bay; Miss Holland from Woodford House; and then Mr FJ Herrick, who was the Chairman; Miss [?Ellen?] Averill; Mr Redgrave; and Maddison who was from the Borough Council; Dr Cashmore; and Mr H Tate was the Secretary. There’s also Deaconness Holmes and Ensign Armstrong. They immediately had a Nursing division and a Relief committee. Membership fee was [2/6d] two shillings and sixpence. [Chuckles] Now you don’t have to pay a membership fee if you want to get a newsletter and be kept up to date, those people pay $5. But its not compulsory to be a member of Red Cross – you simply sign a document to say that you’ll abide by the fundamental principles of the international movement.

One of the first things that they did was to request mittens and wool … three ply for babies, four ply for socks and jumpers. And today the Hastings branch still knits for prem [premature] babies in particular, and for those of you who are not aware, prem baby size is about the size of an orange, you know – ‘bout that size, and they knit bonnets for this, and it goes up to the hospital in Auckland. And that’s a particular project that they have and are very pleased to have it.

The first depot for Hastings was the YMCA building, and it was open on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Mrs Lowry guaranteed the rent for the building for six months, and she also … when she was President of the National Society, because there was very little money around and we weren’t particularly wealthy, and we still aren’t particularly wealthy … the Secretary of the Red Cross, there wasn’t enough money in kitty to pay him so Mrs Lowry paid his wages. The District Nurses’ Association donated £6 and promised £50 worth of goods. Then Archdeacon McLean and Father Stewart and all the local doctors – I can’t imagine this happening today – they all added to the general committee, but it does show the dedication of the Churches and the medical profession in getting Red Cross up and running. Doctors in those days would have been extremely busy just as they’re busy today, but it’s a much bigger population.

The Relief Committee met at least once a week, and remember this is just a year after the earthquake. They generally met in the late afternoon, and on one particular occasion the meeting went ‘til ten thirty-five pm, so there must’ve been some big debate at that meeting. Now they were just helping the citizens of Hastings, and then a request came from Havelock North … “we would like some assistance”, and Hastings said “yes, of course we’ll help Havelock North.” So two thousand five hundred parcels of clothing were received, and two thousand pairs of boots were received. Of those, three hundred were ready to distribute, five hundred were able to be repaired, and the rest were useless. And unfortunately that is the sort of thing that still happens today, that some people see Red Cross as a dumping ground, and some clothes and goods just have to be dumped – some can be cut up for rags.

When the floods were down in Invercargill a few years ago now, it actually took me ten years to clear all the stuff that had been donated to them. And this is one reason why we say we don’t want goods, we want money that can be used there, not only in New Zealand but also overseas as well. We don’t send clothes or anything overseas now, because if you send that over to a disaster area it creates another disaster – you have to have to have people to distribute it and to sort it, and you’ve got to be culturally sensitive and all sorts of other things. And most times the goods can be purchased within the country itself or within the next-door country, so you’re creating economic disaster as well. So that’s one reason why we don’t take any goods any more unless there’s a particular call for blankets, which is something that we probably do take. Yeah.

I love the language of the minutes in the early days … ‘The mayor and Mr and Mrs Herrick waited upon Mr Husheer for a contribution.’ And of course Mr Husheer was [the] tobacco company – they obviously were after some cigarettes and all the rest of it. So – yes. [Laughter]

So a little while later the stocks in their depot were absolutely depleted so they had to close it. There was a joint meeting of the Red Cross and the Order of St John of Jerusalem – put a hold on eight services – the finance, the advertising, the appropriation of war funds … we’re still dealing with that … the start on [?] work, the street appeals.

This actually went on for quite some time, that we worked with St John. All first aid training for men was done by the Order of St John, and once trained they were to wear the St John uniform, but they could wear a Red Cross armband. All the women were trained by Red Cross and wore a Red Cross uniform, which was the nursing capes and the white uniforms, or the blue serge suits if they weren’t actually nurses. But all the certificates had equal value.

On 11th June 1932, it was decided that that would be Red Cross Day. And they decided to canvass urban areas of Hastings and the settlements of Haumoana and Te Awanga, Havelock North township, and Clive township. We now have the 8th of May, which is now worldwide Red Cross Day, and that’s the birthday of Henri Dunant, so right throughout the world. And as you know New Zealand is the first one to see the light of day … we are the first ones to celebrate the 8th of May. And we have had many occasions when we have done something special and sent a message to Geneva to say we have started the celebrations, and move the torch on.

This particular collection the VADs helped to collect, and £336/10/1d [three hundred and thirty-six pounds ten shillings and one penny] was collected. So it was a street appeal. We then went to door-knocking, and I’m sure that got too hard – there was too many dogs around, and I was very fortunate – I was never bitten by a dog but some of our people were. I was always very careful and I think they probably could smell the dogs on me off the farm, so I was probably all right. Then we went to a telephone appeal which was very successful at first, and now we’re back to a street appeal. And just this street appeal that we had, and as you know the money all went to Christchurch. I was just talking to my grandsons just after that and they said “well what did you do on Friday, Nana?” I said “I stood on a street corner begging”. And they looked at me … [Chuckles] Then I explained that it was for Red Cross, and that was okay.

So – but of course this year in particular there’s been some wonderful collections given by all sorts of organisations – the Ballet took up a collection, a lot of the concerts at the wineries took up collections, the schools, just about every organisation. Michael [Fowler] had a talk in Havelock North and that was for Red Cross. It’s absolutely incredible, and if there’s time I’ll give you an update on the figures from the earthquake appeal.

In the early days of course they advertised on wireless, which is a term that’s not used very often these days. And the theatres … the picture theatres of course, ‘cause there was no TV or anything, so that was an obvious place to have it. Now of course we have posters and radio and TV. Two Hastings members are part of a team that works on Radio Kidnappers and broadcasts the Red Cross half-hour on the second Thursday of the month at five-thirty, and that’s a lot of fun as well. We’ve been … just about into the end of our fifth year doing that programme. And of course this … 1932, the Farmers’ Union decided to help. The Rugby Union supplied tickets for a raffle, and the Boy Scouts were asked to help sell them.

And the earthquake funds were to be used for earthquake victims only. And we make that very clear, that the money collected in the name of an appeal is used for that appeal, and nothing is taken out for administration. And that applies for the Christchurch appeal and all the money that’s been raised – it goes to the people in Christchurch and if … well there is tremendous administration cost, and as a National Society we’re going to bear the cost of paying the extra staff. Some are volunteers, and some need to have a wage. So that has been our policy for many years, and in international appeals when we appeal for, for example the Christmas-Boxing Day tsunami, all the money that was raised in New Zealand all went there, certainly via Geneva. And that was such a fantastic appeal throughout the world that Geneva said “just hang on – we haven’t got everything in place, we’re getting inundated – just hang on to that money”. So we said okay, so we put it in a bank account and it got interest, and the interest as well went for that tsunami, so we didn’t take anything out at all.

Then Sister – and I think the name is pronounced ‘Restori’ – she was the first District Red Cross nurse to come into Hastings. And she started home nursing classes, and they were held in the Council Chambers. And actually most of the early meetings were held in the Council Chambers, and it wasn’t ‘til later on that Red Cross moved to its own office.

The minutes show that Mr John Plummer received £5 towards the replacement of an artificial leg. And a Charity Ball was organised in August with a net profit of a £110. And the Ball was to be held for many years after that – and I’m not quite sure when it ceased to operate.

Mr Pickering was appointed the Secretary-Treasurer. The meetings, if they were not held at the Council Chambers they were held at Duffin Abel’s office, and in September the funds were sent … after the earthquake in Wairoa … when goods were sent to Mohaka and Nuhaka.

And Hastings worked with the unemployed, and the depot opened again from nine am to noon three days a week. And on alternative days, being Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, the Secretary was expected to canvass for membership – it doesn’t say how well he did. And a fundraiser – in December an ice-cream and soft drink stall was held at the Red Cross with the committee covering the costs if there were any.

As Mrs Lowry was President of the Hastings Community Club and the Hawke’s Bay Red Cross Centre, it was agreed that all club members be made official members of Red Cross visiting the hospital. And I don’t think anybody ever dared to say “no” to Mrs Lowry. [Chuckle] I’m sure I never had that effect. My friends’ll tell you anyway. She was a formidable woman, but she had a way of getting people to do things and it all worked, I can promise you that.

And that was the first year of Hastings Red Cross. The following years would see a threat of influenza epidemic which didn’t eventuate, but they were getting prepared for it and talking to the Hospital Board to see how many vaccines they had, how much serum they had. And they had Home Nursing and First Aid classes of course. Our first cookbook was produced and of course we’ve had several since then. Junior Red Cross was formed. It was later called Red Cross Youth, and now it’s all incorporated into the membership anyway. Molly Natusch, who some of you may know, or know the name, formed the first Junior Red Cross in the country at Maraetotara, in the school there, and she was to be a stalwart of Red Cross for many, many years and always at the Youth side, helping there.

At the time that the nurses went out of wearing veils, the lovely little girls at … I won’t tell you which school, locally … wanted to still wear their veils. And we had an awful job trying to persuade them that – hey, the nurses don’t wear them any more so perhaps you need to come – you know, into the modern world and not wear them. But we finally got through, but you know, it was very very [?] ‘til they gave up because they just loved being little nurses. Oh, that’s fair enough too.

And it’s recorded that the Governor-General actually attended the Red Cross Ball in 1935, and the VADs formed a Guard of Honour. The Red Cross Youth were out there as well, and I can just imagine those wonderful people in their uniforms, and their shoes would be polished and they’d be standing up straight, ready to meet the Governor-General as a Guard of Honour.

The first real home for the Hastings branch was the Farmer’s meat company, and it would appear that they shared the facilities with Women’s Division of the Federated Farmers, which is now called Rural Women. And then in 1936 they moved to a commercial building in Heretaunga Street. Later they were moved to Elbourne Street; later still to Avenue Road, and now the Hastings office is back in Heretaunga Street, the Stortford Lodge end.

Hastings also showed the film called ‘White Angel’ at the Regent Theatre. And it was of course about Henri Dunant and his white suit that he wore. And then just a matter of three years ago … two or three years ago … ‘Red on the Cross’ was the latest film that was produced and that showed in the Century Theatre, and of course it was the story of Henri Dunant and it was in colour – the first one of course was in black and white.

So in the war years Hastings of course spent their time meeting trains, transporting wounded soldiers, giving out cigarettes and parcels for refugees, rolling up bandages – all the work that we associate with Red Cross. And I think it was around about 1960s or even later – might’ve been seventies – that Red Cross trollies in the hospitals finally put away the cigarettes and didn’t sell them any more. And that was another big debate that we went through.

And of course five Hastings VADs who’d been trained here were selected for overseas service. In 1960 the first New Zealand Red Cross field delegate was sent overseas. This was a first for coming under the umbrella of New Zealand Red Cross. It was Barbara Tomlinson from Gisborne, and she went to Morocco. She was a physiotherapist. And ten thousand people had been paralysed with tampered cooking oil, and you know, it was not so long ago that there were some problems in India with tampered cooking oil. There were no physiotherapists in Morocco and she was the first one there, and a woman. It was quite an achievement to go, and quite a story behind it all. Now Hawke’s Bay has a very good record of sending delegates overseas in the troubled zones that we have. Diane Russell, who’s a lab technician … think she’s still in the Hastings hospital … went down the Thai-Kampuchea border; Lyn Anderson, who’s a nurse living in Napier now – she was a nurse on the Thai-Kampuchea border when the refugees coming across; Dr Peter Fleischl Senior went, after looking refugees and he got so hooked on the job that he joined United Nations, so we lost him. But he’s Medical Adviser for the Napier branch. Claire [?] was a nurse from Dannevirke who went, with the boat people; most of you I think will know Margaret Bryson, who trained at the Hastings Hospital and she’s the only one that has received the Florence Nightingale Medal which is the highest award in the world nursing, and is only given once in two years and only fifty worldwide are given out. And she has that, and she also has a Queen’s Honour. Some of you probably will know Mary-Jane Houliston, who was an ophthalmologist – she went to China a couple of times, and I don’t think we were very popular with her patients – and I was one of them – she went away when I asked her if she’d be interested. And our latest one away is Andrew Cayman who’s from Central Hawke’s Bay, who’s [??], and he’s been away several times too.

So over the years, fund-raising – there’s been the Christmas market which Janet Allen and Pat Boyden, who was the wife of the Deputy Mayor at the time – they organised the Christmas Fair for some considerable time. And there was a Christmas wrapping at K-Mart; there was ‘Spud in the Bucket’, which was an awful lot of fun – great competition between friends and family as to see who could grow the best lot of potatoes from a bucket … one potato in a bucket. And for many years there was a gentleman who rolled newspaper and sold it to the butchers and what-have-you, and he was quite a figure of Hastings branch. [?Beryl Randers?] was the Health and Welfare Officer for some time, and she put together a video on disabled people. And she had a group of people … her partner was in wheelchair, and she had a group of people she took around to schools and they were all willing to take part and talk to the children about it, and … you know how some children are afraid of people in wheelchairs, and afraid of people with their arms missing? She just did a wonderful job breaking down those barriers, and it’s a very good video but she’s no longer is working with us of course.

Meals on Wheels of course, and I presume that a lot of you are drivers or if not, you have been … transport drivers. Knitting of course is still happening, and the shop is still operating in Hastings. We look after refugees. We have a response team who’s [which has] been active in Christchurch, and we’ve got a member sitting at the back here as well. And Breakfast in Schools – this is a programme that operates in Decile 1 schools. It has been a contentious issue – a lot of people in New Zealand say we shouldn’t have to do this, but the truth of the matter is there are children at school that are hungry. And the teachers have said once that this scheme has been going for two or three months, that those children are much better behaved, much more alert, and much happier children. And that’s a reality that we just have to face, and there’s all sorts of debates of course as to what should happen and who’s responsible.

I just want to throw to you now some names that some of you will know, who’ve been very active in Hastings Red Cross: Joan Velvin is one, and she was the first woman appointed to the Red Cross Foundation which meets in Wellington, and is a separate entity that was set up by one of our former National Treasurers who went on to be Chairman and then President. And it’s a separate fund which people give to, knowing that it’ll accumulate and the interest will be used to run the National office – for example, so that the Secretary-General gets his pay, and it tops up projects and all the rest of it. When it first started we thought a million dollars would be quite a good sort of sum – I might say it’s much more than a million dollars now and it’s very much needed, but it is quite separate from the Red Cross and people give to it knowing that the purpose of that is to keep everything ticking over properly.

Some of you will know Pam Lockhart, who was Secretary here in Hastings for many years. And Topsy Bond who was a VAD, and she and her sister for years used to shell walnuts during the winter months, ‘cause they didn’t have TV and they didn’t want TV, so they shelled the walnuts and sold them in lovely bags at the shop or at Gala Days or whatever. Jean Orbell was another one who was very active and the Orbell name is well-known in Hastings. Louise [?Thasher?] some of you will know, and Beet Chapman out in Hastings and Minette Paynton, Ngaire Massey and Felicity Kelly all worked in the National office at some stage, not all together – separately, but they’re all in Hastings now and have been active in Hastings for some considerable time. And for many years the Matron of the Hastings Hospital was on the Committee, and I think probably Sylvia Frame was the last one to do that, and of course the whole hospital situation has changed completely in the structure, and there now, as you know, are Principal Nurses I think is the term that they use.

So we can see that Hastings has had a very distinguished life and it continues to serve the community very well. Have I got time to give an earthquake update? Thank you.

Thank you so much to everybody who has given to the Red Cross Earthquake appeal – it’s been absolutely fantastic, the response that we’ve had, and it’s very humbling to realise how much respect the Red Cross does have in New Zealand. As I said all the money goes exactly to Christchurch, to the appeal there, and one of the Commissioners on the body is Jerry Talbot who actually came from Central Hawke’s Bay. He was Secretary-General of New Zealand Red Cross for many years, then went to Geneva, served in Geneva as head of the Asia-Pacific Department and then did a stint in Africa, and then decided he would retire so he came back to New Zealand and lives in Napier now. And at the time of the Boxing Day tsunami he was asked if he would come back and look after the Maldives. Some of the islands were absolutely flooded and the whole population of one island was moved completely to a new island, and everything was set up and Jerry was in control of that. He’s one of the Commissioners, so you know, you don’t actually ever retire from Red Cross, strange as it may seem.

I can only give you the figures from the end of business on Monday, which is last Monday, not yesterday. And appreciate that the figures will be more than what I’m saying, because that’s the reality that we faced. But over $51 million has been raised, and several hundred thousand a day is still coming in. And of that $35 million has been paid out through an Emergency and Hardship Grant. Now yesterday was the final day for anybody to put in an application to receive the hardship grant, and the Commission will be meeting today to discuss what form the next lot is going to be and how they’re going to allocate it. Over forty thousand applications were processed by staff and volunteers in Wellington and in Christchurch. And as a result of the international agreement that we have with Lions Club International, the Lions are working alongside Red Cross, and there are seventy-five of the Lions Club members working in Christchurch and two in the National office.

There’s also a bereavement grant of $10,000 to the families who have lost somebody, and it doesn’t matter where they come from – if they’ve lost somebody and it’s been identified, that family gets $10,000.

Over three hundred and forty Red Cross volunteers and staff have been working in Christchurch, and all bar one of the Hawke’s Bay response team have been down there helping, taking it in turns, usually a week to ten days at a time. One of the team is actually a fully trained search and rescue person.

This is the first time that New Zealand has accepted the offers of aid from other societies. It’s been offered quite often at other times … mainly Australia, Britain and the US … they’re always the first to offer, and we’ve always said “no, it’s okay, we can manage ourselves.” This time we needed help, and we very quickly recognised that we needed help, and apart from Australia and Britain and USA, offers also came from Canada and Japan of course and I think there is still a member of the Japanese Red Cross looking after the families in Christchurch whose bodies haven’t been identified yet. And of course those parents probably don’t speak English. China and Taiwan are also the ones that have offered help, and it’s been accepted in various ways.

That’s eighty year … right through Red Cross, so are there any questions?

Question: Joan, you’ve been very modest about your involvement and … I’m allowed to ask this because she’s my aunt [chuckles] … I can remember going to Red Cross with Mum at Patoka, and I assume that was your first involvement – I’d be really interested to know a quick sort of outline how you went from being involved in the Patoka branch to hold the positions that you did hold?

Joan: I think I was a little bit lucky that doors opened at the right time. I started in a small country branch … Waihau-Patoka branch … and the first meeting of that branch was at my mother-in-law’s home. I wasn’t involved in the family at that stage, I was still to come in. And I took office in the branch at one stage, and I went to Napier to the Centre meetings down there, and took the position of the Chairman of the Centre and went to Wellington … to the Council meetings at Wellington … and I went as a delegate – the next year I would pay my own way and go as a [an] observer. So for quite a few years I had the involvement of being down in Wellington where the action was happening. And then I was involved in the fiftieth anniversary of the Red Cross, and the Conference meeting was here in Napier and Hastings were helping there, and I was invited to stand for the National Executive as it was called then. So the following year I let my name go forward and I was elected to the National Executive and three years later I stood for the position of National Chairman, and missed out. And I was quite happy with that, and then a group said to me “come on, put your name forward to be National President.” And I actually didn’t see myself as a President at that stage, but they had confidence in me and there were four stood – two women and two men, and I was lucky enough to be elected. So that’s the process – basically how I got through it all.

Question: The $51 million – is that all from New Zealanders, or is some of it from overseas?

Joan: No. Some of it’s from overseas. The Red Cross Societies of England, Australia, Japan, USA – they’re all holding their own appeals, so it’s Red Cross money in those countries coming direct to Red Cross in New Zealand. I don’t have a breakdown of those figures, but yeah. It’ll be substantial amounts and of course it’s still coming in.

Question: Can you just explain the entire fee – administration and wages are [?capped?]?

Joan: We’re predominantly paid out of our general funds.

Questioner: Which comes from where?

Joan: Well that’s the cake stalls and that sort of thing that we [chuckle] … that we do, you know, and I think I’ll be baking cakes for some time to come yet. [Chuckles] But people do leave money for that particular purpose, and you know, the usual fundraising things that we do normally throughout the year. Normally the annual appeal would go into that sort of bucket, but this year of course it all went to Christchurch. So from that point of view it’s quite a major contribution of funds that would normally come in to help us run ourselves and that’s how it’s been done.

Question: Joan, you and I’ve been talking briefly about visiting a museum in Geneva, and you mentioned in particular something that struck you and the memory of that place – I mean I’ve been to it twice, and to me it’s an amazing museum which tells exactly the wonderful beginning of it … of [?] Henri Dunant, and the international scope of it, and I wondered whether you might like to just share that museum particularly?

Joan: Yes – thank you. The Museum in Geneva is absolutely fabulous – it’s a very modern museum. It’s quite different from the old-fashioned types of museum. It’s set up – around the walls are the tablets that say when each country became part of the international movement, and of course 1931 is New Zealand there. But the particular thing that Eileen’s referring to is a concrete cell that is in part of the museum. And its six by eight, or whatever the measurements are, but in that cell were crammed prisoners. And it’s absolutely appalling when you stand there and you can see the marks on the concrete of the feet, in appalling conditions – they couldn’t sit down or lie down. They were just crammed in there, and that was one of the parts of Africa. It is a museum that really brings to life the work of Red Cross and the work of Henri Dunant. If you’re ever in Geneva it’s well worth going to see. It’s quite moving actually, and perhaps to some people quite gruesome too.

Michael: Thank you very much …

Joan: My pleasure.

Michael: … Joan, it was an excellent synopsis of the Red Cross, especially from a Hastings perspective. And I guess the thing that strikes me about Red Cross is its credibility in terms of business iconic brand that it is I guess if it was valued it would be worth millions and millions of dollars in terms of its credibility. And its really great to hear you know … ‘cause a lot of people in this age especially are very cynical about when they give money to organisations, about how much actually goes to it, and the real credibility and it has. So we thank you very much.

Joan: Thank you very much.

[Applause]

Original digital file

CockburnJL_Final_Dec18.ogg

Additional information

Landmarks Talk 12/4/2011

People

  • Joan Cockburn

Accession number

874/2206/46905

Do you know something about this record?

Please note we cannot verify the accuracy of any information posted by the community.

Supporters and sponsors

We sincerely thank the following businesses and organisations for their support.