Local historian joins celebs as Red Cross ambassador

Flinders University History Professor Melanie Oppenheimer

What do celebrities Guy Sebastian, Kate Richie and Maggie Beer have in common with Flinders University historian Melanie Oppenheimer?

They’re all ambassadors of Australian Red Cross.

Joining some of Australia’s biggest personalities, Professor Oppenheimer has just been made an official Red Cross ambassador to promote the 100-year-history of the organisation as part of its 2014 centenary celebrations.

“My role is to get out there and publicise the role of the Red Cross throughout history,” Professor Oppenheimer, based in the School of International Studies, says.

“I’ll be talking about the sorts of things they used to do and how that’s changed over time and what they do now,” she says.

“It’s about linking the past to the present, and looking to the future.”

In 2009 Professor Oppenheimer was commissioned by the Red Cross to write the history of the organisation in the lead up to the centenary, with the ensuing book, The Power of Humanity: 100 Years of the Australian Red Cross, expected to hit the shelves in August.

Published by HarperCollins, the book traces the origins of the Red Cross from the branch level through to the organisation’s prolific role in international aid efforts.

Professor Oppenheimer will be a guest speaker at an event in Melbourne today (Wednesday, March 12), titled 100 years of Women and War: Their Protection and Commitment, to celebrate the centenary of the Australian Red Cross and International Women’s Day (March 8).

“It’s very exciting, I was thrilled to be invited to the event and even more delighted to be made an ambassador,” Professor Oppenheimer says.

“Even though the book’s finished it means my association with the Red Cross will continue.”

As one of the biggest and oldest voluntary organisations in the world, Professor Oppenheimer says the Australian Red Cross continues to play a vital function in society.

“You would be hard-pressed to find someone whose life hasn’t been touched by the Red Cross in some way; either through a blood transfusion, being assisted during an emergency, through their vast community programs or as a volunteer or staff member.

“The thing that makes the Red Cross so special is that it has a global dimension – it’s not just an Australian organisation but an international body as well.

“It’s one of the biggest voluntary organisations of our history and it continues to play an important role in Australia and the world today.”

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