Australians who spend the holiday season helping others abroad | Asia Pacific

Australians who spend the holiday season helping others abroad

Australians who spend the holiday season helping others abroad

Updated 21 December 2012, 22:23 AEDT

Good preparation for natural disasters like cyclones makes all the difference to how a country copes.

In Solomon Islands, local authorities have been preparing for the cyclone season, with a little help from aid agencies like the Australian Red Cross.

It also means that many Australian volunteers and aid workers are spending Christmas away from home.

Tim McInerny works in disaster management and organisational development with the Australian Red Cross in Solomon Islands.

Presenter: Sen Lam

Speaker: Australian aid worker, Tim McInerny, the Australian Red Cross in Solomon Islands

McINERNY: The Red Cross has a strong history of responding to disasters here in Solomon Islands and has a very good reputation for using their volunteers that are across the islands here, to gather that information at the time of an emergency and then feed that back up to not just Red Cross, but the government partners and non-government partners, to determine what type of response is needed in that area. So my role is to work with the Solomon Islands Red Cross to strengthen that ability to not just get the information off the ground, but to be able to make good decisions about what type of response and what needs people have.

We just finished pre-positioning quite abit of our stocks out into the outer islands. As you know, it's a long way to travel from the capital here in Honiara, out to some of the outer islands. And so, if something does happen out there, it can be days or over a week before resupply can take place. So it's really important for us to have as much of our stocks spread across the islands as possible so that that could be used immediately to meet people's basic needs. So we've done a fair bit of work in our logistics in the last few weeks and months.

LAM: People in Samoa and Fiji, after Cyclone Evan this month, said damage was to some extent limited by the good preparation. But where Solomon Islands is concerned, how dangerous is the cyclone season in Solomons?

MCINERNY: The forecast is such that we're expecting something to be in our region in the next few months. Their national weather service has made it clear that this is going to a year for cyclones and we need to be prepared. And as you know, we sit on the belt that earthquakes happen regularly, so the chance of having a significant sized earthquake can come at any point in time. So we try to keep a level of alertness at all times and for this cyclone season, we're even more prepared and obviously taking stock of which staff are going where over the holiday break.

LAM: Well, it's good to be prepared but let's end on a brighter note. Tell us about Christmas in Solomon Islands - it's a big deal there?

MCINERNY: It is! Being predominantly Christian, there's a lot of activity and it's really great coming from outside of the country and seeing the family atmosphere to Christmas here. I come from an environment where it's quite commercial and so it's really got a good spirit.

People are playing Christmas carols in the streets and the wharf is the place to be. Everybody's boarding boats to head back to their birth villages, to spend at least a couple of weeks with their families.

I'm personally having a traditional feast of pig. It's not quite the ham you get in the supermarket, but more of a live pig, to be cooked in a traditional pit style oven.

LAM: That sounds wonderful! It's like a New Zealand hangi?

MCINERNY: It is. They call it a motu, a motu. It's using hot river stones, a few banana leaves and hopefully, we come out with pork at the end of it.

LAM: I'm sure you will. And Tim, you grew up on a cattle property near Canberra, but for this Christmas, your family and friends are coming to you?

MCINERNY: I'm lucky, I'm very lucky. I happen to turn thirty a couple of days after Christmas. And somebody reminded me of that, that I'm lucky to have family and friends here. We will have a mix of pavlovas and punch, together with the pork. And looking forward to having some 'down time' with the family.

LAM: That sounds wonderful Tim. On behalf of all Australians, and indeed, our international listeners on Radio Australia, thank you for doing such good work and have a safe and happy holiday season!

MCINERNY: Well, thank you Radio Australia, for supporting Red Cross. And you enjoy the season too!

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