CARE Gala Dinner

Grand Hyatt Hotel, Melbourne - 2 May 2002

Fifteen years ago, Ian Harris was commissioned by CARE International to assess the possibility of establishing CARE in Australia. Ian wrote to me about it. I recalled how CARE USA had delivered Australian aid to Uganda in the days of Idi Amin when nobody from Foreign Affairs or AusAid really wanted to be in the country. Even people bearing gifts were at risk at that time. CARE delivered the aid and accounted for it. So I asked Ian how much time would it take? Two or three Board meetings a year. I thought that might have been a mild understatement, in some ways it became another life's work.

Over the last fourteen years, not only has CARE grown but the lives of millions of people on 3 continents have been touched by young Australians who believe in a better world and who believe in the intrinsic quality and dignity of all people, regardless of race, ethnicity or religion. They have undertaken their tasks with extraordinary competence and conviction. Those operating in emergencies have often done so at a very real risk to themselves. CARE pays very great attention to keeping its people safe. Dangers can be diminished but they cannot be entirely ended. From the earliest time we insisted on 24-hours a day communications in difficult areas – an innovation for CARE. At times, in emergencies, our staff have had to be evacuated. When that has happened they have always wanted to return at the earliest moment to continue the work.

The dedication of CARE staff has always made it an organisation easy to be proud of. The quality of its work, the delivery of its services and the commitment to excellence and efficiency are exemplary. Seeing remarkably competent young Australians, either in developmental work or at the coal face of emergencies is enough to make anyone extraordinarily proud of their achievement. This work is particularly important for Australia . In many ways CARE is the compassionate face of this country in the international environment. Australians deliver aid to people in great need.

I have enjoyed working for CARE enormously. When some doors close, others open and CARE has been a major part of my life for many years.

We like to believe that the NGO sector is one sector dedicated to working itself out of a job. If we had a world where CARE was no longer needed, we would all be happy but the reality is that where poverty exists, CARE will exist. While governments are unable to meet the basic needs of their people, CARE will help. While natural and man-made disasters continue to occur, CARE will continue to be on the alert. But CARE can't do it alone. The help that the Australian community provides CARE is essential for our continued existence. While we receive funding from governments and the United Nations, funding from corporate Australia and from the community is our life-blood. We are able to leverage Australian donations six or seven times and that makes us effective in many parts of the world.

Events such as tonight are enormously encouraging. Sponsorship from Mazda, The Age and Channel 9 tonight are good examples of the relationships that can be forged but clearly the work we do has support from all of you and I can see as I hand over the reins to Sir William that CARE's life-blood still flows strongly in its veins.

There are many people who have been critical to the success of CARE. There are many people, individuals and corporations, who have been extraordinarily generous and without whose help we could not survive. There are many people I would like to name and thank but to name individuals is too difficult for tonight. There are too many.

It is often possible to measure the successes of the work we do. Communities are left better off, with better agriculture and small businesses established. With emergencies, success is also measurable. In one case of severe famine and internal anarchy, CARE and other NGOs reduced a death rate of 500 a week to six a week over about six weeks.

It has been both an honour and a privilege to have been Chairman of CARE but I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Board of CARE who have been so strong and dedicated to both CARE's mission and its work. Particularly I want to thank Les Froggatt, Vice-Chairman, who has given me such staunch support over the years. His work in helping establish the Corporate Council has been of enormous and irreplaceable value. Without such a Board I could never have continued for such a long time, although perhaps some of them wish I hadn't, I thank them all deeply.

Handing over the reins to Sir William and to the new Vice Chairman, Tony Eggleton, is difficult and hard. Difficult because CARE is an organisation that gets in your blood and easy because I know it will be in very good hands.

I wish you both very well. I promise not to be a nuisance from the backbench of the Board.