Protect Red Cross emblem that protects lives

MANY Australians believe a red cross on a white background is a general symbol for health care or medical assistance – a huge misconception that could work to undermine its true meaning.

Put simply, the red cross means ‘don’t shoot’ – this person, building or vehicle is not part of the fight, but is providing neutral and impartial humanitarian assistance.

The emblem’s correct place is on the arms of Australian Army medics in Afghanistan, hospitals treating the wounded in Syria, or Red Cross convoys delivering humanitarian relief supplies in the Central African Republic.

Rebecca Dodd from Australian Red Cross knows the importance of the emblem through first-hand experience working with Red Cross in Sri Lanka and the Congo.

“From the moment people felt under threat of attack, they turned to the emblem to protect them,” Ms Dodd, who is now Australian Red Cross’ Manager of International Humanitarian Law (IHL), said.

“The director of one of the hospitals in Sri Lanka wanted to make sure it was properly identified as providing first aid to the wounded. He literally went to the local hardware store to buy paint to make sure the red cross on the roof was clear, protecting the hospital from aerial bombardment.”

“Fortunately most Australians have not experienced armed conflict, and have never needed the protection of the emblem,” Ms Dodd says.

“This may explain the large incidence of misuse here.”

Australian Red Cross has a mandate to promote an understanding of IHL – or the laws of war – including the importance of the red cross.

Misuse of the red cross emblem in peacetime can weaken its protective authority. Businesses, retailers, designers and media often misuse the emblem without realising that its legitimate use is in armed conflict.

As the universal emblem of protection in armed conflict, the use of the emblem is protected under international and Australian law. This law, enforced by the Minister of Defence in Australia, protects not only direct reproduction of the red cross, but also stylised or embellished depictions. These laws also cover the red crescent and red crystal, which have similar protective significance.

“Australia may be a long way from a conflict zone, but by using the emblem correctly, we do our best to ensure its protective powers are not diminished when they are most needed – by humanitarian workers and defence force medics in armed conflicts.”

Help protect the red cross, red crescent and red crystal emblems. If you see what you suspect to be a misuse of the emblem, please contact Red Cross on emblemmisuse@redcross.org.au. For more information on suitable alternatives for your organisation, visit redcross.org.au/emblem.

Source: Red Cross Australia

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Ryan Fritz

Ryan Fritz started The Advocate in 2014 to provide not-for-profits and charities with another media platform to tell their worthwhile hard news stories and opinion pieces effortlessly. In 2020, Ryan formed a team of volunteer journalists to help spread even more high-quality stories from the third sector. He also has over 10 years of experience as a media and communications professional for not-for-profits and charities.

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