Changemakers - Petra Ball
29 October 2012 at 9:23 am
Petra Ball, International Humanitarian Law Officer for Australian Red Cross in South Australia, is profiled in Changemakers – a regular column which examines inspiring people and their careers in the Not for Profit sector.
Australian Red Cross is a member of the International Red Cross Red Crescent Movement, the world’s largest humanitarian movement which operates in more than 188 countries. Red Cross has thousands of members, volunteers and supporters who assist in its disaster, international humanitarian law and ongoing everyday work supporting the most vulnerable people in the community, both here and overseas.
What are you currently working on in the organisation?
Planning and preparing for an international conference on nuclear weapons has been almost my sole focus for a number of months now – and here it is, just around the corner! I am really excited about it!
The conference, called Towards Eliminating Nuclear Weapons, focuses on ways to push forward the debate on a legally binding tool to prohibit and ultimately eliminate nuclear weapons, looks at new ways of measuring the humanitarian and environment impacts of use of nuclear weapons and what fantastic initiatives there are coming from civil society – especially young people to keep this critical topic on the radar of the public and the decision makers in our local and international community.
The speakers are all impressive, the topics really stimulating and a weekend in Adelaide in early November is bound to be lovely! One of the great things about the conference is the opportunity to profile the human agency involved in nuclear weapons and we are really glad to focus on the lived experience of nuclear weapons. One of our presenters will be coming from the Marshall Islands, where communities still live with the impacts of nuclear testing, and Junko Morimoto, a Sydney-based survivor of the Hiroshima bombing in 1945 will share her experiences from that time.
We are so pleased to be co-hosting this conference with Flinders Uni Law School and the Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Centre at UniSA, and know the delegates are going to be challenged and inspired.
How long have you been working in the Not for Profit sector?
I have been working in the NFP sector since 1992 and it is only now that I have done the math, as they say, that I realise just how long that is. Longer than the age of some of the others profiled in Changemakers!
What was your first job in the Not for Profit sector?
I went to work for Community Aid Abroad Trading, now known as Oxfam Trading. I decided the dip in job seniority – and wages – was more than offset by working for an organisation that was seeking to make trade fair. A year in Malaysia between school and uni, what we call now a gap year I guess, made me very aware of our comfortable Australian lives – I didn’t want to enjoy that at what I perceived to be the expense of others.
What do you like best about working in your current organisation?
I love working for Red Cross for lots of reasons – think, working with vulnerable people, valuing the contribution of our volunteers, striving for innovation to name a few reasons. But, best of all, in my current role, I get to work with such a talented team. Red Cross is present all around Australia, and while there are only one or two IHL staffers, like myself, in each state and territory, (so we aren’t physically a team), we all benefit from what is shared between us; issues knowledge, a passion for the value of our work to promote respect for IHL and a desire to do this in the best way possible for the different groups we work with. This working culture, plus the sharp and witty humour and the support of our fabulous managers, makes every day a good one.
Well, it is a quote, really. In his inaugural speech in 1994, Nelson Mandela said: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous.” I like this quote because it challenges us so powerfully to reach the potential in us all to make a positive difference in this world.
My greatest challenge is…
Getting to work on time – always trying to fit in too much before I leave the house – school lunches, a load of washing, walking the dog, paying bills – and then there is always something random – like today, there was a bird caught in the chimney of my son’s room.