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Australia, the magazine : Australia, the magazine
106 international aid He was awarded a Victoria Cross for bravery when his Special Air Ser vice regiment came under re. Under a hail of bullets, the 30-year-old trooper ran back to rescue his Afghan interpreter, carrying him 80 metres to safety across exposed ground. DIRECT AID e Federal Government's aid budget is testimony to the nation's desire to help. Everyone accepts last year was economically tough. Yet 2009/10 delivered AU$3.8 billion in assistance, an increase of 5.6 percent on the previous year. Priorities included infrastructure and governance, but also high on the agenda was direct-to-community aid in areas such as education, giving more girls and boys in the Asia and Paci c regions be er chances in life -- a real way of reducing poverty and achieving sustainable development. Engagement with the United Nations remains a key component of Australian foreign policy, as does support for multilateral banks such as the World Bank and Asian Development Bank. But beyond those o cial channels, there is a personal desire to help. It could be said that it is in the Australian blood. ere are many Australian individuals who on seeing a problem, no ma er how big, simply roll up their sleeves and set about trying to solve it. Every day, Austalians are involved in helping the needs of their communities and their work goes unsung. And some -- not seeking personal glory, just seeking to use their skills and advantages where they are most needed -- become accidental heroes on an international stage. Alison ompson is no stranger to helping. e Australian lmmaker, born and raised in Sutherland Shire in Sydney's south, "a preacher's daughter" as her biographical notes say, worked as a mathematics teacher and an ambulance o cer before moving to New York and studying at NYU lm school. ree weeks out of lm school she directed and produced her rst feature, High Times' Potluck. It won nine lm festival awards including one for best rst-time director. But her life's path really came up to meet her on 11 September 2001 when Alison rollerbladed to the World Trade Center with her medical kit and became a rst responder rescue worker. She stayed helping for nine months. When the 2004 tsunami hit Sri Lanka, she and her partner Oscar Gubernati teamed up with two others, there was "Bruce, an executive chef touring with Pearl Jam, and Donny, a husband and father and physical trainer for a professional rugby club in Australia. " ere was no one helping the tsunami victims in our area so the four of us ended up running a refugee camp of over 3000 people," she wrote of the experience. "A two-week journey turned into a year of heartbreak and setbacks as the villagers slowly started to turn on us." is was because the billions of donated tsunami money was slow to reach the area. "We were also in a race against time to rebuild an entire village before the monsoons hit. Although the relief money was either in short supply or non-existent, volunteers poured in from all over the world to help. We took a video camera along but were so busy running a hospital and the camp to shoot footage, we passed it around to ambulance drivers or kids or whomever wanted to have a go." e resulting 250 hours of footage was cut down to a 90-minute documentary called e ird Wave. It was picked up by Sean Penn and screened at the Tribeca and Cannes Film Festivals. Penn noted: "It inspires the very best in us, just when we need that most and comes as close to answering our purpose in life more than any other lm I have seen in my recent memory." Pro ts went to building the Community Tsunami Early-Warning Centre in Sri Lanka. A er the Haiti earthquake, ompson, Gubernati and Penn were in the rst wave of helpers. As ompson said of e ird Wave, "Yes there are big problems in the business of aid but if you get your head down and use your common sense you can get around it and achieve big things. With e ird Wave, we wanted to capture what is really happening on the ground a er a major disaster." PUSHING BOUNDARIES Dr Fiona Wood is another extraordinary yet typical Australian. Typical, in that she's an immigrant who has lived 20-plus years in Australia and calls it her home. She's a wife, a Alison Thompson at work with Haiti's children, and (right) with actor Sean Penn. Yes there are big problems but if you get your head down you can achieve big things. Alison Thompson Courtesy of Alison Thompson