A volunteering legacy: Michael Legge retires from Australian Red Cross presidency after six years in top job

Legacy: Michael Legge AM at his farm 'Hanleth' in the Fingal Valley. Picture: Scott Gelston
Legacy: Michael Legge AM at his farm 'Hanleth' in the Fingal Valley. Picture: Scott Gelston

Ask Michael Legge AM to name his proudest moment from the past six years as president of the Australian Red Cross, and the amount of achievements he lists could easily fill a ten-year term.

From responding to the disastrous Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004, to successfully nationalising a previously state-based organisation and securing the Australian Red Cross’ future for the long term – Mr Legge’s efforts are comprehensive.

Having concluded his presidency on Saturday, Mr Legge will spend more time at his property ‘Hanleth’ in the Fingal Valley, with his wife Sophie and children Tom, Olivia and Millie.

Having worked on local, national and international issues, from volunteering as a Tasmanian paramedic to campaigning against the humanitarian cost of nuclear weapons, Mr Legge can look both near and far for the impact of his efforts.

“Changing the organisation from federated-structured to one national organisation was a huge achievement,” he said.

“That was a big challenge and one that we delivered.

“From a personal perspective, being involved in setting strategies for the organisation until 2020 I think in my time has been key.”

Mr Legge said a major success during his time was achieving gender balance on the national board of the Australian Red Cross, as well as taking the issue of gender balance to an international Red Cross meeting in Turkey just recently.

“Establishing and maintaining the programs that we deliver throughout Australia, the great work that we’re doing in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander area, the work we’re doing in the Tiwi Islands and Queensland, and around the country – to me that’s great,” he said.

Mr Legge’s association with the Red Cross spans more than 30 years, first as a volunteer paramedic before joining the Blood Service Board for 10 years, and rising to deputy president for eight years before taking the top job six years ago.

Despite retiring from the national board, Mr Legge leaves for Samoa on Monday, working with the International Federation of the Red Cross as a governance mentor and analyst.

Mr Legge said stepping down from the board this year was a bittersweet moment.

“I’m looking forward to spending more time with my family and on the farm, which will be great,” he said.

“But that being said, it will be a big void out of my life.”