St John volunteers around the world are concerned about the safety of their brothers and sisters as they continue to provide 24-hour care to those in need amidst the ongoing battle. In Jerusalem, clinical activities are down 55 per cent. However, St John is coordinating with Israeli authorities to enable patients to reach Jerusalem for emergency surgery.
Senator McLACHLAN (South Australia—Deputy President and Chair of Committees) (17:35): Pro fide pro utilitate hominum: for the faith and in the service of humanity. That is the catchcry of St John Ambulance. St John delivers first-aid and health care around the world and is a global leader in strengthening the resilience of communities in response to disaster. Every day, its 200,000 volunteers work for humanity, providing relief for people who are sick, distressed or suffering. Senators would be aware that I am a longstanding volunteer with St John, and co-chair of the Parliamentary Friends of St John Ambulance alongside my colleague the honourable Carol Brown. I wish to inform the chamber about the important work of the St John Eye Hospital and its endeavours following the Hamas terrorist attack on Israel.
St John is a working order of chivalry. The Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem traces its origins to the early 11th century. At this time, a hospital was established by Christian monks in Jerusalem to care for pilgrims who fell ill on their travels. Better-known as hospitallers, they gave care to all regardless of faith, race or creed. Queen Victoria opened the St John specialist eye hospital in 1882. It was established in Jerusalem and has provided care for more than 140 years. Since then, its services have expanded and it now operates satellite hospitals in the West Bank and Gaza. It employs more than 270 dedicated staff.
The St John Eye Hospital is the only charitable provider of eye care in the Middle East. All patients receive treatment regardless of their ethnicity, religion or financial standing, keeping faith with the ancient mission of St John. The hospital treated more than 140,000 people in 2022 alone, making it the most significant provider of eye care to Palestinians. The work is made possible through the generosity of the global St John family. The recent Hamas terrorist attacks on Israel and the subsequent conflict have made the work of the hospital staff very challenging. In the early phases of hostilities, the hospital building in Gaza sustained structural damage from nearby explosions and had access blocked by rubble. Its staff and patients had to relocate to Rafah and surrounding districts, where they currently remain. Thankfully, no staff or patients were badly injured.
St John volunteers around the world are concerned about the safety of their brothers and sisters as they continue to provide 24-hour care to those in need amidst the ongoing battle. In Jerusalem, clinical activities are down 55 per cent. However, St John is coordinating with Israeli authorities to enable patients to reach Jerusalem for emergency surgery. I thank the Israeli authorities for their support. Staff in the West Bank have established a child-vision screening program, which has screened around 1,000 children currently in refugee camps. The East Jerusalem clinic is providing essential services to patients who cannot reach Jerusalem and is operating at 100 per cent capacity. In the southern West Bank eye surgery is up by 55 per cent. Meanwhile, specialist doctors have been working overtime to restore services to the northern West Bank. I pay tribute to the dedicated St John staff who continue to risk their own lives to ensure the sick and wounded receive care. My thoughts and prayers are with the eye hospital chairman, Sir Andrew Cash, and the CEO, Dr Ahmad Ma’ali, and all hospital staff and their families.
When peace returns, St John will rebuild its facilities in Gaza, to continue its sacred mission to provide care to all those who are suffering. It is not the first time St John has faced this adversity. The Jerusalem hospital was rebuilt after being destroyed under Ottoman occupation in 1919 and again following the Israeli war of independence in 1948. St John will rebuild, but now it is focused on providing care to those in need. To support this work, St John has established a global fundraising appeal. I encourage everyone to support this worthy cause.