Margaret Sheehan appointed as new CEO of ChildFund Australia

ChildFund Australia Board Chair Mary Latham has today announced the appointment of Margaret Sheehan as the organisation’s new Chief Executive Officer.

Margaret is currently the International Program Director at ChildFund Australia, a role she has held for the past four years. She will succeed current CEO Nigel Spence, who steps down from the role after 14 years of distinguished service.

Mary Latham said: “Margaret’s role within ChildFund, and her many years of working in the international aid sector, uniquely qualify her for this position.

“The appointment follows an extensive, competitive, international and national recruitment process.”

Margaret holds a Masters in Public Health and has over two decades of experience in managing international development programs and personnel in field office settings.

Prior to joining ChildFund, Margaret held senior international roles with UNICEF and the World Health Organisation and has significant experience in humanitarian response programming.

This includes providing senior management and development guidance during the Strategic Response Plan for the Typhoon Haiyan Emergency in the Philippines, and the Humanitarian Response Plan in Yemen in 2016.

Nigel Spence said: “I am delighted that a person of Margaret’s skill and experience will take over the leadership of ChildFund Australia at the end of 2019.

“Margaret is an expert international development professional, whose career has been dedicated to improving the lives of vulnerable children and families. I am confident that ChildFund will go from strength to strength under her leadership.”

Margaret will commence her new role in late December 2019.

She said: “It is a privilege to be given the opportunity to lead an organisation for which I already have such a deep and personal commitment.

“Nigel leaves behind a strong and collaborative workplace culture, and I look forward to working with our many talented staff as we strive to make a positive difference to the lives of vulnerable children living in developing communities.

“As the world marks the 30th anniversary of the Convention of the Rights of the Child, it is vital that we ensure that no child is left behind. Every young person should experience a childhood in which they are nurtured, protected, and given access to opportunity.”

The Australian Council for International Development (ACFID) announced Nigel Spence as the recipient of its Outstanding Contribution to the Sector Award at the ACFID annual conference dinner in Sydney last night.

This award is presented to an organisation or individual who, over an extended period, has made a significant and positive impact on the Australian aid and development NGO sector. In particular, the awards recognises those contributions made above and beyond paid employment.

President of ACFID Susan Pascoe said: “The award is in recognition of Nigel’s four decades of committed, enthusiastic and tireless advocacy for children, both in the domestic and international development sector.”

Nigel began his career in 1981 as a Social Worker supporting children at risk, and their families, in Western Sydney, and was later appointed Director for Children and Youth Services at Centacare, Catholic Community Services in Sydney, with responsibility for all aspects of the agency’s services for children and young people.

In 1997, Nigel was appointed as the Chief Executive Officer at the Association of Children’s Welfare Agencies, leading the Association and the child protection sector to achieve significant improvements in legislation, policy and services for vulnerable children, youth and their families.

In early 2006, Nigel joined ChildFund Australia as CEO and over the last 14 years has led the organisation through significant growth and change. Under his leadership, ChildFund Australia has expanded its programs for children and young people in Vietnam and Papua New Guinea, and commenced new operations in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Timor-Leste and the Pacific.

ChildFund Australia has also supported programs delivered by ChildFund Alliance members, in East and Southern Africa, and provided emergency assistance to children impacted by humanitarian disasters. Nigel has been instrumental in ensuring ChildFund’s programs have adapted to the changing needs of children, expanding beyond its original scope to respond to the critical issues of child protection, children’s resilience, risk preparedness, and responses to conflicts and disasters.

Innovative programming has included ChildFund’s award-winning sport for development program, ChildFund Pass It Back where the organisation’s effectiveness in combining sport and life-skills education has resulted in ChildFund being awarded World Rugby’s principal charity partner for the Rugby World Cup 2019.

Ms Pascoe noted that Nigel’s impact in the international development sector has extended well beyond his role at ChildFund Australia. Nigel has been a leading contributor to ChildFund’s global network, the ChildFund Alliance, including his roles as a Board Director, Executive Committee member and Co-Chair of the CEO Forum.

Nigel was also a leading member of the ACFID Board for many years in his capacity as ACFID Vice President (Finance) and has been active in ACFID advocacy activities, such as addressing gender-based violence in the Pacific, children’s rights in international development, the declining Australian Aid budget, education and health issues in the Asia-Pacific region.

Ms Pascoe added: “It is the quality of your service that we wish to recognise; your generosity and your wealth of experience and expertise that you bring to the sector.

“‘Genuine’ and ‘authentic’ are words frequently used to describe you, both within ChildFund and amongst others in the sector who have had the privilege to work with you. Congratulations on this well-deserved honour.”