We are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Tim Fischer AC, former Deputy Prime Minister of Australia and ChildFund Australia Special Envoy.
During his more than thirty-year association with ChildFund Australia, Tim has been a prominent voice for the world’s most marginalised children, highlighting the important role that Australia can play in improving living standards in developing communities.
CEO of ChildFund Australia Nigel Spence said: “Tim will be greatly missed by all at ChildFund. He was a man who firmly believed that the rights of all children, regardless of their birthplace, should be upheld.
“We will always be thankful for the role he has played in bringing greater attention and understanding to the challenges facing children and families living in some of the most marginalised communities around the globe.”
A former Australian Army Officer, Tim served in the Vietnam War, an experience which left him with a lifelong affinity to Asia.
Following the war’s end, Tim began his political career. During the next 15 years, Tim held senior roles in both the NSW State and Federal governments, including Leader of the National Party, Minister for Trade and Deputy Prime Minister.
In 1997, while serving as Deputy Prime Minister of Australia, Tim had the opportunity to visit his sponsored child Pecharin in Thailand.
In an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald at that time he remarked: “Whatever degree of suffering children have in Australia – and there certainly is some – they have a better situation than many of these children in north-east Thailand.
“But in helping we can also learn from the quiet dignity of these people and their way of life.”
He and wife Judy went on to sponsor Dendanai in Thailand, followed by Benjamin in Timor-Leste, who continues to benefit from their support to this day.
Mr Spence said: “Tim took the time to learn and develop an in-depth understanding of the many complex issues facing developing communities. This included visiting Ethiopia during the food shortage of 2015, and travels to other countries in our region, such as Timor-Leste.”
Writing about the high unexploded ordnance contamination in Laos as a result of the Vietnam War, Tim said: “We all have a responsibility to help reduce this burden left over from the war. I hope more Australians heed the call to do their bit so that families in Laos can enjoy the safety and freedoms we take for granted.”
Mr Spence added: “On behalf of all at ChildFund, we send our deepest condolences and sympathy to Judy, their sons Harrison and Dominic, and the family and friends of Tim. He has left an important and valuable legacy to children around the globe and will always be remembered with great affection.”
The ChildFund Australia Board has announced that Nigel Spence will be moving on from his role as CEO in December 2019, after long and distinguished service.
In his 14 years as CEO, Nigel has led ChildFund through significant growth and change, and been at the helm of an organisation that is creating new opportunities for vulnerable children, their families and communities.
Today, because of Nigel’s leadership, many more children can say: “I am safe. I am educated. I am heard. I have a future.”
Under his leadership, ChildFund has expanded its programs to children and young people in Vietnam and Papua New Guinea, and commenced new operations in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Timor-Leste.
ChildFund is now playing a greater role in humanitarian response, with a focus on child protection, and continues to support the development work of ChildFund Alliance partners in Africa, Asia and the Americas.
The last decade has been a time of significant change in the international development sector. Nigel has been instrumental in ensuring ChildFund’s program focus has 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.
ChildFund’s award-winning sport for development program, ChildFund Pass It Back, is an example of the innovative programming introduced during Nigel’s time as CEO.
The organisation’s effectiveness in combining sport and learning outcomes has resulted in ChildFund being awarded World Rugby’s principal charity partner for the Rugby World Cup 2019. This is a remarkable achievement.
Within the organisation, Nigel has been key to ensuring that ChildFund’s funding sources have both grown and diversified. This is critical to the long-term sustainability of ChildFund’s programs, and effectiveness in giving more children a childhood where they are protected, nurtured and given access to opportunity.
He has also created a workplace culture of integrity, inclusion, and collaboration among employees across the organisation’s seven offices. His open-door policy will be missed by all staff.
More broadly across the sector, Nigel has been a leading contributor to ChildFund’s global network, the ChildFund Alliance, and has served on the ACFID Board, as a member and Vice President.
With his wealth of experience in child protection, both in Australia and internationally, Nigel is looking forward to finishing his PhD research into the influence of international organisations on child protection policy in Asia.
“I am extraordinarily fortunate to have worked at ChildFund for so long with great colleagues, supporters, partners and community members who share a deep commitment to children’s rights,” said Nigel. “ChildFund Australia is a strong and effective organisation with an exciting future ahead.”
ChildFund Chair Mary Latham expressed her deep gratitude to Nigel for his service as CEO on behalf of the whole Board. “Nigel’s dedication to ChildFund, to his team and to the children we support has been phenomenal.
“His period of service as CEO has been truly transformational for ChildFund.”
Nigel and the Board will work together on a recruitment process in the coming months, which will allow for an orderly succession from Nigel to the new CEO.