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Australian Red Cross Board

The members of the Board are the key policy-makers of Australian Red Cross.

The Red Cross Board governs the organisation’s activities and ensures it acts in accordance with the Geneva Convention, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) regulations, the international movement’s protocols, and the fundamental principles of the international Red Cross and Red Crescent movement. The Board also develops and maintains ethical standards based on a Code of Conduct and Conflict of Interest Policy.

Comprising up to 16 members, the Board includes the President, Deputy President, the Audit and Risk Committee Chair, the Youth Member, the Chair or nominee of each of the eight Divisional Advisory Boards from each state and territory, the Australian Red Cross Lifeblood Chair and up to three Additional Board Members. While they are not members of the Board, Australian Red Cross’s Chief Executive Officer, Chief Financial Officer and Board Secretary attend Board meetings.

Our Board Members are volunteers who receive no payment for their services, other than reimbursement for reasonable travel and other expenses incurred through their work for Red Cross. The Australian Red Cross Lifeblood Chair member receives payment from Lifeblood.

Ensuring good governance is a key Board responsibility. This includes overseeing mechanisms to comply with legal requirements and regulations, while safekeeping the ongoing financial viability of Red Cross. The Board monitors and periodically evaluates its own performance and strives to always have a skilled and diverse membership in place. It also establishes and implements a recognition process that acknowledges the efforts of volunteers, members and staff.

Board members

Sam Hardjono
Chair, Audit and Risk Committee

Rose Rhodes PSM
Chair, SA Divisional Advisory Board

Ross Pinney
President

Dr Melissa Phillips
Additional Board Member

Wendy Prowse
Chair, ACT Divisional Advisory Board

Charles Burkitt
Deputy President

Nazli Hocaoglu
Youth Member

Ian Hamm
Additional Board Member

Aisling Blackmore
Chair, WA Divisional Advisory Board

Cris Topfner-Rigby
Additional Board Member

Rita Richards
Chair, TAS Divisional Advisory Board

James Birch AM
Chair, Australian Red Cross Lifeblood

Dr Garry Nolan AM
Chair, VIC Divisional Advisory Board

Kathleen Cole
Chair, NT Divisional Advisory Board

John MacLennan
Chair, NSW Divisional Advisory Board

Winifred Smith AM
Chair, QLD Divisional Advisory Board

Sam Hardjono
Chair, Audit and Risk Committee

Rose Rhodes PSM
Chair, SA Divisional Advisory Board

Ross Pinney
President

Dr Melissa Phillips
Additional Board Member

Wendy Prowse
Chair, ACT Divisional Advisory Board

Charles Burkitt
Deputy President

Nazli Hocaoglu
Youth Member

Ian Hamm
Additional Board Member

Aisling Blackmore
Chair, WA Divisional Advisory Board

Cris Topfner-Rigby
Additional Board Member

Rita Richards
Chair, TAS Divisional Advisory Board

James Birch AM
Chair, Australian Red Cross Lifeblood

Dr Garry Nolan AM
Chair, VIC Divisional Advisory Board

Kathleen Cole
Chair, NT Divisional Advisory Board

John MacLennan
Chair, NSW Divisional Advisory Board

Winifred Smith AM
Chair, QLD Divisional Advisory Board

Sam Hardjono
Chair, Audit and Risk Committee

Sam Hardjono was keenly observant growing up in Indonesia, the son of a pioneering Australian academic mum and an Indonesian engineer dad.

From his family’s home in the regional capital, Bundung, he witnessed chronic poverty and the shocking devastation wrought by natural disasters.

“I distinctly remember floodwaters reaching one to two metres,” he says.

“I was sitting on a fence watching military green Land Rovers with a big Red Cross on them, full of people, driving through the water.”

“In my mind Red Cross equalled help and Indonesia went through so many different catastrophes that help was critical.”

Sam went to school in Sydney, where a summer job in an accountant’s office led to tertiary study in the same field and a then full-blown career in corporate leadership.

“Technically I’ve been accounting since I was a teenager,” he quips.

 

He joined the NSW Divisional Advisory Board of Red Cross in 2010 and was elected DAB Chair in 2015. It was one of several significant achievements in an extensive career leading organisations in the not-for-profit and private sectors.

Sam is currently a senior strategic adviser and board director, he has an MBA and works with the corporate, not-for-profit and start-up sectors.

“My heart is with the members and volunteers of Australian Red Cross because they’re at the very front of Red Cross work,” he says.

“For a hundred years they have been at the cutting edge of understanding problems and trying to find solutions.”

Sam took the reins of the Audit and Risk Committee in 2020 when Kym Pfitzner, who held the role, was appointed CEO of Australian Red Cross.

“Once you volunteer for this organisation it gets under your skin and becomes part of your life. I’ve never felt a greater sense of community than I have within Red Cross.”

Rose Rhodes PSM
Chair, SA Divisional Advisory Board

Rose Rhodes was Deputy Director of Nursing at Adelaide’s Modbury Hospital when the 1983 Ash Wednesday Fires ripped through the Adelaide Hills and bore down on a city shrouded in smoke and ash.

She vividly recalls dispatching retrieval teams to the fire front to tend to exhausted firefighters. Not long after, she relocated with her husband to Darwin where a two-year stint became 27 years.

 

As Director of Nursing, Community Health, Darwin Urban and Rural in the NT public service Rose oversaw 14 remote health centres, located on islands north of Darwin, to Maningrida in the east and Wadeye on the western side and 100km south to the Adelaide River plus six urban centres in Darwin.

It was her final paid job in the Top End that led Rose to Australian Red Cross. She worked for the NT Government on the tripartite agreement for what was then called the Red Cross Blood Service when Red Cross moved from being state-based to a national body.

She joined Red Cross when she retired in 2007.

She says, “For me it’s really about supporting people in need regardless of where they are or what situation they are in.”

Rose was appointed Chair of the SA Divisional Advisory Board and a member of the Society’s Board in October 2017.

She still volunteers in emergency services providing psychological first aid and as a trainer.

In 2007 Rose was awarded a Public Service Medal for her outstanding contribution to the NT Government.

 

The human side of these situations must not be forgotten [SA Life]

Rose Rhodes' Great Australian Life

Ross Pinney
President

During 15 years in the banking industry Ross Pinney came to the view the sector is at its best when helping people fulfill their ambitions.

He sees Australian Red Cross as an organisation at its best when helping people during difficult times.

As Australian Red Cross’s President since 2017, he volunteers around 40 hours each week, working to harness the assets of a large board and he liaises daily with Red Cross executives.

“Our Board includes such incredible diversity of ideas, and we reach better decisions because of that diversity,” he says.

 

Ross wants to build on Red Cross’s strengths.

“Our job is to support staff, members and volunteers so they can meet the needs of our clients.”

“We have to be well-run, sustainable, relevant and the best at what we do.”

After completing a Commerce degree, Ross joined Arthur Anderson and became a chartered accountant. He later joined Melbourne’s Board of Works which at that time managed the city’s water, drainage, sewerage and town planning.

As the head of Board of Works’ Revenue Department, he was part of a team that overhauled the way Melbournians paid for their water. Fixed water rates charges were replaced by water usage rates, resulting in a 20 per cent decline in water use.

Ross was also instrumental in devising repayment schemes for customers who could not pay their bills. Rather than losing access to clean water, they were able to retain access to the utility while paying down their debt.

“We became solutions-oriented,” Ross says.

Ross joined Australian Red Cross when he finished full time work and has served on other boards as well, mainly in the financial services sector. He was elected President for a second two-year term in November 2019.

Ross has an MBA, B Comm, is a fellow of CA ANZ and AICD. 

Dr Melissa Phillips
Additional Board Member

Melissa was elected as an Additional Board Member in August 2018.

Melissa is a consultant and academic with almost 20 years' experience working with migrants and refugees in Australia and overseas. She is a Lecturer in Humanitarian and Development Studies in the School of Social Sciences at Western Sydney University.

She was formerly a Senior Regional Advisor on refugee protection and migration for Danish Refugee Council based in the Middle East and North Africa and has academic expertise on issues related to migration, multiculturalism and displacement. Melissa has worked for the United Nations in South Sudan and for international NGOs in Libya, the Horn of Africa and South Sudan in the areas of protection of civilians and humanitarian coordination.

Melissa has formerly worked for the Australian Red Cross Tracing and Refugee Services department and managed a refugee resettlement project in Australia. Her Doctorate in Social and Political Sciences on the pre-migration experiences of migrants and refugees was completed at the University of Melbourne (2013). She also holds a Master of Arts and Bachelor of Arts (Honours).

Melissa is a Regional Advisor for the International Detention Coalition, is on the Advisory Board of Urban Refugees and is an Assistant Editor for the Journal of Intercultural Studies. In addition to her current role on the Board, Melissa is also a member of the Migration Programs Advisory Committee.

Wendy Prowse
Chair, ACT Divisional Advisory Board

When Wendy Prowse was Community Manager of the customer-owned Beyond Bank she led the design of Australia’s first dementia-friendly and disability-accessible branch.

Having worked for not-for-profit organisations for many years prior to joining the bank, she knew how it was important to help bank staff understand the health issues many customers faced.

“It is a basic human right for people to access a financial institution and for reasonable design adjustments to be made to facilitate this,” she says.

“Someone in a wheelchair must be able to change their own pin number. People in motorised scooters must have adequate space to enter a room for a private conversation. It can be critically important for people who live with sensory sensitivities to have a quiet place to sit.”

Wendy is deeply passionate about ensuring all members of the community are treated with respect and dignity. She is also passionate about advocating for the changes that will address the societal barriers many people face every day to live a good life.

She joined Red Cross ACT’s Divisional Advisory Board 2012 and was elected chair in 2016. She has held many senior roles in the not-for-profit and corporate sector, in health, banking and community services. In 2020 she was appointed Chief Executive of the ACT’s Disability Aged and Carer Advocacy Service.

On the Red Cross Board Wendy says, “I’m the truth teller who brings to the table what I know of the community sector and where Red Cross can best place itself within that.”

“Collaboration is vital for our success,” she says. “Relationships are everything and the only way you’re going to make real change is by working together, having a shared vision of where you want to get to and what you want to achieve along the way.”

”You can see the difference you are making every single day and it’s wonderful working with people that really care,” she says.

Charles Burkitt
Deputy President

Charles has served as a board member since October 2014, when he was elected as Chairman of the Northern Territory Divisional Advisory Board. He is also Chair of the Finance Committee and a member of the Audit & Risk Committee.

Charles' journey with Red Cross commenced at a very early age not long after his family endured the devastation of Cyclone Tracy in Darwin, which resulted in directly experiencing the Red Cross Power of Humanity with support being provided following this event. Since this time he has continually volunteered with the Red Cross cause.

Charles began his career as an experienced Investment Adviser specialising in financial markets, having worked in that industry for more than 15 years. He now actively works within the Property Development Industry based in Darwin, while also having obtained extensive Board experience as an active Board Member of several local organisations. Charles enjoys an active lifestyle with an interest in most sports and leisure activities.

Nazli Hocaoglu
Youth Member

Nazli Hocaoglu is an executive and a company secretary in the artificial intelligence sector, where data and AI are leveraged to help organisations manage critical safety and security decisions, whilst upholding individual privacy and human rights.

The daughter of first-generation Australians, her family arrived in Australia from Bulgaria, via Turkey.

Growing up in Western Sydney, she witnessed the challenges most migrants face and the determination to overcome them.

“Language barriers restrict access to services and to life in general. From a young age I wanted to help people overcome obstacles,” she says.

As a youth leader, volleyball champion and decorated debater, Nazli entertained a career in politics.

“There are different paths to create change and right wrongs. I want to work through the legal system to develop and fine-tune policy in an innovative way,” she says.

 

Appointed to the Red Cross Board as Youth Member in 2020, Nazli sees it as her role to elevate the voices of young Australians.

“I want to change people’s perception of what a young person looks like and what they are capable of.”

She is passionate about humanitarian issues, an advocate for the abolition of modern slavery and completed a Masters in Human Rights Law at the University of London.

Nazli's study focused on international discrimination of minorities, especially refugees, women, and children.

“It’s important to consult widely, including with minority groups. We must be listening to understand, not just to respond," she says.

Nazli's work in AI involves legal and governance oversight in emerging technology companies. Her current projects include software combatting mass violence and terrorism risk, a crowd management software that measures density, flow, and mood, as well as a platform that provides end-to-end product lifecycle management.

“I bring a humanitarian lens to every aspect of my work in AI, they actually come together really well.”

 

Ian Hamm
Additional Board Member

Ian is a Yorta Yorta man who has been actively involved in the Victorian Indigenous community in a personal and professional capacity for many years. Prior to joining our Board in April 2017 as an Additional Board Member, Ian was a member of the Victorian Divisional Advisory Board.

Ian has had a wide level of exposure to policy development and program management at executive level through his work with the Federal Government (Office of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health) and the Victorian Government (Department of Justice; Department of Planning and Community Development, and the Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources).

Ian holds a number of governance positions including Chairperson: First Nations Foundation (national); Chairperson: Connecting Home Ltd (Stolen Generations Service); Chairperson: Koorie Heritage Trust (Vic) (Victorian Indigenous arts trust); Director: Aboriginal Housing Victoria Ltd; Director: Yarra Valley Water; Director: Community First Development; and Director: National Trust Australia (Vic). He also serves on a number of Advisory Boards and is a former President of the Western Region Football League, one of the major Australian football leagues in Melbourne. Ian is a Fellow of the Institute of Public Administration Australia (Vic).

Aisling Blackmore
Chair, WA Divisional Advisory Board

Aisling Blackmore was elected Chair of the West Australian Division in October 2019. She has been an active member and volunteer within Australian Red Cross since January 2010. Aisling has a B.A. (Hons), M.A. (Research) and is a member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and an alumna of the Australian Mental Health Leaders Fellowship. She has extensive experience in developing leadership systems and communities which are inclusive of the needs of young people and emerging leaders. She is committed to removing barriers to full participation and citizenship for people of all abilities and backgrounds.

Aisling has held leadership roles in Australian Red Cross on state, national, and international levels, and volunteered in services for people experiencing homelessness, newly arrived migrants and refugees, and peer-to-peer harm minimisation education. In recognition of her contributions, Aisling was awarded the Youth Meritorious Service Medal in 2014 and was shortlisted for WA Young Achiever of the Year in 2016. She has been Chair of the National Awards Committee since 2018.

Since May 2020, Aisling has been employed by Befriend Inc., a social enterprise in Western Australia focused on building strong, inclusive, connected communities in which everyone is valued and can belong. In addition to work and Red Cross volunteering commitments, Aisling has been involved with the International Initiative for Disability Leadership (IIDL) since 2016, and from 2017 onwards has led and coordinated the IIDL Emerging Leaders strategy across the eight member countries.

Cris Topfner-Rigby
Additional Board Member

Cris Topfner Rigby would not be in Australia if she hadn’t been assisted by international aid agencies.

Red Cross in particular, she says, “helped me at crucial moments in my life and that has shaped who I am today.”

Cris grew up in Romania under the oppressive Ceaușescu regime and against considerable odds forged a career in computer science.

During her childhood, everyday life was heavily controlled, there were listening devices in homes and workplaces and food and material comforts became increasingly scarce.

Following university, she was deployed to work in a top-secret Russian military joint venture, but her knowledge of the defence program became a liability after the Romanian government was toppled during the 1989 collapse of Europe’s Eastern Bloc.

The following year, during Romania’s first free elections in a generation, Cris observed voting irregularities but when she reported them she was transferred to ‘higher duties.’

Within days she fled Romania and sought refuge in Germany.

As a refugee in democratic Europe she navigated a migration system under intense pressure.

“I promised myself I would be open and honest, I’d never make compromises that do not align with my principles. That’s what I expected life in a democracy would be,” she says.

Eighteen months later, aged in her late 20s, she flew into Melbourne, where she has settled, raised two sons and pursued a career in information technology.

Cris has held senior roles with Wesfarmers businesses such as Coles and Coles Financial Services and is now with Origin Energy.

Among many other accomplishments she contributed significantly to improving the Australian national payments framework.

Recruited as an independent director to the national board in 2018, Cris brings extensive technology and governance knowhow and the lived experience of having been a refugee.

“I want to help others facing the challenges I had as a migrant but from within an organisation where I can influence change and thinking” Cris says.

“There’s a strong alignment between my principles and the fundamental principles of Red Cross.”

Rita Richards
Chair, TAS Divisional Advisory Board

Rita Richards was appointed Tasmanian Divisional Advisory Board Chair on 2 April 2020.

Rita has been a longstanding member of the Red Cross community for the past 70 years, commencing when she joined the Junior Red Cross at the Dunalley School in 1950.

Rita later joined the Tea Tree Branch in 1989 where she held the position of President until 1991.

Continuing with her voluntary work, from 1993 to 1998, Rita volunteered at the Road House, providing meals to young individuals who are vulnerable or at risk of homelessness. Between the years of 1993 to 2009, Rita actively participated in Red Cross Calling, a national fundraising initiative which helps support people and communities facing hardship within Australia and overseas.

Rita then held the position of President of the Hobart No.1 Branch from 1999 to 2007 and was the Branch Secretary from 2005-2006.

In 2014, Rita was instrumental in accumulating and coordinating the collection of the Tasmanian historical memorabilia for the Centenary publication ‘The Power of Humanity – 100 years of Australian Red Cross’.

Rita continues to be the State Historian for Red Cross Tasmania and travels to many Branch and public functions to promote the history of Red Cross and to showcase the original items and documents which were used during the Great War and World War II. Through this amazing work, Rita’s attentiveness in the Red Cross history is evident to all in Tasmania.

James Birch AM
Chair, Australian Red Cross Lifeblood

James Birch was appointed Chair of Australian Red Cross Lifeblood in February 2016. He was previously a member of the South Australian Division Board from 2005 to 2008.

James is currently a non-Executive Director and a Chair on a number of Boards.

Until January 2016 he was the Global Health Care Leader for Ernst & Young, having previously been the Leader of its Health and Human Services Practice for Asia Pacific.

He has also been the Chief Executive of a Human Services and Health Department, Deputy Chief Executive of a Justice Department and Chief Executive of major health service delivery organisations, including academic teaching hospitals. In addition to Lifeblood, James is currently the Chair of Calvary Health, Clevertar Pty Ltd and the Women’s and Children’s Health Network (SA) and a Director of the Cancer Council of South Australia.

James has a Bachelor of Health Administration from the University of NSW (1983) and is a Fellow of the Australian College of Health Service Management (FCHSM).

Dr Garry Nolan AM
Chair, VIC Divisional Advisory Board

While volunteering with Red Cross in the Whittlesea community in the days after the 2009 Victorian bushfires, Garry Nolan encountered a small boy and his parents at the emergency evacuation centre.

The four-year-old was sobbing amid hundreds of distressed evacuees, exhausted firefighters and volunteers.

Garry asked if he could help and the boy’s mother explained he’d lost all his toys.

Amid the coming and going, Garry managed to find him a trauma teddy, one of the soft toys Red Cross volunteers have been knitting for children since 1990.

It was a modest gesture in the wake of one of Victoria’s most devastating natural disasters.

“He walked away glowing with joy. It was just gorgeous,” Garry says.

“Our ability to support people in distress is one of many reasons I am passionate about Red Cross. It is the glue keeping society together.”

Garry joined Red Cross in 2007 after he retired from National Australia Bank.

“Banks at that time made a highly valuable contribution to Australia’s economic and community development. Sadly, they lost their way, but it is reassuring to see them supporting Australians through this global pandemic” Garry says.

Garry’s final role at NAB was as Group Company Secretary & Chief Governance Officer where he contributed to the Best Practice Governance Recommendations for companies listed on the Australian, London and New York stock exchanges.

Governance remains a passion. “As a boy, I pulled a mechanical watch apart to see how it worked. I put it back together and to this day, I love it when everything works together to achieve the desired result. Without good governance practices, the sustainability of any organisation is at considerable risk.

Garry was elected Chair of Victoria’s DAB in 2020 after six years as deputy.

Kathleen Cole
Chair, NT Divisional Advisory Board

Kathleen joined the Northern Territory Division of the Australian Red Cross in 2000 from a corporate career in mining finance and management. Taking the role as Corporate Services Manager she worked for 10 years with the Northern Territory Red Cross in several leadership roles including as Indigenous Program Manager and Interim Divisional Director.

Kathleen developed her social justice understanding and application of community development practices with Red Cross. Kathleen was deployed overseas with Red Cross work in China, Papua New Guinea and East Timor with short duration secondments working with local counterparts in finance and governance training and development. Over her term of employment Kathleen was activated in many local, interstate and international disasters responses to natural disasters, terrorism and infrastructure failures. Kathleen was awarded a Red Cross Distinguished Service Award for her work with the Cyclone Yass response in 2007 Kathleen maintained her active volunteering with Red Cross after her employment and has been part of the NT Advisory Board since 2014.

Kathleen currently works with Menzies School of Health managing a collection of projects in Timor Leste related to public health. Prior to that she held the position of Cancer Council NT CEO from 2013 to 2018.

Kathleen is a FCPA and a GAICD. She sits on the PKKP Native Title Board as an Independent Director, the Mala’la Health Service Aboriginal Corporation as an Independent Director, is Deputy Chair of the Northern Territory Primary Health Network Consumer Advisory Board and Director of the Australia Football League of the Northern Territory.

John MacLennan
Chair, NSW Divisional Advisory Board

This is Sydney lawyer John MacLennan’s second stint on the Australian Red Cross Board. He has been a Red Cross NSW governance volunteer since 1998.

After six years on the Board from 2009 to 2015, he returned somewhat unexpectedly in September 2020.

He is a quick study and carries a wealth of corporate knowledge accumulated over almost 40 years of Red Cross involvement.

That historical perspective can be valuable when envisaging the future. “I am the person who sometimes says, ‘We tried that once before, and here are some of the lessons we learned,” he says.

 

John first encountered the Red Cross Movement when he found himself on the Thai Cambodian border in 1979 and volunteered for several weeks at the Khao-I-Dang camp for refugees fleeing Cambodia’s ruthless Khmer Rouge.

“I helped set up and then ran a feeding program for the infants in a paediatric ward at the camp hospital. This freed the doctors and nurses to deal with the measles epidemic, malnutrition, dysentery and malaria.”

Inspired by that experience he applied, unsuccessfully, for a job at the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva.

Upon John’s return to Australia his legal career brought him back into the orbit of Red Cross when he worked with the Blood Service in the 1980s as it grappled with new donation conditions necessitated by the arrival of HIV. In the 1990s he defended the NSW Blood Service in litigation arising from that situation.

John has served on a wide range of Red Cross National and State committees and working groups. He is adamant voluntary service must remain core to the activities of Australian Red Cross. “Through our volunteers we remain relevant, engaged and vigorous,” he says.

Winifred Smith AM
Chair, QLD Divisional Advisory Board

For more than half a century Winifred Smith was an accredited amateur timekeeper for motorsports. She logged gruelling shifts in the timekeeper’s room at Australia’s most prestigious car and bike meetings, clocking races that often stretched over days.

Her passion for the track consumed considerable time and many of Win’s holidays, but it also took her abroad and around the nation, to events like the Bathurst 1000 and Adelaide Grand Prix.

Her late husband, Kevin, introduced her to racing and their two sons have taken up the mantel. Even with this passion, when Win retired in 1997 from her administration management role at General Electric, she was looking for new projects.

 

Her neighbour took her to a Red Cross meeting at Bribie Island, near Brisbane, and within a month she was branch secretary, three months later she was elected president.

“I was particularly interested in emergency services,” she says.

In 2002 Win was elected to the Queensland Board and in 2018 she became chair of the Queensland DAB.

“I am passionate about membership and volunteering,” she says.

“Red Cross is there to help people; it’s highly regarded and a powerful humanitarian force. Lifeblood also plays a big part of it.”

Win worked at Queensland Police Headquarters answering phone calls from family members trying to locate their loved ones after the Bali Bombing. She’s worked on Disaster Relief Appeals and has rolled up her sleeves in evacuation centres during cyclones and floods.

Her work was recognised with a National Emergency Services Medal, and she was made a Member of the Order of Australia for significant service to Australian Red Cross.

“I am so grateful to my neighbour who introduced me into Red Cross almost 25 years ago. I am in awe of the humanitarian work performed nationally and globally for the benefit of mankind.”