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

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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.”

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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.

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When Charles Burkitt was two, Cyclone Tracy ripped through his hometown of Darwin in the early hours of Christmas Day leaving complete destruction while killing 71 people.

Charles, along with his parents and four-year-old brother, sheltered under their house, then when over half the city’s population was evacuated in the days after the storm, the family decided to stay together in Darwin for the clean-up.

Red Cross assisted in that evacuation of over 30,000 people, many of them women and children. Red Cross also helped amid the rebuild.

“I think staying in Darwin was the right decision for us because those who left either never returned, or found it really difficult when they finally returned to a city they no longer recognised,” Charles says.

After that event Red Cross never really left Charles’ life.

His mother was a volunteer and then joined the staff and stayed for 30 years, during which she set up the Home Care Service, among other things. The family also lived next door to Red Cross’ Northern Territory headquarters in Lambell Terrace, Darwin.

“As a kid I’d go door knocking with Mum collecting donations, and even dress up as a blood drop to help promote the Blood Bank,” Charles laughs.

As a teenager he went to boarding school in Sydney but then returned home to launch his career as an Investment Adviser.

Charles now works in commercial property and as a corporate advisor.

He has been a member of the Australian Red Cross national board since 2014 when he was elected chair of the Northern Territory Division. He was then elected to the Deputy President's position in 2019.

“The beauty of Red Cross is there’s no agenda, we’re there to help people in times of need and to build on community strengths.”

“Our neutrality and impartiality are very important but so is being sustainable, so we can deliver services and positive social outcomes, that’s primarily where my interest lies.”

Sam Hardjono

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.”

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.”

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.

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Melissa Phillips has worked among the world’s most vulnerable; with refugees and asylum seekers whose lives have been upended.

In the Middle East and North Africa, she worked with the Danish Refugee Council assisting migrants and refugees who were living in the community and in detention centres; these people, from mostly Syria and the Horn of Africa, had been displaced by civil war and were escaping political oppression.

In Libya, East Africa and South Sudan, with the United Nations, and international non-government organisations she undertook refugee protection and supported international community coordination efforts.

Her international experience is rounded-out by her work in Australia with migrants from many of those regions. Melissa’s doctorate examined the success of regional refugee settlement programs in Australia, and she now lectures in humanitarian and development studies at Western Sydney University.

Her interest in civilian protection and humanitarian coordination was first nurtured at Australian Red Cross.

“I was the super enthusiastic student who volunteered to take the minutes at meetings,” she says.

Her first job was as an official visitor with the International Tracing and Refugee Services department.

Almost 20 years later, in 2018, she was appointed to the board.

“Red Cross is the pinnacle of humanitarian work. It’s there in times of conflict, it has a seat at the table by being auxiliary to government, it advocates for all humanity and people everywhere have an affinity for its powerful emblem,” she says.

“Its mandate is utterly unique and keeping that front of mind is very important to me.”

Melissa is first generation Australian; her parents are Anglo Indians who trace their lineage back to the British Raj.

Melissa has come to view Aboriginal reconciliation as integral to Australia’s migrant narrative.

“Until we establish justice for Indigenous peoples, heals those wounds, then we can’t be a truly multicultural and diverse nation.”

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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.”

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During three decades working with varying levels of government, including four years as Executive Director of Aboriginal Affairs in Victoria, there is one moment that really stands out for Ian Hamm.

In August 2010, from the Public Gallery of the Victorian Parliament, he watched then-premier John Brumby propose legislation that would revolutionise Native Title negotiations.

For the Yorta Yorta man and member of the Stolen Generations, who had risen to the most senior government post in Aboriginal Affairs, it was a momentous speech to witness.

The government Ian worked for hadn’t realised the full potential of land justice. For claimants, the process was painful, protracted and often prohibitively expensive, so Ian had set about reimagining it.

“I said every bit of public land should be on the table until it was off, rather than the reverse scenario,” he explains.

“We proposed a process without lawyers or anthropologists, that cut straight to the chase of let’s do a deal,” he says.

Ian remembers the powerful rush of satisfaction he felt when he heard the legislation had been passed.

“It’s a vastly superior way to resolve land claims. The Victorian Traditional Owners Settlement Act has come to be seen as the exemplar.”

Ian has an extensive portfolio of directorships, in addition to his role on the board of Red Cross, which he has held since 2017.

“My favourite thing about being on the board is having the opportunity to be part of a reform process that is making Red Cross fit and focussed for the 21st century,” he says.

Reforms during Ian’s time working with the Federal and Victorian governments, included elevating the importance of culture.

Surveys revealed community members’ greatest concern was “culture and identity and our place in the world,” Ian says.

“So we worked to address that, and one of the payoffs has been the Victorian Aboriginal community has doubled in 20 years, from 30,000 to 60,000 identified members.”

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James Birch’s stellar career in health management culminated in the role of Global Health Care Leader for Ernst & Young, which he held until 2016.

Prior to that position James ran South Australia’s Human Services and Health Department, was deputy of South Australia’s Justice Department and Chief Executive of major health service delivery organisations, including academic teaching hospitals.

But when asked what part of his work really fired his enthusiasm, James nominates infant health and wellbeing.

“I got exposed really early to the disadvantage children can suffer if they don’t have opportunities early in life,” he says.

“The jury is no longer out, the science is very strong. So, if my professional career has been dominated by one passion, it’s the need to ensure all children, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, have the opportunity to reach their full potential.”

As Chair of SA’s Women’s and Children’s hospital, he is able to steer service delivery and policy in this area.

As chair of Red Cross’s Lifeblood Division, James came to sit on Red Cross’s national board.

“Lifeblood is one of the most spectacular organisations I’ve ever had anything to do with,” he says.

“Lifeblood produces a life giving set of products and if you come out of health like I do you can’t not be passionate about that.”

On the Humanitarian side of Red Cross James is passionate about disasters and migration services.

“No-one else does it better and I expect society thinks that to,” he says.

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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.

John MacLennan

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 MacLennan

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.

This page was updated 22 November 2022.

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