Ursula Stephens appointed new CEO of Catholic Social Services Australia

Catholic Social Services Australia Chair Dr Maria Harries says she is delighted to announce that Dr Ursula Stephens will take up the role as CSSA’s new Chief Executive Officer, effective from 1 July.

“The CSSA Board was fortunate to receive a number of high-calibre applications for this significant appointment, which is a testament to the work that Catholic social services providers carry out each day across the country,” Dr Harries said.

“The appointment of Dr Stephens promises to enable CSSA to continue to implement its strategic vision of a fairer, more inclusive Australia.”

UrsulaStephens 400Dr Harries said Dr Stephens’ extensive experience and strong commitment to community service and social justice makes her a most suitable successor to follow Fr Frank Brennan SJ, who concludes his time as CEO next month.

The social services ministry of the Catholic Church is extensive, with CSSA’s national network representing providers who have worked in local communities for over 60 years.

Catholic social service providers operate in more than 650 locations, providing direct support to hundreds of thousands of people in need each year on behalf of the Catholic Church.

Dr Stephens paid tribute to those service providers, who reach “the marginalised and most vulnerable in our society”.

“I look forward to taking on the role of CEO of CSSA from Fr Frank Brennan and supporting the work and commitment of the CSSA members to improve the lives of so many Australians,” she said.

“CSSA's advocacy and research work is critically important at a time when governments seek to silence dissent. I intend to be a strong voice for those least able to advocate for themselves because of their life circumstances, and the services that support them.”

Dr Stephens is probably best known for having spent 12 years in the Australian Parliament as a Senator for New South Wales from 2002 to 2014, representing the Australian Labor Party.

She was Parliamentary Secretary Assisting the Prime Minister for Social Inclusion in the first Rudd Government. She was also Parliamentary Secretary for Social Inclusion and the Voluntary Sector. She led the consultation and development of the social inclusion narrative across a range of portfolios, with sector organisations, businesses and the philanthropic sector. She has a strong record of advocacy on behalf of her constituents.

Dr Stephens also has extensive experience and a deep understanding of the social services sector, social policy development, government relations and community services more broadly. Her background includes civil duties, adult and community education, small business, community and regional development, public policy and administration. She holds a PhD in Public Administration and a Bachelor of Education.

Dr Stephens is also an active member of her local parish community, serving on the finance council.

Dr Stephens’ role with Catholic Social Services Australia will see her speaking on behalf of vulnerable and marginalised people, as well as the hundreds of Catholic social service sites across the country that support them.

"On behalf of the Bishops Commission for Social Justice – Mission and Service and my brother Bishops, I welcome Dr Stephens and wish her well as she undertakes this critical work," said Bishop Vincent Long Van Nguyen..

"I also wish to acknowledge the fine work that Fr Frank Brennan SJ has done as CEO of Catholic Social Services Australia for almost three years. Fr Frank has been an advocate for marginalised and vulnerable people for decades and while he will take his considerable gifts to a new challenge, we know he will continue to use his profile to speak on behalf of those without a voice."