The Alannah & Madeline Foundation welcomes new CEO during its 20th year

in Press Releases

Media release - Monday 16 May, 2016

Lesley Podesta has joined the Alannah & Madeline Foundation after enjoying a diverse and successful career in both the public and non-for-profit sectors.

Since commencing Ms Podesta has overseen the Foundation’s commemoration of the Port Arthur tragedy 20th anniversary, which included a candlelight vigil in Federation Square and the launch of a petition to ‘Keep Australian safe from gun violence’.

Foundation Chair John Bertrand AM welcomed Ms Podesta into the role on behalf of the board.

“In the past 20 years the Foundation has improved the lives of 1.5 million children and I have no doubt that Lesley’s experience coupled with her dynamic leadership style will guide the Foundation from strength to strength,” Mr Bertrand said.

Ms Podesta came into the not-for-profit sector after undertaking a number of senior roles in the Australian government – she was the head of the Office of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health for nearly five years and among many other innovations, introduced the Nurse Family Partnership to Australia with Professor David Olds.  

She also led the development of Australia’s biosecurity strategy – including the creation of the Australian National Incident Room where the medical response to the Bali bombings, the Jakarta bombings and the Southeast Asian tsunami were managed.  She also coordinated the Australian response threats from to SARS, Avian Influenza, HIV, Hepatitis C and managed the National Immunisation Program.

Most recently, Ms Podesta worked with The Fred Hollows Foundation as their Head of Global Partnerships and Advocacy where she developed a global partnership with the International Diabetes Federation to reduce blindness from diabetes and won the annual Google Impact Challenge Award with an innovative low cost camera approach to screen for blindness. 

She is deeply committed to supporting indigenous Australians and is a visiting Fellow at the School of Population Health at Melbourne University, supporting the 1,000 Days project – which focusses on the first three years of indigenous children’s lives.  

Ms Podesta said she was delighted by the opportunity to join the organisation after long admiring its many programs and their impact, paying tribute to her predecessor Dr Judith Slocombe who oversaw exponential growth of the Foundation across the past decade.

“In my short time here, the impact of the work of the Foundation is clear,” Ms Podesta said. “Australians care deeply about equality and fairness and the Alannah & Madeline Foundation plays a very special role in protecting vulnerable children from violence.

“I’m touched to hear from children and families about the impact of our Buddy Bags and the work of Children Ahead, it truly changes lives. The introduction of the eSmart framework, which is now in one third of schools and half of public libraries across Australia is reaching so many children; helping to protect them from online exploitation.

“As the Foundation forges ahead into its third decade, I want to ensure that our message and our care, prevention and advocacy programs reach even more children and their families.”

Dr Slocombe welcomed Ms Podesta to the Foundation and acknowledged what an exciting time it was to join the team.

“I’ve enjoyed a wonderful decade at the Foundation, working with a team of dedicated staff and volunteers who, every day, work hard to keep children safe from violence,” Dr Slocombe said. “I leave satisfied by the very real changes the Foundation’s work is bringing to the lives of children.”

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