Q and A with Louise Burton, the newly appointed CEO of the Sisters of Charity of Australia FoundationPrint
Q 1: Can you give a brief outline of your working life in private sector and NFPs.
A: I have been very fortunate. I have had a very exciting career, the richness of which has been very diverse. And that diversity has added diversity to my experience.
Most recently I have worked at Hammondcare Australia. Before that, I worked with Philanthopy Australia, the national peak body. Philanthropy Australia was able to advocate on change and was in a position to make the entire sector more robust and smarter.
There, I became aware when I worked of the Foundation. That was in 2011. I’ve been lucky both as a grant taker and a grant maker. In philanthropy, you need to understand both sides of the coin, so you can understand the sector overall.
Q 2: You come to the Foundation from HammondCare.
I joined when for the first time the organisation had a capital building campaign. My role was to initiate that. Through that campaign, we harnessed new major donors for HammondCare.
HammondCare had been set up by the Rev. Bob Hammond in the Depression, who worked first with with the elderly experiencing homelessness. He bought land at Hammondville, brought in families, and there they were able to build their own homes and eventually own them.
The success of the capital building campaign was significant. The $20 million fund built a home in Sydney’s inner east for older people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.
Q 3: Tell us about your decision to join SoCF. What did you know of the work of the Foundation before?
It was a dilemma in these uncertain COVID-19 times. But the Foundation has enormous potential. It is not that well-known, and that is a shame. Part of my role is to raise the profile of the Fundation, find collaborators, and attract new supporters.
I have read the books about the Sisters and the Foundation, watched the 200th anniversary of the establishment of the first congregation in Ireland, and they all capture how resilient and forward thinking the Sisters were.
Obviously, we need quite a bit of divine providence now. As time goes on, we will see more of the impact of the virus on employment in particular and society in general.
Q 4: How do your personal values align with those of the Foundation?
I think first of all I have had a strong Catholic faith. I have always mindful of people struggling but giving people options and choices. Education is pivotal in people’s lives – and that’s why the Foundation’s scholarship programs are so important.
I have strong Christian values, strong family values… I believe that we should give to our the local community, that we should not forget the people around us in rural and regional areas.
It is my aim to strengthen the social justice arm of the Sisters of Charity, so the values of the Sisters can exist in perpetuity.
It’s a huge responsibility… I hope I bring a new approach and build on what has been done.
Q5: What were the greatest challenges facing social justice organisations before COVID-19? And in Ithis age of the pandemic, how have those challenges changed?
Before, it was about having a bigger voice. The sector is under resourced but there is a huge demand.
Now, the need is greater than we could imagine. JRS, Asylum Seekers centre, charity workers are not not eligible for job keeper or job seeker payments and they are really up against it.
Q 6: You have been in the role for a short period, but what are the priorities which you have identified with the SoCF board?
- How we respond in this crisis
- How we can respond to show leadership as the Sisters have done in history
- Managing through the next two years. We need to evolve into a nimble and agile organisation, able to respond quickly
- In two to three years, we should be in a position to develop a more sustainable strategy. We want the foundation to grow and continue to serve
Q 7: What is your most pressing concern in this new role?
Responding fast enough to this issue. I feel I have a time clock on me and I don’t want us to miss the mark.
Q 8: Personal life?
I am married, to David. While we don’t have children, we are part of a very close family. My faith is a pivotal part of my life, through Sydney’s St Joseph’s Edgecliff and St Francis Paddington. I have worked in the area of disadvantage for years. My parents were strong supporters and advocates for St Vincent de Paul, and the Matthew Talbot Hostel. They led by example.