Australia for UNHCR National Director Naomi Steer with Sister Angelique Namaika and a Congolese woman

Australia for UNHCR announces leadership change

Naomi Steer, the Founding National Director of Australia for UNHCR which raises funds and support for the UN’s Refugee Agency, has announced she will depart the organisation on 1 August, after 22 years in the role.

24 May 2022

Naomi Steer, the Founding National Director of Australia for UNHCR which raises funds and support for the UN’s Refugee Agency, has announced she will depart the organisation on 1 August, after 22 years in the role.

The Board has appointed Trudi Mitchell as the new CEO. Trudi has worked closely with Naomi as Deputy National Director for the past six years and will officially take over as CEO on 2 August 2022 in a seamless transition.

In making the announcement, Australia for UNHCR Chairman, Michael Dwyer said: “Naomi exemplifies the humanitarian spirit and has been at the forefront of bringing the plight of refugees to the attention of Australians for over two decades.

“She has built an incredible organisation and will leave Australia for UNHCR led by and staffed with a remarkable team of deeply passionate and committed people, who last year raised a staggering $43 million, including $11 million for the people of Afghanistan and this year even more for Ukraine.

“During her tenure Naomi and her teams have raised over $382 million for refugees and displaced human beings around the world. Refugees could not have wished for a better advocate than Naomi Steer.

“Through her advocacy, Naomi has changed people’s attitudes and treatment of those who have had to flee their homelands due to war and civil unrest and has gone into ‘the field’ on numerous occasions to see first-hand the challenges refugees are facing. She has stayed with them, laughed with them, cried with them……and importantly, come back home, told their stories and rallied her fellow citizens to support them.

“We recognise that Naomi is in many ways a citizen of the world. Her role in establishing and Chairing the UNHCR National Partner Standing Group (NAPS) and UNHCR‘s global private sector Partnership Council has demonstrated her indefatigable drive to ensure UNHCR recognises the ever-increasing importance of charitable organisations in raising much needed funds for refugees. We are proud to see an outstanding Australian so recognised on the international stage.

“On behalf of the Board of Directors, donors and staff of Australia for UNHCR, we thank Naomi for her incredible advocacy, contribution, dedication and service and wish her the very best in the next chapter,” he said.

Naomi said: “Needless to say, this is somewhat of a momentous decision for me after 22 years, but I know this is the right time to step away from my role as National Director.

“I am thrilled that the Board has appointed my Deputy, Trudi Mitchell as the new CEO. Trudi is highly respected in the sector and amongst our staff. Knowing that she has a strong team to work with, has made this decision easier for me.

“It has been a privilege leading Australia for UNHCR. I was given a unique opportunity to establish and help shape the organisation supporting one of the most important humanitarian causes of our time. More so, it has been wonderful to see how Australians have responded to our calls for support and I’m deeply grateful to our 100,000 donors.

“I have always been inspired by the refugees we serve and feel so fortunate to have been able to go on mission regularly and to see the impact of our work. The situation of refugee women and girls is especially close to my heart and I am proud of the many programs we have funded, benefiting not only them but also their families and their refugee and hosting communities. 

“I will be forever grateful for the wonderful support of the Board who gave wise counsel, have been ambitious for the organisation and prepared to back new ventures and take risks in innovating new programs whilst always having our mission to support refugees at the forefront of thinking and decisions. I am also very grateful for the support of UNHCR colleagues in Australia and globally,” said Naomi.

“I’m now looking forward to exploring new and different ways I can contribute to humanitarian initiatives while always remaining a great supporter of Australia for UNHCR,” she said.

Mr Dwyer added: “It is testament to Naomi’s leadership that we are able to announce an internal successor to the role of CEO and I am delighted Trudi Mitchell will be the new leader of the organisation, to continue to build on Naomi’s legacy and drive the organisation forward.

“Trudi is an experienced and respected leader and outstanding fundraiser. Together with Naomi and the Australia for UNCHR team, Trudi has played a key role in raising $226 million for refugees in the past six years.

“She was awarded the 2021 Fundraiser of the Year by the Fundraising Institute of Australia in recognition of her work at Australia for UNHCR, deploying her considerable skills honed at her previous role at the Cancer Council NSW where she served for eight years leading a large team.

“Trudi is the perfect successor to take over the reins from Naomi,” said Mr Dwyer.

Trudi said: “I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to build on Naomi’s legacy at a time when refugees need our help more than ever. Naomi has been an amazing role model as an entrepreneurial leader who is compassionate and courageous, with refugees at the heart of all her decision making. It has been a privilege to be her deputy for six years and learn from her.

“When Australia for UNHCR was founded in 2000 there were 20 million displaced people; today there are more than 100 million. War and conflict, and the impact of climate change, will continue to cause displacement of people around the world. 

“The need for compassion to help others has never been greater,” said Ms Mitchell.

Australia for UNHCR media contacts:
Alexandra Fisher:  [email protected] 0419 183 568
Lisa Upton: [email protected] 0420 754 441