Australian Catholic Safeguarding Ltd (ACSL) has today announced the appointment of Dr Ursula Stephens as its new Chief Executive Officer. Dr Stephens, who is currently CEO of Catholic Social Services Australia, replaces outgoing ACSL CEO Ms Sheree Limbrick.

The appointment has been welcomed by three member organisations of ACSL, namely the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (ACBC), Catholic Religious Australia (CRA) and the Association of Ministerial PJPs (AMPJP). Each organisation endorsed Dr Stephens as the first full-time CEO.

'Ursula has a long list of positions and achievements in many fields, including politics, public service, community engagement and education,' Bishops Conference president Archbishop Mark Coleridge said.

'While her departure as CEO of Catholic Social Services Australia is a loss for them, the Church and the nation will continue to benefit from Ursula’s gifts and skills, now focused on the crucial task of professional standards and safeguarding.'

Eva Skira, the chair of AMPJP, said Dr Stephens is well known and highly trusted within and beyond the Catholic Church.

'The Church’s ministries understand the pre-eminent place of child protection and safeguarding across all our works,' she said.
'To continue the hard work that has already been undertaken, and with a new company structure in place, we know we are in safe hands with Ursula leading Australian Catholic Safeguarding Ltd.'

Dr Stephens has previously worked as an educator, a senior NSW public servant, an Australian senator and been involved in numerous community-led initiatives to support community engagement and inclusion. She brings with her a wealth of experience in advocacy, policy development and relationship building, alongside a depth of experience gained from being part of and working within numerous Catholic organisations.

Chair of ACSL's Board Professor The Hon. Michael Lavarch said the appointment of Dr Stephens followed a thorough executive search process. ‘The search process attracted a number of well qualified candidates from inside and outside Catholic organisations and ACSL is grateful for the interest and the support demonstrated for the company's work.

'We believe Dr Stephen's experience in public life, her extensive work on social justice issues and her good grounding in safeguarding will equip her well to lead ACSL,’ Professor Lavarch said.

He said Dr Stephens joins ACSL at an important juncture as the company continues to reshape its focus on how to best assist the Church to ensure it provides a safe and nurturing environment for children and adults at risk.

‘The Board is developing the company's strategic plan and seeks to work with the diverse organisations within the Church to strengthen a culture of safeguarding that always has the interests of children and vulnerable people at the centre of Church activities. Dr Stephens has a strong track record of working across the Church and this skill will greatly assist ACSL.’

Professor Lavarch also paid tribute to outgoing CEO Sheree Limbrick.

‘Ms Limbrick has done a wonderful job in establishing the company and having the National Catholic Safeguarding Standards accepted as the benchmark for good practice across the Church.

'Sheree has put tremendous energy into equipping the Church to be a more capable and more transparent community when it comes to protecting children. The Board is enormously grateful for her leadership.’