Chief Executive Officer
Passion and purpose drew Wendy Sturgess to the not-for-profit-sector. As the CEO of Cafs, Wendy brings with her close to twenty years of senior leadership experience. She has held executive roles at prominent community organisations, including the White Ribbon Organisation, Alpha Autism, Crisis Support Services and Wimmera Uniting Care. She has a proven track record developing and implementing strategies that lead to sustainable organisations and a deep understanding in the areas of mental health, suicide prevention, family violence, disability and trauma informed practice.
Wendy’s career started in the corporate world; for twenty years she held senior roles at leading multinationals and also launched her own business. But despite the successes and the wins, Wendy found she was longing for deeper job satisfaction.
“I got to a point in my career where I thought there must be more to life than success around meeting targets by way of sales figures and hard results. I really wanted to do something more.”
It’s a testament to Wendy’s skills as a strategist that she successfully pivoted from the commercial to the community sector. But it should come as no surprise. Wendy is a natural self-starter who continues to create an on-going legacy of positive impact. She credits her civic-minded parents, who as passionate volunteers, led by example. Volunteering in the community from a young age opened her eyes to the need for stability and support for the vulnerable.
That experience laid the foundation of what would become a life-long dedication to community engagement and working to provide opportunities for vulnerable children and families with a focus on regional and rural areas. And it underscores Wendy’s commitment to Foster Care as a solution that places the wellbeing of the child front and centre.
“We all know it takes a village to raise a child,” says Wendy, “Cafs is known in the community, and that’s our strength. I believe that by training people to become Foster Carers and Kinship Carers, we can enable this community to help the young people, who often by no fault of their own, are in a tough family situation. We can make a difference in their lives if we get in early enough. Because these are not other people’s kids, they belong to us, they are part of our community, and we need to do better by them.”
As an independent organisation, Wendy sees Cafs as ideally positioned to deliver positive outcomes for the local community. She succinctly sums up that advantage in a three-point metric of independence, local governance and legacy. This position, combined with the highly skilled Cafs team and Board members who are embedded in the community as business owners and leaders invested in this region, make a compassionate, committed, winning combination.
As CEO, Wendy leads with an entrepreneurial spirit to cultivate an authentically diverse and inclusive culture. She’s a fierce champion of diversity and led the organisation through the rigorous process to achieve the Rainbow Tick. Part of this process is the dark side of the rainbow training that explores the common experiences of homophobia, transphobia, biphobia and intersex prejudice. It also raises awareness of the not so distant criminalisation of homosexuality and the fact that it was only 30 years ago that LGBTQI+ people could be jailed in parts of Australia. This symbol sends a message of safety, particularly as over 20% of Cafs’ team members identify as on the rainbow. Safety for our people and the rainbow families in our community is vital for a health community.
Wendy’s passion and commitment to the Cafs values of respect, integrity, collaboration kindness and innovation boil down to the impact Cafs has on the people who come to us for support.
“It’s about offering hope when people feel powerless and lost,” explains Wendy. “We want to give people the skills to develop a roadmap for their lives and the lives of their children. We must work with people in a non-judgmental way, and we make sure that we are always listening. We have very talented people at Cafs, who are committed to making sure that the people we support are always front and centre.”
Connect with Wendy on LinkedIn.
Recognition and Qualifications
- Bachelor of Economics, Monash University
- Diploma of Marketing, Monash University
- Suicide prevention training
- Trauma informed care principles
- AICD – Governance courses
115 Lydiard Street North
Ballarat VIC 3350
Cafs acknowledges our past. In the spirit of reconciliation, we give deepest respect to Australia's First Nations Peoples. Their histories, their stories, their resilience. Their connection to culture and land. The wisdom of their Elders past, present and emerging.