Claerwen Little: UnitingCare Australia’s new National Director
After working in the community sector for 35 years – 25 of them with Uniting – Claerwen Little is taking on the role of National Director for UnitingCare Australia.
Claerwen was the driving force and vision in establishing Jaanimili, the Aboriginal services and development arm of Uniting to ensure its commitment to our First People.
Most recently, she established the role of Uniting Children’s Advocate, promoting the rights of vulnerable children and young people at state, territory and national level.
Claerwen’s commitment to innovation led to the development of the highly successful family restoration program called Newpin Social Benefit Bond, a first internationally.
A member of UnitingCare Australia’s National Committee, Claerwen has held a number of senior executive roles in service delivery, advocacy and innovation. She was responsible for establishing the research and advocacy functions of the organisation and led a large and complex suite of programs for children, families, young people, communities and people with disability.
Claerwen holds a Masters of Policy (Social Policy), is a Stanford Graduate of the Executive Program for Non-Profit Leaders and a Graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors. She has sat on numerous high level boards and is currently the Chair of the Association of Children’s Welfare Agencies in NSW, a member of the UnitingCare Australia National Committee and Chair of the Children, Young People and Families Network.
“On a personal note,” Claerwen adds, “I am blessed with a wonderful family, my two children and gorgeous grandchildren, am passionate about old houses, gardening and our animals- the goats, ducks, chickens, goose and two cats!”
In Depth interviewed Claerwen the day after the announcement of her appointment as UnitingCare Australia’s new National Director.
What inspired you to consider the job of National Director?
“I was inspired to apply for the role because it’s a tremendous opportunity to make an even greater difference at a broader level. It will allow me to bring the experience and skills that I have developed over the years to issues of national significance,” Claerwen said.
“When the Uniting Church speaks, it is with the voice of real people and real experience. This makes it is a powerful voice that cannot be silenced.”
Claerwen said she believes in advocating solutions, not just pointing out the issues.
“Having worked at the Synod level for so many years I I hope I can add value to our church’s mission in the world in this way nationally
“I have been involved in the UnitingCare network for many years and have always had a passion and vision for what we can do together as a whole church, not just in our own patch,” she said.
“My experience in working and leading in a large, complex organisation and the various services that we deliver gives me a deep appreciation and understanding of the many challenges and changes that our services and staff face across the country.”
Claerwen said she was thrilled to be selected to this key leadership role where she could use all her gifts and talents and her personal passion for social justice.
What will be the main focus of your time as National Director?
“For the first few months I will focus on getting to know my new team, establishing key relationships within government, across the network and the church and do a lot of listening,” Claerwen said.
“I’ll review our strategic directions to ensure they are still relevant for 2017 and beyond, and with the team set our key strategic targets for the year.”
I’ll also be getting to know Canberra!
“Overall my main focus is ensuring we are a strong and heard voice in Canberra and across the nation that actually achieves changes and sees those changes made for those who are most in need.
“I will also focus on working to help the network develop as a cohesive national church entity that can deliver national programs and be nimble in responding to changing markets and emerging need,” Claerwen said.
“I’ll work with our church leaders across the nation to find ways that we can bring all the various parts of the church closer together in understanding each other’s strengths, and the roles we play in the life of the whole church.”
Claerwen said she while saw a number of challenges facing the network in the next few years, such as increased competition from for-profit providers, industry reforms, growing need and a changing landscape of service provision are key issues facing us, she believes that the role of organisations such as UnitingCare will go from strength to strength in the years to come.
"My role will be to support our agencies to navigate these changes and adapt in ways that allow us to do even more for the most vulnerable Australians.”
Claerwen said the advocacy and support role of UnitingCare in many ways would become even more vital in a consumer directed system.
“There are many people who will be left out who do not have the resources or supports to organise care for themselves.
What is your vision for UnitingCare Australia ?
“My vision is to see a strong, organised and cohesive church organisation working for equality of opportunity for all individuals, communities and peoples,” Claerwen said.
“We will be of one heart across the whole church, and the Australian community will know who we are, what we stand for and why we are here.
“If I can help achieve this in my leadership role, I will feel that I have made a contribution.”