Dialog Box


Our Leadership team

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Meet Aileen Ashford, our CEO

Aileen Ashford cites three main passions in her life: Essendon Football Club, small dogs and fighting for social justice. And while the first two may spark some debate, there’s zero doubt the latter passion makes her ideal to lead our organisation.

Aileen’s commitment to social justice and ensuring children thrive, no matter their starting point in life, are threads that bind the fabric of her more than 30-year career. With a background in education and social work, she has focused on implementation of programs designed to enhance the lives of vulnerable children and their families across government and community services organisations.

Prior to leading Kids First, Aileen was the Children’s Commissioner in Tasmania, a role that required advocacy and strategic leadership on issues affecting the wellbeing, care and protection of young people across Tasmania. Aileen was most proud of developing mechanisms to engage children and young people, to give them a voice on the state-wide laws, policies and services that impacted them.

In 2018, Aileen led our organisation through one of the most significant transformations in our 120-plus years history. We restructured our business, redesigned our service model and shed our former name ‘Children’s Protection Society’ (CPS). While determined to retain our proud history, the bold new brand and name, Kids First, is far more indicative of our progressive, contemporary mindset.

It was Aileen who wrote our new tagline, ‘Kids are at the heart of everything we do’. And it’s not surprising really, given the statement essentially summarises the purpose of her whole working life.

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Meet Emily, Our Director - Client Services

When Emily McDonald describes Kids First’s client-led approach, or our early intervention programs (or many things, really) her enthusiasm is palpable. She is especially passionate about the Kids First service model. As its architect, Emily has designed an approach that reflects the alignment of  services to the point of client needs, to ensure that experiences with Kids First are rich, effective and often life changing.

When we think of Emily we think of purpose. Nothing is by accident; it is all by design. This means Emily takes a very deliberate approach to designing innovative and sector leading programs, aligning resources and assembling extremely talented teams of people to deliver all our client services. These span sessions for children or parents in universal services (such as kindergartens and schools), targeted early intervention and prevention programs and therapeutic and case management services, where our trauma-informed lens underlines our approach.

In life prior to Kids First, as a mental health social worker and family therapist, Emily spent 25 years practicing, supervising and managing programs in child, adolescent and adult mental health services, family law and family violence services, community health, child welfare, family counselling and child protection services. Emily also shared her craft, spending time as an academic, lecturing in social work, child and adolescent mental health and family therapy.

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Meet Lisa Hunter, Our Director - People & Culture

For 15 years Lisa Hunter led Human Resources for a logistics company. And then, a dramatic change. She ditched the world of high-vis and steel capped boots in exchange for the complexity of the health and human services sectors. And she hasn’t looked back, accumulating more than two decades of senior HR roles at health, local government and community services organisations.

Lisa’s role at Kids First sees her lead staff across human resources, payroll, volunteering, quality, risk and occupational health and safety. Her strategic mindset is matched by a desire to “get the job done” and she’s nimble enough to roll up her sleeves and respond to demand. Lisa describes work passions encompassing employee relations, health and safety and change management.

With Kids First’s expanding network of sites, including a growing Op shop enterprise and two new early years’ services by the end of 2020, Lisa will play a critical role in driving the people and culture agenda of an increasingly complex organisation.

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Meet Kate Linton, our Director - Corporate Services

You always know when Kate Linton is in the building. Her infectious laugh can transcend stairwells! And there’s often a story or two about one of her four beloved dogs. But more than this, her unique energy, and talent is driving the engine room of our business – our Corporate Services department. Under Kate’s direction sit our finance, ICT, administration, property, and growing retail enterprises streams.

Kate is a qualified CPA with over 25 years of commercial and not-for-profit experience. Her career began in hospitality, with stints in hotels, retail, residential building and airport management under her belt. But it’s been the not-for-profit sector that’s really aligned best with her values and provided the most satisfying opportunities in leadership roles across social enterprises, health, philanthropy, child and youth services.

Kate relishes the chance to work with “passionate, amazing and dedicated colleagues.” She believes Kids First, with its client-centred and supportive approach, is integral to building better communities. In addition to being our Corporate Services Director, Kate is a Board member and Treasurer of Women with Disabilities Victoria.