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  • Helen Fogarty
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NAPCAN CEO steps down from child protection charity

A Message from Teresa Scott, President of the NAPCAN Board

After 12 years as CEO of the National Association for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (NAPCAN), Richard Cooke is stepping away from his role on the charity.

The NAPCAN Board want to acknowledge and thank Richard for leading the organisation’s growth over the last decade. I personally want to pay tribute to Richard’s leadership and contribution to ensuring NAPCAN is well-placed to embark on its next significant growth phase.

Richard came to NAPCAN for six months in 2010, but his calm, skilled and steady stewardship was so appreciated by the Board that we asked him to stay on, although I’m sure he never thought it would be for 12 years! Richard has been a compassionate and collaborative CEO who has always supported and enabled his national team to achieve results for children and their families. 

Richard says: “I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to work at NAPCAN, particularly with the highly influential board, the competent and the highly proficient NAPCAN staff and our many partners. I now feel ready to move into a new phase in my life leaving NAPCAN in very capable hands.”

It is my great pleasure to also announce that the new CEO of NAPCAN is Leesa Waters. Leesa has worked and travelled tirelessly across urban, rural and remote parts of Australia to deliver programs, support staff and inspire others on NAPCAN’s mission to prevent child abuse and neglect. She has been the backbone of NAPCAN’s professional project delivery and service, and we are delighted to have her as our new CEO.

As a lawyer with more than 27 years of experience in the social services sector, Leesa’s work has taken her into family homes, youth refuges, women’s refuges, correctional facilities, courtrooms, NGOs and government departments across Australia. She brings a depth of experience in public service, program design and delivery, and advocacy. 

Leesa always speaks up for the rights of children – particularly their right to influence decisions that affect them – and believes we should all continually ask ourselves ‘what is it like for the child?’

Joining Leesa in the new leadership team is Rani Kumar, who will step into the Deputy CEO role from her current position as Head of Policy and Campaigns. Like Leesa, Rani has been an integral part of our growth and success of the past 10 years, particularly in her expert leadership of National Child Protection Week. Rani brings an extensive background in social policy and advocacy in the children’s welfare field both in Australia and overseas.

Leesa says: “I am deeply honoured to take on this role at NAPCAN. I’m looking forward to listening closely to our staff, partners and, of course, the children and young people we are here for, as I take on this challenge. I look forward to working with Rani and the whole NAPCAN team to develop a shared vision for our next phase of growth. Rani and I are committed to working collaboratively with all levels of government, organisations across sectors, community members and families to ensure every child in every community gets a fair go.”

Established in 1987, NAPCAN is Australia’s first secular for-purpose organisation to focus entirely on the prevention of child abuse and neglect before it starts.

Pictured left to right: Richard Cooke, Leesa Waters, Rani Kumar

For more information, images and interviews please contact Helen Fogarty on helen.fogarty@napcan.org.au or 0410 541997.