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Chiefs Profile - Kirsten Bickendorf

Kirsten was appointed as the Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Refugee Association in 2014. In that time she has led the multidisciplinary team to be the leading agency for settlement services for refugees in South Australia.  In the past three years she has doubled the business’ staff and developed strategic partnerships with a range of organisations to enable the best service delivery to people from a refugee background. Her goal was to diversify the organisations funding model and increase ARA’s ability to support more people annually.

With over 15 years in the not for profit sector; Kirsten has a varied background in management, stakeholder relationships, program development, strategic planning and risk analysis.  She has extensive experience in the humanitarian sector and firmly believes in the benefits of an inclusive and harmonious multicultural society.


Prior to her role at ARA Kirsten was the Chief Executive Officer for Doxa Youth Foundation, an organisation providing educational opportunities for vulnerable children and young people.   She has previously worked for the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Fund in Melbourne, and established the opening of the charity of United Way in Melbourne.  She has held Senior Management positions with St Vincent de Paul and Good Shepherd Youth and Family Services.


Kirsten co-founded a not for profit women’s CEO network, is a Fellow of the Governor’s Leadership Program and attended Harvard University’s Executive Program Strategic Leadership in Not for Profit Management.  She is a member of the Equal Opportunity Commissioner’s Anti Racism Roundtable, a member of the Settlement Council of Australia and the Refugee Council of Australia and is a White Ribbon Ambassador.  She held positions on voluntary Boards including the Eating Disorder Foundation, Melbourne Day Committee and the 100% Project.


Kirsten has a deep commitment to social justice; growing up in the Pilbara region of Australia she witnessed first-hand the deprivation of aboriginal people, which motivated her to dedicate her life to social justice and equity.


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