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JRS farewells Carolina Gottardo as its Director

Carolina Gottardo will depart at the start of November from her role as Director of Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) Australia, the organisation she has led for almost four years.

It is with great sadness and much gratitude that we announce that Carolina Gottardo will depart at the start of November from her role as Director of Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) Australia, the organisation she has led for almost four years.

Carolina joined JRS Australia, a part of both the international Jesuit Refugee Service and the Australian Province of the Society of Jesus, in March 2017 and has led the organisation through an extraordinarily challenging time for refugees, people seeking asylum, and migrants in vulnerable situations in Australia.

In that time JRS has led service and advocacy responses in relation to a number of serious crises, including:

  • the loss of income support for thousands of people seeking asylum living in Australia
  • the sudden release into the community of those transferred to Australia from Manus Island and Nauru, with virtually no support, and most recently
  • the significant impacts on temporary migrants, including people seeking asylum, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

During this time, JRS Australia has also implemented new and innovative services, programs and partnerships, such as:

  • the ‘Finding Safety’ program for women on temporary visas experiencing sexual and gender based violence (SGBV)
  • the ‘Empowered to Work’ project run in partnership with the House of Welcome, to provide critical assistance to people seeking asylum to secure employment
  • A new Community Organising program working on policy change with parishes across Sydney
  • Mainstreaming the meaningful participation of and leadership of people with lived experience of displacement in JRS’ initiatives, including the creation of a new post to champion these efforts.

In addition, JRS Australia’s parliamentary engagement, policy development, and advocacy work has also grown, and the organisation has built a strong profile, nationally, regionally and internationally playing a pivotal role in campaigns for the economic and social rights of forced migrants in Australia and building strong and innovative partnerships within the refugee sector, with other key agencies and across the Catholic Church.

Carolina leaves JRS Australia to join the International Detention Coalition (IDC) as its new Executive Director. 

Sr Annette Cunliffe, Chair of JRS Australia, said that, ‘Carolina’s leadership, strategic insight, advocacy ability, skills as a fundraiser, passion, and care for people brought an incredible energy to the mission of JRS Australia. Her legacy is a well-governed, well-structured, sustainable, and mission-driven organisation that continues to accompany, serve and advocate for the rights of people seeking asylum, refugees, and other migrants in vulnerable situations in Australia and beyond.’

‘We are very grateful for Carolina’s contribution over the past four years and look to build on that strong foundation, with a dedicated and cohesive team of staff, volunteers and supporters who share the passion and vision that drives the ministry. We wish Carolina well as she continues to serve the sector internationally’, Sr Annette said.

Fr Brian McCoy SJ, Provincial of the Australian Jesuits said that, ‘The work of JRS under Carolina’s leadership has given life to the Universal Apostolic Preferences of the Society of Jesus, bringing together people from schools, parishes and other organisations, united in their commitment to some of the most vulnerable and marginalised in our community. We are grateful for the many gifts Carolina has brought to this ministry and to Jesuit Refugee Service Internationally.’ 

Carolina said, ‘I am so grateful to the board of JRS and our amazing staff and volunteers for their commitment and dedication to the rights of refugees, people seeking asylum and migrants in vulnerable situations, especially during this challenging time. JRS is a wonderful organisation that links accompaniment and service provision with targeted advocacy efforts to impact the lives of some of the most resilient and at the same time, some of the most marginalised women, children and men in Australia. I will truly miss the people we serve, staff, volunteers, the board and our partners. I have no doubt that JRS will secure a fantastic new leader to take this unique organisation to its next stage. I am proud to have been part of this journey.’

The position of Director of JRS Australia will be advertised shortly, and the recruitment process to appoint a director to work with the Province, Board, staff and volunteers to oversee the transition of JRS into its fifth decade, will begin soon after.