ActionAid is a global movement of people working together to further human rights and defeat poverty for all.

Our Board and Executive Director

Meet our Executive Director and Board members. Our Board is responsible for overseeing ActionAid's strategic direction and instituting good governance policies and processes.

 Executive Director, Michelle Higelin

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Michelle Higelin has been a leader in the women’s rights movement in Australia and internationally for more than two decades and has over 15 years of senior management experience in NGOs focused on human rights and development. Michelle is a former CEO of YWCA Australia and was previously based in Geneva, Switzerland, where she was Deputy Executive Director of the World YWCA, one of the world’s largest women’s rights organisations.

She has served on the boards of the Women’s Electoral Lobby, Australian Youth Policy and Action Coalition, National Women’s Media Centre and the Partnerships Committee for the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation. She is a member of Australian Civil Society Coalition on Women, Peace and Security and also chaired the NGO Working Group on Peace in Geneva.

Throughout her career, Michelle has played a leading role in global mechanisms for the advancement of gender equality and women’s rights, including spearheading young women’s engagement in the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women and the Human Rights Council.

Michelle is the co-convenor of the Australian Council for International Development’s Gender Equity Community of Practice, and former co-chair of its Humanitarian Reference Group.

Before becoming Executive Director, Michelle was Deputy Executive Director of ActionAid Australia for almost four years, leading the organisation’s programs, policy and government relations. In her time with the organization, Michelle has led ActionAid Australia’s global delegation on women’s rights and emergencies, which drives gender transformative work in emergency contexts. She is a Senior Emergency Manager for the ActionAid Federation, and was co-chair of ActionAid’s International Humanitarian Platform over 2015-2016. 

Michelle has a Master in International Relations, and a Bachelor of Arts in Communications. 

Board President

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Jeremy Hobbs
Jeremy joined the board in August 2014. Jeremy has over twenty years’ experience as a CEO in major International NGOs. He led Oxfam Australia (formerly Community Aid Abroad) from 1992 until 2001 and was a founding Board member of Oxfam International.  He became the Executive Director of Oxfam International at the end of 2001, a post he held until 2013. 

Jeremy is now an international consultant working with the not-for-profit sector.

Board Vice-President

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Megs Alston
Megs joined the board in June 2011. Formerly a solicitor and a teacher, Megs worked in senior management roles in international development for over 25 years, with Community Aid Abroad/Oxfam, Australian Volunteers International, RMIT International Projects,  Save the Children Australia and then worked as an independent consultant. She is Chair of Friends of Suai/Covalima,East Timor,  a friendship with the City of Port Philip in Melbourne

 Board Directors

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Susan Brennan

Susan joined the board in 2011. Susan has been actively involved in promoting women’s human rights, serving the World YWCA as President from 2007 to 2011 and as Vice President from 2011 to 2015. She is a barrister specialising in town planning and environment law.
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James Goth
James joined the board in 2013. James is the Director of Corporate Development at Woolworths Limited. He previously worked as a management consultant for the Boston Consulting Group for over 15 years, and prior to that for the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. James holds degrees in Economics and Law from the University of Sydney and a Masters of Business Administration from INSEAD.
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Nicci Dent
Nicci joined the board in November 2013 and brings with her over 20 years senior fundraising experience, she specialises in fundraising strategy and organisational growth within the for-purpose sector. Nicci is currently the CEO at Heart Research Australia and prior to that has held senior fundraising roles at Amnesty International, The Wilderness Society, the National Heart Foundation and Medecins Sans Frontieres. She has won FIA awards for excellence in fundraising.
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Carole Brownlee
Carole joined the Board in November 2014.  Carole has worked as a senior Finance Executive with the Village Roadshow Group of companies since 1991 and is currently the Chief Operating Officer for the Roadshow Films group of companies.    Carole holds a Bachelor of Commerce degree with majors in Accounting and Law.    Carole is a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Certified Practicing Accountants.


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Alistair Stephenson
Alistair joined the board in September 2017. He specialises in brand and communications strategy and today works for the M&C Saatchi Group. Alistair holds degrees in Arts and Law from the University of Sydney.