As she steps into a new city, a new role, a new season, CEO Clare Steele reflects on the way God has led her to Compassion—and the exciting opportunities that lie ahead.

Tell us a little about your life before Compassion.

I studied engineering at university. Mechatronics, which is robotics, but I never actually built a robot unfortunately!

Out of university, I went to work for some corporate firms, consulting for Accenture and then at Macquarie Bank, but eventually I found that I wanted to do more. My husband was studying at Sydney Missionary Bible College at that stage and I got offered a children’s worker job at an Anglican church in Sydney.

That began my career accidentally in child-care. I worked in child-care for three to four years, managing and directing childcare centres to be places where grace was known, to minister to families, and to be really loving places.

Then I worked for Anglican Deaconess Ministries, a women’s foundation that looks to equip women to serve using their gifts and really empower them to share what they love about Jesus and to change the world for the gospel.

My husband and I look back and see that actually God has been working for a number of years to prepare us for Compassion. Even my career background doesn’t look like a typical executive’s resume, because I’ve gone from corporate to children’s work, to pre-schools, to running organisations. I’ve gone from business to ministry, but that also makes sense if you see that God is working in the process to lead us to this point.

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When you look to the future of Compassion, what do you think are the main challenges that we will need to overcome?

We are getting bigger, and Tim has done amazing work. The whole team at Compassion has done a great job. I think the challenge is how can we actually not lose anything that we’re doing, but do it so that we see even bigger outcomes? I think that sort of feels where we’re at, at the moment—that we need to work at getting processes in place so that we can do more with what we’ve got. I think that’s our next challenge.

I want to care for our supporters and take them on a journey. I really want them to understand the work that they’re doing. This is not about them handing over the job to Compassion. This is about Compassion enabling them to do the work. How can we help passionate sponsors and supporters to be involved more? How can we help them to know that their letters, they mean the world to these kids?

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And what about key opportunities?

We have amazing partnerships with churches and I think that will continue to grow. I love that partnership between Compassion and the Australian Church.

I would like the church in Australia to continue to be transformed by generosity. I would like the rest of Australia to see the heart that Christians have for justice and understand that we’re doing this because of who Jesus is. We really believe in Jesus and the life He lived and the death He died. So, we’re sacrificially going to give to care for those who are just forgotten by the world. That’s what I want Compassion to be. We are doing that, but let’s do that even more!

Also, recent research shows that a number of Christians don’t attend church. So, I think that’s a real area for us to grow. To be able to invite Christians that don’t have a regular church on the journey.

Because of my background, I love children and I think that what you sow into children early comes to fruition. So, I’d really love to work with schools and youth and then even universities. If you think about the lifespan of a person, how can we speak into all these different stages of a life and help them connect and understand God’s real care for the vulnerable—and then give them opportunities to respond?

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What do you think are the key strengths of a good leader?

Humility and self-awareness. As a Christian leader you are anchored in your knowledge of God and your relationship with God. You can’t lead well without leading yourself well, without being anchored in your faith strongly. I think the gospel shows again and again Jesus sacrificially leading. So, that’s really important.

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What advice has Tim given to you as you’ve worked with him over the past few months?

Tim has given me lots of advice. The thing that he continues to say, and I’m very thankful for this advice, is: “You don’t need to be me, just be who you are”.

Unfortunately, he hasn’t left me his joke book because he’s very funny and I would have loved that!

For now, I really want to listen to staff and supporters. When it was announced that I was coming into this role, so many supporters made contact with me, telling me their stories. I love hearing those stories that are so entwined with their faith and their life. I hope to meet more supporters and hear their stories throughout the year.

Interview by Amy Millar

Photos by Edwin Estioko