Media release: ACTCOSS celebrates success over past seven years and begins search for new leader

22 October 2019

The ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) has today announced the resignation of Susan Helyar, who has led the organisation since the beginning of 2013.

Susan Helyar said, “After almost seven years at Executive Director and now CEO of ACTCOSS, I have learned a lot, enjoyed seeing our advocacy campaigns deliver good outcomes for people in the ACT and am ready to try something new.

“Working with a strong staff team, our members, other peaks, and guided by our governing body, ACTCOSS has done some great work advocating for social change and promoting better service delivery to people who experience disadvantage, exclusion and stigma. It has been an enormous privilege to be part of the long tradition of ACTCOSS Directors using our position to shape the public debate in our city, represent the people who are coping with difficult circumstances and stand up for human dignity.”

Glenda Stevens, Chair of the ACTCOSS Board, thanked Susan for her work: “Susan has led a strong staff team, demonstrated a deep commitment to working in collaboration with our members, and articulated a social justice agenda to government and the private sector with clarity and passion. During her time, ACTCOSS has grown the evidence base that informs social and economic policy, and has amplified lived experience so the voices of people directly affected by inequality and adversity are prominent.

“Over Susan’s tenure, the Board is especially proud of the visibility of ACTCOSS messaging about income inequality in public debate, the campaign to increase ACT Government funding for affordable housing, strengthening support for low-income energy consumers, stewardship of development and implementation of the ACT Community Services Industry Strategy and calling for increased investment in social infrastructure in a growing city.”

In 2013-14 and in 2018-19, ACTCOSS undertook two rounds of governance reform and restructured the staff team to build the right mix of capability. ACTCOSS is well positioned to effectively deploy its resources to continue to influence positive change in public policy and service delivery.

Susan Helyar will leave ACTCOSS in mid-November to take up a new role in December. She said, “Advocacy is all about shifting the perspective of decision makers. I have found over the past couple of years that I gained most satisfaction from working with others to share a new perspective and open up new pathways for action. My next role will be at the Australian National University working with student, academic and professional leaders to improve the safety, wellbeing, personal development and community contribution of people who live on campus. I am looking forward to bringing what I know about creating positive change to contribute to the ambitious improvement agenda the ANU is pursuing.”

The ACTCOSS Board will be advertising the role this week and aims to progress the recruitment process so a new CEO is in place as we enter an important period of work and advocacy in 2020.

For more information or comment please contact

Glenda Stevens, ACTCOSS Board Chair, on 0405 900 360 or

Susan Helyar, ACTCOSS CEO, on 0448 791 987 or 02 6202 7200.

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