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The path to success in turbulent times


15 February 2021 at 8:15 am
Maggie Coggan
As the new CEO of Australian Red Cross, Kym Pfitzner is on a mission to ensure the charity is equipped to help people experiencing vulnerability through any crisis. He’s this week’s Changemaker. 


Maggie Coggan | 15 February 2021 at 8:15 am


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The path to success in turbulent times
15 February 2021 at 8:15 am

As the new CEO of Australian Red Cross, Kym Pfitzner is on a mission to ensure the charity is equipped to help people experiencing vulnerability through any crisis. He’s this week’s Changemaker. 

The back-to-back crises of the summer bushfires and the outbreak of coronavirus in 2020 meant that demand for Red Cross services reached levels not seen since World War II. 

As the organisation (and the entire charity sector) faces the aftermath of the year that was, Pfitzner, a former marketing executive, has a big job on his hands. 

He is not only in charge of ensuring that one of Australia’s longest running and well-known charities is there to support vulnerable communities through the COVID-19 recovery and any other disasters that come our way, but also ensuring the viability of the organisation in such turbulent times. 

In this week’s Changemaker, he discusses what drew him to the organisation, the challenges ahead, and why humility in leadership is critical to getting the job done. 

What drew you to the role of CEO at Australian Red Cross?

It’s an amazing organisation that I have admired from a distance for many, many years, and so the attraction is contagious. It’s also about the team at Red Cross, and I’m so excited to be working with such high quality people to achieve great outcomes.

What kind of impact do you want to have in your new position?

It’s very early at this stage but the charity sector is going through lots of external changes at the moment. Our external environment is changing and we are having to think about how we come to terms with things like climate change, but also how people interact with the organisation. So the desired impact is really ensuring that the great work of this organisation continues, and that we are well-positioned for the future. 

The charity sector is facing a lot of challenges after last year. How are you going to use your skills and experience from other jobs to take on such a big task?

Last year was the biggest demand on Red Cross services since World War II. From the bushfires through to COVID-19, there was an enormous amount of work and resources that went into the relief effort. So my focus is really to ensure that if we go through another year like [that], which I hope we don’t, that we are well positioned to cope with it, and that people are not tired and worn out as a consequence of the massive increase in workload.

And what is some of the best advice that’s been given to you throughout your career?  

I think your integrity is something that you can lose very quickly and one should always be very honest, very humble, and highly supportive of people. When you’re supportive of people, it’s amazing what they can achieve.

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time when you’re not working at the Red Cross?

My best friend is my wife and I enjoy spending time with her. We’re lucky our two children live in Melbourne, so I love spending time with them too. Work does keep me very busy, but when I do get time off, it’s important for me that there are things I can reflect back on that I really enjoy.


Maggie Coggan  |  Journalist  |  @MaggieCoggan

Maggie Coggan is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

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