Cafs is led by CEO Wendy Sturgess and an Executive Team of three. The organisation is governed by 12 Board Directors.

Cafs' Executive Team lead over 300 staff across the Central Highlands region; to strengthen nurture, and empower children, young people and families to live their best lives.

   Wendy Sturgess - Chief Executive Officer   

Wendy has extensive experience working in senior leadership roles. She is a skilled strategist who has successfully led organisations in times of change, possesses a strong passion for community engagement and works tirelessly to provide opportunities for vulnerable children and families, especially in regional and rural areas.

Over 20 years ago Wendy made a conscious choice to leave the corporate sector and bring her commercial experience to the community sector; and she hasn’t looked back. Her experience includes:

  • CEO of Wimmera Uniting Care, Horsham – delivery of services across the Wimmera, including youth, crisis housing, mental health, disability and family services (including Child FIRST).
  • CEO of Crisis Support Services – providing mental health and men’s counselling services. Wendy helped set up Mensline Australia and the beyondblue advice and information line.
  • CEO of Alpha Autism – delivery of services for people on the autism spectrum in metro Melbourne.
  • Executive Officer for White Ribbon Victoria – worked to secure corporate partnerships and grow the Ambassador program.

Wendy is a graduate from Monash University and holds a Bachelor of Economics and a Diploma of Marketing. In addition, she has undertaken training in areas including suicide prevention, trauma-informed practice, counselling skills and Not For Profit management (ranging from working effectively with Boards to financial literacy).  

Wendy's knowledge and experience enables her to focus on strengthening Cafs, and in turn empower its team of staff, carers, volunteers and supporters to fulfil the organisation's Vision and Mission.

Connect with Wendy on LinkedIn.

James Rubeli – Chief Financial Officer

James has over 25 years' professional finance experience, mainly in the Public Health sector and in Non-Profit Organisations.

He has held senior leadership roles at Djerriwarrh Health Services (Executive Director of Finance & Corporate Services), Kyneton District Health Service (Chief Financial Officer) and Vision Australia (Finance Manager).

As Cafs' Chief Financial Officer, James is the Executive responsible for leading the development of the organisation's financial strategy, to ensure positive financial performance and long-term sustainability.

As a results-oriented and strategic thinking executive, James has a proven track record of effectively delivering finance and corporate services to enhance organisation purpose and sustainability. He is committed to the improvement of overall business processes and to building a high performing operational environment.

James' professional qualifications include being a Fellow of CPA Australia (FCPA), and holding a Bachelor of Business (Accounting).

Melissa Riddiford - Executive Manager, Client Outcomes 


Commencing her career in social work over 25 years ago, and having been at Cafs since 2015, Melissa is responsible for all of Cafs’ Client Outcomes programs and services.

Melissa’s professional experience includes more than 18 years at the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), where she worked in various roles, including Child Protection, Policy, Training & Development, Quality of Care and Out of Home Care Reform. For two and a half years she held the position of Team Leader, Women & Children’s Services at Ballarat Health Services. In that role Melissa worked predominately with vulnerable mothers and their partners. Melissa has also been a guest lecturer at Federation University in the field of Child Protection practice.

As a member of Cafs’ Executive Team, Melissa has a strong focus on recruitment and retention of staff. She believes in the importance of quality supervision and professional development planning, including student placements.

Melissa is Chair of Cafs’ Child Safety Committee. This Committee ensures that Cafs has the systems and processes in place to ensure the safety of our children, especially those in out-of-home-care.

Melissa’s professional qualifications include a Bachelor of Social Work (University of Melbourne), a Diploma of Government (NMIT) and a Certificate of Family Therapy.

Connect with Melissa on LinkedIn.

Robyn Clark - Executive Manager, People and Engagement

Robyn started her career in social work in the mid-1980s, working in child protection. Since then, Robyn’s career focus has shifted to organisation development and human resources, where she has held numerous senior leadership positions, including:

  • Director People and Culture, Wellways Australia
  • Head of HR, International Women’s Development Agency
  • General Manager People and Culture, Central Highlands Water
  • Executive Director People and Organisation Development, Department of Transport
  • Manager Employee Relations Vic / Tas, Telstra

As Cafs’ Executive Manager People and Engagement, Robyn sees her role – as she describes to her grandchildren – as making sure people at work are happy and safe. 

She holds a number of qualifications, including an Executive MBA in Strategic Human Resource Management, and is a Certified HR practitioner through the Australian Human Resources Institute.

Robyn chooses to live alternatively; living off the grid in a forest in the Shire of Central Goldfields. And, with nine grandchildren, Robyn would say that when she is not working, she is the best nanny in the world.

Connect with Robyn on LinkedIn.