6 March 2024

New Canberra Hospital Foundation chair more inspired than daunted by the challenges ahead

| Dione David
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Susan Proctor and Deb Rolfe

Susan Proctor has stepped in as chair for the CHF, replacing Debbie Rolfe. Photo: Louiza Blomfield.

After 13 years on the board, Deborah (Debbie) Rolfe has stepped down as chairperson of the Canberra Hospital Foundation (CHF), and board member Susan Proctor is stepping into the position.

It’s quite the legacy to follow, but Susan says she is more inspired than daunted by the challenges ahead.

Having served the Foundation with Debbie for the past seven years – most recently as deputy chair – Susan witnessed the “major transition” that the former chair presided over during her tenure.

“Debbie oversaw the incredible journey where the board transitioned from being largely an advisory board assisting Canberra Health Services to becoming an independent charity of its own in 2020, with its own governance board,” she says.

“Reaching that status as a charity meant we could broaden our activities in the community and advance our philanthropic fundraising processes, which in turn led to the creation of signature events like Can Give Day.”

READ ALSO ClubsACT joins forces with Canberra Hospital Foundation in a year-long fundraising endeavour

Debbie was the first ‘Big Wig’ to take the leap, so to speak, in Can Give Day’s headline event – the Big Wig Challenge.

During her time as chairperson, the Foundation raised $16,624,770 in funding for specialised equipment, important research, refurbishments away from bed spaces and therapeutic programs to enhance the hospital experience for patients and families in the Canberra region.

This included the donation of $1.6 million to develop the Cancer Wellbeing Centre and Canberra Region Cancer Centre.

Debbie and her husband, Richard Rolfe, have both been recognised as Members of the Order of Australia (AM) for their significant contributions to medical, social welfare and charitable foundations.

Deborah Rolfe ready to abseil for the Big Wig Challenge

Debbie Rolfe was the first to take the leap for the Big Wig Challenge – the Can Give Day headline event and one of many that helped increase Canberra Hospital Foundation’s visibility in the community. Photo: CHF.

Though proud of her time as chairperson, Debbie says she’s eager to “pass the baton to someone who will carry forward our mission with new energy and vision”.

“From the challenges we’ve navigated to the triumphs we’ve celebrated together, each encounter, story, and milestone has left an indelible mark on my life and shaped my understanding of service, compassion and leadership,” she says.

“This is the right time to step aside and for the board and Foundation to benefit from fresh perspectives.

“I feel fortunate to work alongside an extraordinary team of board members, volunteers, administrators and, of course, Foundation staff. I admire the commitment, expertise, and passion across all ranks of the Foundation. It is the lifeblood of the organisation.

“Their resilience and dedication have solidified the Foundation’s status as an emblem of hope and support in our community.”

READ ALSO Debbie Rolfe steps down from Canberra Hospital Foundation Board

CHF also recently extended its charitable services to the region with North Canberra Hospital and Clare Holland House coming under its remit. Susan says one of the bigger tasks ahead will be raising public awareness of the Foundation’s broadening reach.

She also wants to focus on growing corporate and community partnerships, such as their recent partnership with ClubsACT, and tap into the clout and networks of Canberra’s businesses to raise awareness and fundraising power.

“We have been approached by some amazing organisations who want to partner with us to help raise our profile, awareness and funds,” she says.

“I think businesses understand that most of the community will access our health system from time to time, and in supporting the Foundation, they’re supporting their people, their families, their clients and members and the community at large.”

The new chairperson acknowledged there would be plenty of challenges ahead, citing the ripple effect of pressures related to the cost of living.

“That obviously has an impact on people’s ability to give,” she says.

“The Canberra community as a whole is very generous, and Debbie’s accomplishments have been instrumental in raising the visibility of the Foundation. But as we grow as a city and region, we want to follow that growth journey with the community that accesses our health system and ensure we can have an impact on each and every one of them.

“That presents exciting challenges, and I hope I can do half as good a job as Debbie has done. Fortunately, we have an incredibly motivated board supporting it. They’re philanthropists, they care, they give of their time and are a great bunch of people who have the benefit of all Canberrans at heart.”

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