How The Smith Family ceo & entrepreneur Dr Lisa O’Brien thought outside the box to transform that august charity into a more resourceful, resilient & robust support for disadvantaged Aussie children & youth, well into the future


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When medically trained Dr Lisa O’Brien took over The Smith Family as CEO, some 10 years ago, the venerable charity was on a fairly solid footing – it had a long history with a recognisable, highly respected brand name. But to make it in the crowded welfare charity sector, genuinely addressing the real & underlying needs of disadvantaged children at risk of falling through the cracks, The Smith Family needed transforming into a more streamlined & focused organisation. But perhaps even more importantly, Lisa O’Brien set her considerable entrepreneurial mindset & honed management skills on making it far more accountable, with laser-like focus on measurable outcomes. After all, she and a group of her women friends had already started up a decade before, a homeless women’s drop-in centre, called Lou’s Place, in the heart of Sydney’s Kings Cross. So at The Smith Family Lisa wanted to ensure the entire organisation with its several thousand volunteers as well as leadership team were all fighting for the same mission – to ensure they could deliver and then measure the outcomes of services to help alleviate disadvantage for children in our community. And while The Smith Family prior to Lisa’s time was already on track providing education support, it was under Lisa O’Brien’s guidance as Chief Executive that the organisation expanded its reach into disadvantaged families, concentrating wholly on kids’ education.

The charity now provides its Learning for Life education program to 56,000 children, while a total 170,000 disadvantaged children and young people across the country now participate in Smith Family programs, an increase of 30% over the past 5 years. As Lisa O’Brien now moves on from running The Smith Family, she built and leaves behind a sustainable legacy at one of Australia’s most loved and important charities

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