News & Events

Introducing our new CEO, Julie Babineau

19 Sep 2016

In May, Odyssey House welcomed new CEO, Julie Babineau, whose keen interest in health and welfare issues attracted her to the not-for-profit sector after a distinguished public service career in her native Canada and Australia. Over three decades, her work has spanned veteran’s affairs, health, sport and recreation and community relations.
For the past 14 years, Julie held leadership roles at NSW Justice Health and Forensic Mental Health Network, including CEO for the past eight years. She led 1400 staff across 80 locations, managing an annual $200 million budget to address the myriad health issues of adults and young people in custody and transitioning into the community.

What motivated you to join Odyssey House?

Helping people get through their dependence on alcohol and other drugs and enabling them to contribute positively to the community is one of the main reasons I chose to work at Odyssey House.

In my career I’ve had extensive experience with the consequences of people not getting the treatment they need, especially when they also face mental illness, behavioural problems, childhood abuse, dysfunctional relationships and poor education and employment histories. I wanted to do more in early intervention, treatment and prevention.

I’m particularly impressed by our work with clients who are court-ordered into treatment as an alternative to jail, many of whom might otherwise never engage in rehabilitation. Our Parents’ and Children’s Program is another example, rebuilding families and breaking the intergenerational cycle of addiction.

What path has your career taken?

I started at Veterans Affairs Canada as a counsellor/social worker in 1984 and eventually became Director General in 1996 (when I gained a Masters in Administration of Social Work). An exchange program took me to the Department of Veterans Affairs as NSW Director of Healthcare and Services. I settled in Sydney in 2000 in perfect time to work and then volunteer with the best Olympic Games ever. A few consulting contracts later led me back to my love of helping vulnerable populations when I joined NSW Corrections Health Service, now Justice Health and the rest is history as they say.

I am a member of the NSW Ambulance Advisory Council and a non-executive director of Variety–the Children’s Charity. I also volunteer providing personal support to people who are disadvantaged or experiencing mental illness.

To balance things, I enjoy trekking, bushwalking and climbing mountains, which has included scaling Mt Kilimanjaro and hiking the Kokoda and Larapinta Trails.

What are your plans for Odyssey House?

My priorities are to position us to meet the challenges of change and reform in the not-for-profit and the alcohol & other drugs sectors, to enhance and diversify our funding base and develop and expand our services and capabilities. We’ll look at what works, continue to use best practice and see how many more people we can help. I’m encouraged by the NSW government’s recent pledge of $75 million for treatment services and from new Commonwealth funding for the sector.

From my first day I have been overwhelmed by the commitment and dedication of all staff, and residents, in working together to help people who suffer from problems with alcohol and other drugs. I was personally touched by the graduation of one of our clients during my first week. It was a great way to begin as CEO, a reminder of ‘why we do what we do’ and why I’m proud to be at the helm of Odyssey House.