Scholar Profile - Susan Vulling PDF Print E-mail
Susan Vulling


Human Resources Manager at TEAR Australia

Awarded a scholarship for Herbert Smith Freehill's HR for NFPs - Understanding Current Issues Workshop, 2014

What sort of work does your organisation do?

TEAR Australia is a Christian development, relief and advocacy organisation responding to global poverty and injustice. We partner with organisations around the world to assist communities in the most marginalised and poverty affected contexts. We also educate Australian Christians on issues of social justice in the hopes they will create social change. Our vision is for a just and compassionate world in which all people have the opportunity to achieve their God-given potential.

Describe a typical day's work.

My role supports the organisation through good people practices. Typical activities for me could include interviewing candidates, providing employee relations advice to supervisors, consulting with staff on workplace policy (such as parental leave), sourcing training, finding ways to improve safety in the workplace (especially for international travel), planning leadership development or coaching others.

What were some of the key learnings from the HR for NFPs - Understanding Current Issues program?

It was a good refresher on managing ill or injured workers, best practice dismissal processes, and workplace investigations. Something that was very helpful to me was to compare our organisation’s processes against best practice and find that our processes were robust and fair. Probably the most valuable learning from the course came from access to employment lawyers who could answer individual questions on a range of possible cases for everyone who attended. I would highly recommend this training as Freehills were excellent facilitators.

How has it impacted / changed / benefited your role and your organisation as a whole?

Having up to date knowledge of employment law is really important when you are a single generalist HR practitioner for an organisation of TEAR’s size. We aim for progressive practices that consider the whole person so it is helpful to consider the legal context as part of that.  Being able to share some of the learnings with our Leadership Team has probably improved their knowledge of good people practices too. This training has also given us greater insight into effective workplace investigations.

How did you come to be working in the not-for-profit sector?

I have always had what my mother describes as a ‘strong social conscience’.  When in external HR consulting work I found myself drawn to the missions of the NFPs we consulted with and yearned to make a longer term difference within an organisation rather than just shorter term external involvement.  After working in aged care for four years I moved into aid and development.  Both areas are important to me personally and I continue to find myself wanting to contribute my professional skills to the ‘coal face’ of positive social change.

What do you feel is most needed to sustain and build the impact of the not-for-profit sector?

Talented and committed people who are willing to give their skills and time to make the world a better place.  This includes people willing to seek paid employment in the NFP sector which is often not as competitive in remuneration as the corporate sector and is unlikely to be as well-resourced or streamlined. It also includes volunteer contributions. Without volunteers most NFPs would either not run or simply not have the reach that their mission/visions aim for. I also think investment from corporates through training, mentoring, resourcing and other forms of partnership is extremely important to help NFPs work really effectively without the high costs.

What is something interesting / unique / unusual about you?

I have a strong interest in women’s issues particularly since having my first child almost two years ago.  Currently I work in an organisation that really tries hard to create gender equality.  This has inspired me to seek that out in future workplaces.

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"Without volunteers most NFPs would either not run or simply not have the reach that their mission/visions aim for."


After working in external HR consulting for a number of years, Susan transitioned to the not-for-profit sector after securing a job as TEAR Australia’s HR Manager. She has worked in this role since early 2011, providing support to staff and volunteers of the organisation on a daily basis.

In early 2014, ASF awarded Susan a scholarship to attend Herbert Smith Freehill’s HR for NFPs - Understanding Current Issues Workshop.


Annual revenue / size:

Large - $5m - $25m pa

Segment of NFP sector:

International Development

Operating in: