Sara Austin

Founder and CEO, Children First Canada (ex officio Board Director)

Sara is a world class champion for children, with more than 20 years of experience advocating for the rights of kids in Canada and on the global stage. As the Founder and CEO of Children First Canada, she leads a national movement to make Canada the best place in the world for kids to grow up.

Sara’s work has taken her into the top circles of power in the United Nations, national governments, and boardrooms around the world, leading highly successful advocacy, public awareness and philanthropic campaigns and shaped major public policy efforts.

Her leadership has impacted the lives of millions of children. Most notably, she led a global campaign that resulted in the UN General Assembly adopting the UN Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child for a Communications Procedure (OP3). This ground-breaking law allows kids or their advocates to hold governments accountable for violations of children’s rights, and is currently being used by Greta Thunberg and 15 of her peers in a complaint against their governments concerning their right to a sustainable future.

Sara also co-hosted the global children’s summit at the United Nations General Assembly’s Special Session for Children that brought more than 500 kids from every corner of the world to the UN Headquarters as official UN delegates for the first time in history to set ambitious goals for A World Fit for Children.

Closer to home, Sara has led the creation of the Canadian Children’s Charter – a plan by children, for children, to ensure the protection of their rights; launched the Young Canadians’ Parliament to give children a voice at the highest levels of government; and created the Raising Canada report, released annually to put a spotlight on the top 10 threats to childhood and mobilize Canadians to take action.
Sara has previously served as the CEO of the Luna Child and Youth Advocacy Centre (formerly the Sheldon Kennedy CYAC), the Director of the President’s Office of World Vision Canada, and several global and national roles including serving on the UN’s Global Advisory Council on Violence Against Children. As a vocal advocate for kids, Sara Austin is a regular contributor to national media and is a go-to source for trusted and reliable information on the state of childhood in Canada.

In recognition of her leadership and impact, Sara has twice been awarded the Top 25 Women of Influence, and in 2017 she was the youngest person to be inducted into the Top 100 Most Powerful Women Hall of Fame. She is a finalist in RBC’s Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards and will soon be one of 100 inductees into the Government of Canada’s Women of Impact in Canada.
Sara holds an MSt/LLM with Distinction in International Human Rights Law from Oxford and an Honours BA in International Development and Women’s Studies from Dalhousie University. She has completed the Governance Essentials Program for Non-Profits with the Institute of Corporate Directors, the Maytree Foundation’s Public Policy Program and the University of Alberta’s Indigenous Partnerships Program.