Tim Costello

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Tim Costello
Tim Costello 2011.jpg
Costello in 2012
Timothy Ewen Costello

(1955-03-04) 4 March 1955 (age 68)
Religion Christianity (Baptist)
SpouseMerridie Costello
Alma mater Carey Baptist Grammar School
Monash University
International Baptist Seminary Rueschlikon
Melbourne College of Divinity
Relatives Peter Costello (brother)
Patrick Costello
ChurchSt Kilda Baptist Church
Collins Street Baptist Church
Senior posting
PostMayor of St Kilda
President of the Baptist Union of Australia (1999–2002)
CEO of World Vision Australia (2003–2016)

Timothy Ewen Costello AO (born 4 March 1955) [1] is an Australian Baptist minister who was the Chief Executive Officer and Chief Advocate of World Vision Australia. Costello worked as a lawyer and served as mayor of St Kilda. He has authored a number of books on faith and life. A National Trust poll in 2014 elected him one of Australia's 100 national living treasures.


Early life

Costello was born in Melbourne, Victoria, where he grew up in the suburb of Blackburn [2] and was educated at Carey Baptist Grammar School (graduating in 1972). [3] He is a descendant of Irish immigrant Patrick Costello, who was expelled from the Parliament of Victoria in the 1860s for electoral fraud. [4] [5] [6]

Costello studied at Monash University, graduating with a Bachelor of Jurisprudence degree [7] in 1976, a Bachelor of Laws in 1978 and a Diploma of Education in 1979. [8]

Costello is the brother of Peter Costello, the former treasurer of Australia and Federal Member for Higgins. [2]


Costello practised as a solicitor in family and criminal law, both in established firms and in his own practice. [9]


In 1981, Costello travelled to Switzerland with his wife, Merridie, where they both studied theology at the International Baptist Seminary Rüschlikon near Zürich, before graduating with a Bachelor of Divinity and returning to Australia to become the minister of St Kilda Baptist Church. [1] He also received a Master of Theology from Whitley College, a theological college of the Melbourne College of Divinity. [10]

Ordained as a Baptist minister in 1987, Costello, along with his wife Merridie and a team of others, rebuilt the congregation at the St Kilda Baptist Church and opened a drop-in centre. [1] As part of the church's outreach program, he started a legal office at the church where he practised as a part-time solicitor. [11] He also taught urban ministry at Whitley College, a college of the University of Melbourne. [11]

From 1995 to 2003, Costello was a minister of the Collins Street Baptist Church and the executive director of Urban Seed, a Christian not-for-profit organisation created in response to concern about homelessness, drug abuse and the marginalisation of the city's street people. [1]

Costello served as the president of the Baptist Union of Australia from 1999 to 2002. [12] He has also been patron of Baptist World Aid Australia, a member of the Australian Earth Charter Committee, a council member of the Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture, a spokesperson for the Interchurch Gambling Taskforce, a member of the National Advisory Body on Gambling and a member of the Alcohol Education and Rehabilitation Foundation.[ citation needed ]

Political career

Costello was elected Mayor of St Kilda Council in 1993 and became well known for championing the cause of local democracy and for his clashes with the Premier of Victoria, Jeff Kennett. [1] Kennett attacked Costello as being un-Victorian for speaking out against the gaming-led recovery of the state and often referred to him as "that leftist cleric". [1] Costello's political career ended when his mayoral position was abolished with the whole St Kilda Council in Kennett's reform and consolidation of local government in 1994. Towards the end of that time, he was approached by the Australian Democrats political party to fill a casual vacancy in the Senate, but decided against it, partly due to the likelihood that this could place him in direct conflict with his brother if Peter became Treasurer. [13]

Costello was an elected delegate at the Australian Constitutional Convention in Canberra in February 1998. [3] Throughout the late 1990s and early 2000s, he was frequently seen in the Australian national media commenting on gambling and other social problems. He also has spoken out in favour of stronger gun control in Australia, acting at times as the co-chairman or spokesman of the National Coalition for Gun Control. [14]

World Vision Australia

Costello in June 2010 Tim Costello 2010-06-20 (cropped).JPG
Costello in June 2010

Costello was appointed as CEO of World Vision Australia on 24 November 2003. [15] Having spent much of his career focussing on local and domestic issues, Costello said he relished the opportunity to focus on international issues. [15] In his first full year in the role, Costello became the face of Australia's response to the Boxing Day Tsunami. Costello led fundraising efforts, and World Vision Australia raised over $118 million for relief and rehabilitation programs. [16] During Costello's tenure, the organisation grew from funding 480 projects benefiting 10.4 million people, to more than 800 World Vision development projects benefiting close to 100 million people across the globe including in Australia. [17]

After 13 years as CEO, Costello announced that he was stepping aside to become the Chief Advocate for World Vision Australia on 9 May 2016. [18] He remained as Chief Advocate for a further two years before resigning on 7 June 2019, [19] citing the physical and emotional toll of the role over many years. [19]

Other roles

Costello has since become the Director of Ethical Voice,[ citation needed ] Executive Director of Micah Australia [20] and a Senior Fellow at Centre for Public Christianity. [21] He is also Chair of the Community Council of Australia and an Advocate for the Alliance for Gambling Reform. [22] [23]

Awards and honours

Costello received the Victorian of the Year award in July 2004 in recognition of his public and community service.[ citation needed ] He was made an officer of the Order of Australia in June 2005 [12] and was the Victorian nominee for the Australian of the Year award in 2006. [24] He is the 2008 winner of the Australian Peace Prize awarded by the Peace Organisation of Australia. [25] He is also listed by the National Trust as a "National Living Treasure". [2]

In 2008, Costello received an honorary doctorate from the Australian Catholic University in recognition of "his contributions to religious life and social justice". [26]


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