The AFF Trustees 

The Trustees are the governing body of the Army Families Federation. Their role is to ensure that the Army Families Federation succeeds in its core business of being the voice of the Army family. The Board of Trustees has the legal responsibility for the overall management, decision-making and performance of the Charity.

The role of the Trustee is voluntary and unpaid.

The Trustees bring a wide range of skills and experience to the Army Families Federation. The Board consists of a Chair of Trustees and Trustees, including a representative for Overseas.

In addition, the AFF Trustees:

  • Ensure that AFF:
    • Has a clear vision, strategic objectives and plans to achieve them
    • Performs according to its strategic objectives
    • Complies with all legal and statutory requirements
    • Governance complies with best practice
    • Policies and procedures reflect best practice
  • Provide an account of the activities of the charity to the Charity Commission, making sure that any change to the registered details are kept up to date, and submit its annual report and accounts to the Charity Commission

Who are the AFF Trustees?

Julia Warren – Chair of the Board of Trustees
Caroline Buchanan, Trustee
Robin Eccles, Trustee
Fiona Ellison, Trustee
Liz McKinney-Bennett, Trustee
Catharine Moss, Trustee
Father Stephen Sharkey CF (RC), Overseas Trustee
Julie Vere-Whiting, Trustee



Julia is Group HR Director at Trinity Mirror. Previously Julia worked at Thomson Reuters where, in her role as Global HR Director she supported global sales and service groups, editorial, media and corporate centre functions in over 125 countries. In this role, Julia led major global transformation of the frontline workforces in both sales and customer service groups.

Julia started her business career as a graduate trainee with the John Lewis Partnership, and took her first HR role following a number of retail management positions. After leading the HR function through a period of recession and change, she moved onto one of the leading HR consultancies. Here she headed up the HR function as well as consulting across a number of sectors, including education.

Julia joined the AFF Board in October 2014, joining the British Chamber of Commerce as a Non-Executive Director shortly after in November 2014.

Prior to taking these formal roles, Julia worked with many organisations on a voluntary basis to help with HR related issues. It is a combination of professional and business experience that she hopes is valuable to AFF. She is also hopeful that a working knowledge of the Defence space and the fact that she isn’t an army wife brings a different perspective. 

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Caroline Buchanan has over 25 years’ experience working within the arts, charities, communications and retail sector for a range of global brands. She now runs a specialist communication, music and media consultancy working for corporate and not-for-profit organisations.

Caroline has been a Trustee with AFF since 2008 and previously Chair from 2013 – 2015: she brings charitable experience in governance, board accountability, marketing, media, communication and volunteer skills.

As an army wife who moves on a regular basis, and a mother of two school-aged children, Caroline is in a good position to appreciate the challenges facing Army families today. Her priority is to ensure that AFF has the skills and resources to collect the relevant evidence to ensure the families’ voice is heard and that it is regarded by everyone as an authoritative, reliable and effective organisation.

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Robin served in the Army in the Intelligence Corps, with an attachment to 3rd Battalion, The Royal Anglian Regiment. He married an Army daughter and together they enjoyed accompanied postings to Germany, Northern Ireland and GB plus an exciting family posting to Fort Huachuca, Arizona, USA.

Whilst commanding his unit, Robin and Marianne (who was very much involved with the setting up of the initial Families Federation (FAWC)), were fully committed to all aspects of the welfare of Army families at both Loughborough and Cheltenham. This was during a challenging time, when the aspirations of the Families Federation were being more formally established.

Since retiring, Robin has become a volunteer with Help for Heroes, working especially on strategic funding. Robin also serves as a Trustee of Home-Start (Kennet), which covers the busy Garrison towns in the Salisbury Plain area.

Robin was invited to join the AFF Trustee Board in September 2013 having completed 13 years as the Secretary of the Army Central Fund, the largest charity in support of the serving Army, its families and dependants. During his time with ACF, Robin worked closely with funding for AFF on an annual basis.

As Secretary ACF, Robin has extensive experience working to a Trustee Board together with a full understanding of a charity’s financial and governance responsibilities, and is pleased to offer this advice and guidance to the AFF Board. Having served for over 30 years, including two unaccompanied tours as a Reservist (with 6 months in Bosnia), he can also bring a degree of military understanding.

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Fiona Ellison is the #iwill Fund Development Manager at the Big Lottery Fund, on secondment from Step Up To Serve, the charity that runs the #iwill Campaign. She is responsible for developing the #iwill Fund, a 40million investment from Government and Big Lottery Fund to develop social action opportunities for young people across the UK.

Fiona has been involved in a number of initiatives across the voluntary sector. From developing the Young Achievers Awards; to supporting the development of a ground-breaking programme of work at the National Union of Students, on student opportunities engagement; to most recently at GoThinkBig, developing work experience opportunities for young people. She was on the board of Volunteering England, before they merged into NCVO, for 6 years.

Fiona brings a broad knowledge of the voluntary sector to the AFF Trustee board; she has a strong grounding in board processes, good governance and strategic planning. In addition Fiona supports the AFF team with volunteering management and development.

Fiona joined the AFF board in February 2016. She married into the Army in 2010 and currently lives in Wiltshire.

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Liz McKinney-Bennett is a Royal Marine wife and has suffered the same issues with separation, the joys of living in quarters and living away from the deployed partner’s base, to name but a few!

Liz served as a Regular Army Officer from 1989 to 2006 when she retired after having her son Elliott and became a TA Officer. She now also has Harrison and has been married to the long-suffering Mark for longer than he might care to remember!

With a broad experience of her own military service, that of being a military spouse, the challenges faced by Reserves and their families and general family life, Liz hopes that she can contribute to the well-being of every member of our wonderful Army family.

Liz is currently working in the United Arab Emirates as Director Strategic Communication and Media at the Abu Dhabi Education Council, but remains fully (though remotely) engaged with the challenges and achievements of AFF.

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Catharine has been an Army spouse for 25 years and although the mobile military lifestyle isn’t the most conducive to having a career, she has always found work – albeit sometimes voluntary. After several jobs (including a spell as an AFF volunteer in 1995), Catharine began working for AFF as Deputy Editor of the Families’ Journal (now Army & You) and later took on the Editor role. A key achievement during her tenure was to get the Families’ Journal delivered direct to families living in service families accommodation (SFA) in GB; this was a big step forward in enabling AFF to communicate direct with its audience.

Catharine currently works from home as a self-employed graphic designer and editor and is a partner at ETHOS - a consultancy formed from executives, professional practitioners and public servants who come together to resolve complex problems and set up innovative operations and organisations.

Catharine has been an AFF Trustee since 2013 and is committed to ensuring that families are not disadvantaged due to their military lifestyle. Catharine also supports two other military related charities, sitting on the Executive Committee of the Army Winter Sports Association and working part-time for Team Army, a charity which raises funds for Forces sport.

As Catharine is still ‘living the dream’ she brings a depth of knowledge of dependants’ expectations and issues and of the military system to the AFF Board. Catharine and her husband have lived in Hong Kong, Germany, UK and Northern Ireland and will soon be moving to their 15th quarter in Italy. They have two adult sons, who both attended several schools before they went to boarding school.

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Prior to his Ordination as a Roman Catholic Priest, Father Stephen Sharkey worked for eight years as a Telecommunications Engineer, predominantly with GEC. Once ordained, and within the Diocese of Galloway, Stephen served as an Assistant and Parish Priest in different locations, moving into the Scottish Prison Service and serving as Chaplain in both mainstream prisons and a Young Offenders Institute. Stephen was also a Co-ordinating Hospital Chaplain.

Stephen started his military involvement as a Territorial Army Soldier from 1986 until 1991, and became a Chaplain to West Lowland Army Cadet Force where he served for seven years. Stephen joined the Royal Army Chaplains Department as a Regular Chaplain in September 2008, serving in Cyprus (the only Roman Catholic Chaplain on island) as Chaplain to 2nd Battalion the Duke of Lancaster Regiment, 2nd Battalion the Yorkshire Regiment and Garrison Chaplain.

Stephen deployed on Op Herrick 10 and 19, with 4 Rifles and 7th Armoured Brigade respectively.

He is currently Chaplain to 3rd Battalion, Royal Horse Artillery and 1 & 2 Medical Regiment based in Hohne, Germany. Stephen will be posted as one of the team of Chaplains in Royal Military Academy Sandhurst starting September 2015.

Stephen's experience with the Armed Forces and his first hand contact with serving soldiers and their families based in the UK and overseas brings many valuable insights to AFF, and widens the understanding of the Board of Trustees to the needs of soldiers and Army families.

Stephen’s hobbies include cycling: he has cycled from Glasgow to Santiago De Compostela and Glasgow to Warsaw for various charities. He also has recently moved from a pedal cycle to a motorcycle, passing his test in Cyprus. He enjoys skiing and trying to keep fit.

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Julie was a serving regular Army officer for 18 years and in-between sunshine postings to Bulford, Shrivenham, Windsor, Worthy Down, Corsham, Warminster and Colerne, she deployed to Bosnia and Northern Ireland. Her last few postings were sometimes accompanied (her husband was a serving spouse), though more often than not, unaccompanied and during this time they also raised a young family.

After retiring in 2010 and enjoying a year at home with the family, Julie joined the Reserves and is thoroughly enjoying a second career working part-time, now balancing her professional and domestic life with a bit less chaos than before!

Julie has been a Trustee since 2015. She also works with a local charity to help provide a luncheon club for the elderly, is a committee member for the local allotment association and is currently doing a stint on the school PTA.

As a seasoned staff officer with a broad knowledge and understanding of army policy - together with human resources, accounting and information systems skills – Julie helps to contribute as a trustee on the interpretation of policy, particularly in the HR arena.

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Trustee vacancies

Trustee vacancies are advertised via the AFF website, along with details of how to apply. If you have any queries about becoming a Trustee or would like to register your interest, please contact Bex Valentine (Operations Director) on 07517 002584 or at

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