Dr Stan Steidnl, Dr Dennis Tirch and Dr James Kirby. Dr Tirch was the Keynote Speaker for The Compassion Symposium in 2015.

Our Mission

The Compassion Initiative aims to inspire and cultivate the feeling, motivation, and practice of compassion within individuals, families, and society more broadly. We aim to strive towards our Mission through three key pathways:


 Training individuals in compassion-based programs


Conducting research exploring the impact of compassion


Disseminating and teaching compassion knowledge and information

Our Vision

Imagining, understanding and promoting a more compassionate world.   The Compassion Initiative envisions a coming of the “Age of Compassion”. In so many ways, the future of our species will rely on our ability to overcome the apparent barriers of gender, social status, religion, race and culture, and cultivate compassion as a basis for living and working together, creating cooperation throughout the world, and caring for one another, taking steps to relieve suffering where ever it may be found.

The Compassion Initiative’s vision may be lofty, but we will contribute to bringing this vision to reality through:

  • Developing a greater and more comprehensive understanding of compassion through rigorous scientific enquiry, including the many important physical and psychological health benefits that the practice of compassion can have for oneself and for others, and
  • Developing empirically validated, multi-level techniques and practices for cultivating compassion, and making those techniques and practices widely accessible and readily taken up by people and groups in a variety of contexts.

About The Compassion Initiative

The Compassion Initiative was Co-Founded by Dr Stan Steindl and Dr James Kirby, both from The University of Queensland and both Clinical Psychologists.   In 2014, Dr Stan Steindl, a Clinical Psychologist in private practice, Adjunct Associate Professor in the UQ School of Psychology, and UQ Alumni, made a donation to the University of Queensland for the establishment of the UQ Compassion Symposium. The inaugural UQ Compassion Symposium was delivered on the 5th and 6th of September 2014, attracting over 350 attendees.

The inaugural symposium keynote speaker was Professor James Doty, Director of the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (CCARE) at Stanford University. CCARE is a centre for excellence in the science and practice of compassion, producing high quality research and publications on this topic. His address was very well-received, thought-provoking and inspiring, and important connections with him were established.

Dr James R. Doty is the very first Advisory Board Member for The Compassion Initiative, and we are honoured to have him as a founding member of The Compassion Initiative.

One of the key aims of the symposium was to motivate and inspire researchers, academics and students at UQ to be interested in and incorporate compassion into their work. This aim was successfully achieved and an informal Compassion Network was established. The UQ Compassion Symposium was held again in 2015 on September 16-17th, where over 350 attended, and Dr Dennis Tirch, Director of The Center for Mindfulness and Compassion Focused Therapy in New York, was the Keynote speaker.

The UQ Compassion Symposium is now a permanent annual symposium.

In conjunction with the activities of Dr Steindl, Dr James Kirby, Clinical Psychologist & Research Fellow at the UQ Parenting and Family Support Centre, began to develop a strong research interest in the science and practice of compassion and self-compassion. Having a strong track record in research, focusing largely on helping families, he began to develop research protocols that incorporated practices related to compassion and self-compassion into his ongoing research.

Following the symposium, Dr Steindl and Dr Kirby began collaborating on various projects related to compassion. Projects include conducting a meta-analysis of the effectiveness of compassion intervention, developing a measure for assessing compassion motivation with Dr James Doty and Dr Emma Seppala from CCARE at Stanford University, and exploring other niche interests such as compassion and music, and compassion and secrets.   From these recent modest beginnings, greater momentum quickly grew. There is now increasing interest and commitment from other contributors, funding sources are being explored, and Dr Steindl and Dr Kirby have come together to initiate the genesis of The Compassion Initiative.

Our Staff

Dr Stan Steindl

Co-Founder, The Compassion Initiative Clinical Psychologist and Adjunct Associate Professor School of Psychology, The University of Queensland

Dr James Kirby

Co-Founder, The Compassion Initiative Clinical Psychologist and Research Fellow School of Psychology, The University of Queensland


Prof James R. Doty, Director, CCARE, Stanford University
Prof Paul Gilbert, Founder of Compassion-Focused Therapy, University of Derby


Dr Emma Seppala, Associate Director, CCARE, Stanford University

Dr Michael Slepian, University of Columbia

Mr Anthony Ryan, CEO of the Edmund Rice Foundation

Dr Sarah Kelly, Senior Lecturer, Director of the MBA Program, UQ Business School

Dr Koa Whittingham, School of Psychology, The University of Queensland

Dr Amy Mitchell, School of Psychology, The University of Queensland

Dr Anthony Garcia, School of Music, The University of Queensland


Sarah Baldwin


David Laczko