In November 2013 it was announced that McAuliffe would be joining UNICEF Australia as a National Ambassador, becoming an active advocate for the organisation through the promotion of child rights. McAuliffe is also the Youth Ambassador of Wolf Connection, a non-profit organization based in California which rescues wolves and wolf-dogs and also a youth education and empowerment program.
Callan McAuliffe is a native of the Sydney suburb of Clontarf, New South Wales. He is the son of Claudia Keech OAM and Roger McAuliffe, who is an author, artist, and director of McAuliffe Creative. His cousin is actress Jacinta John. Two of his grandparents were Irish. He also has English and Sephardi Jewish ancestry. His great-great-great-grandfather was Joseph Augustus Henriques, who was the first Consul for the United States in Australia; Joseph and his wife, Louisa Leah Lopez, were Sephardi Jews from Jamaica.
McAuliffe attended The Scots College, an all-boy day and boarding school. He was the head chorister at the school and topped the London Trinity musical theatre exams and scored high distinction in 2008. He was a track athlete until he got injured, leading him to a stronger focus on the performing arts.
McAuliffe started acting at the age of 8, appeared in the local Australian TV series Comedy Inc. and Blue Water High, and had a recurring role on Packed to the Rafters. He starred in the Australian independent coming-of-age short film, "Franswa Sharl", in 2009 and had a role in Resistance, a U.S./Australian feature film, that year. McAuliffe made his American feature debut in the Warner Bros. film, Flipped, directed by Rob Reiner. He auditioned for the film while on vacation in the United States and won the role of Bryce, the romantic lead. The film is based on the 2001 novel of the same title by Wendelin Van Draanen.
In May 2010, McAuliffe was cast in a lead role in the science fiction film, I Am Number Four based on the novel of the same title by Pittacus Lore, the film is produced by Steven Spielberg and Michael Bay. He played Sam, the best friend of Alex Pettyfer's title character, Number Four. The D.J. Caruso-directed film began production in Pittsburgh in May 2010 and was released in the United States on 18 February 2011. He filmed the Australian TV miniseries, Cloudstreet, based on the novel of the same title by Tim Winton, playing Quick Lamb. McAuliffe appeared as young Gatsby in the 2013 film adaptation of The Great Gatsby, directed by Baz Luhrmann; Leonardo DiCaprio played the older version of Gatsby.
McAuliffe was cast as the archangel Uriel alongside Djimon Hounsou in Alex Proyas' action film, Paradise Lost, before the project was suspended.
In 2012, he starred in the Australian television Movie, Underground: The Julian Assange Story, as one of the teenage Assange's friends involved in the International Subversives. On 3 February 2013, Variety had announced that Callan will play alongside Samuel L. Jackson and India Eisley in the live-action movie remake of the 1998 Japanese anime film Kite.
In 2015, McAuliffe joined the cast of The Legend of Ben Hall, an Australian historical epic based on the true story of bushranger Ben Hall, where he portrays real-life gang member Daniel Ryan.
McAuliffe has embraced his role at UNICEF Australia to highlight the child rights organisation at an unprecedented time of high level international emergencies. He met with Canada’s UNICEF team during the Toronto International Film Festival and has been active on social media updating UNICEF’s work in the Philippines following typhoon Haiyan and in Syria. "It is an honour to be invited to be a National Ambassador to UNICEF Australia and so important that is at a time where I can really contribute," Callan said. '"My friends, the actors I work with, and I, all have shelter, food and family," he said. "We need to help the children who are without these things. Children in Syria are suffering right now and so many more have been affected by Haiyan," he said. UNICEF Australia executive officer Norman Gillespie said it was an honour to welcome Callan to the UNICEF family. "UNICEF works to protect children’s rights and Callan is a young man people of his generation look up and aspire to," Mr Gillespie said.