Movers & shakers: treaties and tribunals


New commonwealth executive promotions as well as government board appointments and the first NT Treaty Commissioner.

Administrative Appeals Tribunal

Nobody wants to have a matter before the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, either as applicant or agency respondent, but it is an important independent check on decisions by government officials, either directly or indirectly. And while it can be stressful for those appearing, the tribunal is not a court so the presiding members can come from many different walks of life.

Luckily there are many former politicians and their staffers available to fill these positions — which tends to attract quite a bit of media attention, largely critical.

Former public servants also become AAT members, including a couple of government lawyers among the 86 appointments announced yesterday. New full-time senior members include Dr Stewart Fenwick, having previously worked in the departments of Defence, Prime Minister and Cabinet, and the Office of the Status of Women, and Damien O’Donovan, currently a Senior General counsel with the Australian Government Solicitor.

Treaty Commissioner

Katherine-born Yawuru man and former Australian of the Year Mick Dodson has been appointed the Northern Territory’s first Treaty Commissioner to consult and develop a framework for Treaty negotiations. The NT government has put a strong focus on transparency in the role:

“The Treaty Commissioner is independent of the Northern Territory Government and will conduct themselves in an open, transparent manner. They have a responsibility to represent the voices of all Aboriginal Territorians on this important matter and bring non-Aboriginal Territorians along with this process.

“The Commissioner will inquire, report, investigate and make recommendations to the Chief Minister of the Northern Territory. All reports will be made public.”

Dodson will take up the role in March and has 12 months to prepare a discussion paper, with finalised recommendations to government by mid-2021.

Veterans’ new medical chief

Jenny Firman

Dr. Jenny Firman becomes the Department of Veterans’ Affairs’s new Chief Health Officer (Band 2) following the retirement of Dr Ian Gardner, wrapping up his 39-year global career in health, including 19 years in Defence/DVA. The position is an ex-officio member of the Prime Ministerial Advisory Council on Veterans’ Mental Health.

Firman moves across from the Department of Health, where she has been Principal Medical Adviser on health protection working on health emergencies and communicable disease control including the National Antimicrobial Resistance Strategy, immunisation, responses to global outbreaks and international exercises to counter the threat of bioterrorism.

Firman began her medical career in the Royal Australian Navy, initially as part of the undergraduate entry scheme, and switching to RAN Reserve after joining the Australian Public Service. In 2015 Firman was promoted to Rear Admiral and Surgeon General Australia Defence Force Reserve, and was appointed patron of the Australasian Military Medicine Association. Curiously, as the once newly created Defence Force Recruiting’s first Chief Medical Officer, Firman becomes the first individual to have held specific medical oversight at both the entry and exit points of the Defence career cycle.

Firman also continues to practice medicine as a GP at a clinic in Garran.

Commonwealth senior executive promotions

Mark Morrison has been promoted into Band 1 at the Department of Human Services (Hobart office) after several years acting at National Manager level in debt management, appeals and data strategy.

Belinda Gill becomes Assistant Secretary — Integrity and Professional Standards within the Department of Home Affairs.

John Toohey returns to Defence and becomes a substantive Assistant Secretary in CASG responsible for specialist ships following a period in Prime Minister and Cabinet’s Defence and Intelligence branch.

Mark Neilsen has been promoted into Band 1 at Department of Agriculture and Water Resources after several years acting as Assistant Secretary in the Information Services division.

There are three more substantive Assistant Secretaries at the Department of Communications and the Arts following last year’s general call: Dr Jason Ashurst, Tristan Kathage (Competition) and Rebecca Rush (Post and ACMA).

Government board appointments

Gwen Cherne, an an active member of the War Widows Guild of Australia NSW, will replace Rear Admiral Ken Doolan AO RAN (Ret’d) on the Council of the Australian War Memorial.

Leonard Vary, chief executive officer of The Myer Foundation and Sidney Myer Fund, has been appointed to the Creative Partnerships Australia Board.

Andrew Stevens is taking up the role of chair of the Innovation and Science Australia board.

Paul Cooper has been appointed as the new chair of the Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre, replacing Andrew Stevens.

New experts have been appointed to the Threatened Species Scientific Committee: Cissy Gore-Birch, a Jaru/Kija woman from Western Australia, and Dr Richard Harper from the School of Veterinary and Life Sciences at Murdoch University.

Ian Klug has been appointed the new chair to the Tax Practitioners Board, replacing Ian TaylorDebra Anderson has been appointed as a new member of the TPB.

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