Movers & shakers: More than a dozen general managers join Department of Industry

By Shannon Jenkins

Friday November 27, 2020

The latest senior public sector appointments from across the country.

Senior Executive Service

Band 1

Michael Duke has been named general manager at Comcare.

An unnamed public servant has taken on the role of general counsel at the Office of National Intelligence.

Heather Cotching

Jason Howden has been appointed assistant secretary at the Department of Veterans’ Affairs.

Claudia Oakeshott and James Docherty have been appointed senior executive lawyer at the Australian Government Solicitor.

Heather Cotching has been named chief economist at Austrade.

Richard Honey has been appointed branch manager strategic communications at the National Disability Insurance Agency.

Kathryn Miller has been appointed national manager legal and policy at the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC).

The Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources has appointed a number of general managers, including Nicole Mitchell, Mark Weaver, Stephanie Gorecki Natik, Penelope Sirault, Daniel Quinn, Alannah Pentony, Lila Oldmeadow, Alison Reeve, Matthew Crawshaw, Jeewantha Karunarathna, Michael Olive, Shanan Gillies, Alison Drury, and Justin Skelly.


The World Health Organisation has appointed environment minister Sussan Ley to the first One Health Global Leaders Group on Antimicrobial Resistance. The group will promote urgent action to combat the threat of antimicrobial resistance worldwide.

Sussan Ley

Ley said tackling antimicrobial resistance was a priority for the federal government.

“In Australia, we are taking forward a joint initiative combining health, agriculture and environment to develop a One Health Master Action Plan to support our National Antimicrobial Resistance Strategy, 2020 and beyond.The strategy reflects a commitment to addressing the threat antimicrobial resistance poses across different sectors including Australia’s unique and diverse environment,” she said.

“The formation of the global leaders group represents a major step forward towards tackling antimicrobial resistance and solving these international issues. As part of the One Health Global Leaders Group, I will be a strong advocate for our collective health as well as the livelihoods of Australians and our natural environment.”


Saxon Rice has been appointed to the role of the National Vocational Education and Training (VET) Regulator. Rice will serve as CEO of the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) for a five-year term, starting January 2021.

Saxon Rice

Skills minister Michaelia Cash said Rice, in her role as chief commissioner of ASQA since December 2019, “has been focused on the implementation of internal reforms, making significant progress to improve engagement with training providers to help improve the quality of VET”.

“In addition, her work has ensured ASQA provided responsive and balanced support to training providers throughout the COVID-19,” Cash said.

“I congratulate Ms Rice on her appointment and I’m confident ASQA is well-placed to continue implementing the government’s priorities which will ensure there is fair, transparent and effective regulation of the VET sector.”

Rice was formerly a Liberal National politician.

A review of ASQA’s regulatory practices and processes recommended internal structural changes to ASQA to support implementation of reform to ASQA’s regulatory approach and modernise its governance arrangements. The governance changes create the single statutory office of the National VET Regulator and abolish all previous commissioner roles.

As a result, Dr Irene Ioannakis will wrap up as deputy chief commissioner of ASQA on December 31.


Emeritus Professor Peter Coaldrake has been appointed chief commissioner of the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency, starting March 2021.

Peter Coaldrake

Education minister Dan Tehan congratulated Coaldrake and thanked retiring chief Professor Nicholas Saunders for his dedicated service to the higher education sector.

“Peter Coaldrake will bring invaluable experience, insight and leadership to the role of chief commissioner. Professor Coaldrake was vice-chancellor of Queensland University of Technology from 2003 to 2017 and also completed the Review of Higher Education Provider Category Standards in 2018-19,” he said.

“As the higher education system recovers from COVID-19 we need a strong and fair regulator to ensure our providers are of the highest quality and serving our students’ interests.”

ACT Integrity Commission

Dennis Cowdroy

Inaugural ACT integrity commissioner Dennis Cowdroy has stepped down from the position just 18 months after being appointed to the role. He also recently retired from his position as Australian Electoral Commission chair, after five and a half years in the job.

Cowdroy has previously served as a Federal Court judge, presidential member of the Australian Administrative Appeals Tribunal, and member of the Defence Force Disciplinary Appeals Tribunal.​

He was appointed as integrity commissioner in May last year after the recruitment panel’s first choice, former chief justice of the ACT Supreme Court Terence Higgins, was rejected by the Canberra Liberals due to his past membership of the Labor Party.


Nino Ficca

The Australian Energy Market Operator Board has appointed Nino Ficca as acting CEO following the departure of managing director and CEO Audrey Zibelman in December this year.

AEMO chair Drew Clarke said the board is “delighted” that Ficca has agreed to step into the role on an interim basis, pending the appointment and commencement of a new CEO.

Ficca is currently a non-executive director of AEMO. An electrical engineer, he was previously managing director of AusNet Services and its predecessor businesses for 18 years.

Aboriginals Benefit Account Advisory Committee

Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt has appointed Leeanne Caton as chair of the Aboriginals Benefit Account Advisory Committee for a two year term.

Leeanne Caton

The committee assesses and makes recommendations to the minister on appropriate projects to be funded from Aboriginal mining revenues that directly benefit Indigenous Australians in the Northern Territory. The Aboriginals Benefit Account allows for investments of up to $30 million of royalties generated from mining on Aboriginal land every year, Wyatt said.

“It enables projects outside of mainstream services that improve Aboriginal communities and that support Indigenous enterprises, employment, community infrastructure and cultural projects,” he said.

Caton is currently CEO of the Yilli Rreung Housing Aboriginal Corporation. She has previously worked in a variety of positions in the Northern Territory government and in the private sector.

“She has a strong history of working with governments at all levels to improve the lives of Aboriginal people and I welcome her skills and leadership to the committee and the sound advice that she will provide me over the coming years,” Wyatt said.

Queensland government

Mike Kaiser

Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has named the directors-general for each of her government’s reshuffled departments.

Palaszczuk said she expects her department heads to be focused on supporting her ministers to serve the public.

“We’ve got a big job ahead of us and I expect everyone to roll up their sleeves and get on with our COVID recovery,” she said.

Changes to the previous lineup include:

  • Former Queensland Labor MP Mike Kaiser has been appointed acting director-general in the Department of Resources, replacing James Purtill.
  • Purtill will head up the new Department of Energy and Public Works.
  • Netball Australia director John Lee has been named acting director-general Department of Tourism, Innovation and Sport, replacing Damien Walker.
  • Walker will head the Department of State Development, Infrastructure, Local Government and Planning.
  • Department of Youth Justice head Bob Gee will take over from Department of Agriculture and Fisheries head Beth Woods early next year.
  • Deidre Mulkerin, director-general at the Department of Child Safety, Youth and Women, will take on Gee’s portfolio.

Both Kaiser and Lee have been appointed for a three-month term.


The Municipal Association of Victoria has elected Wyndham City Councillor Josh Gilligan as its new interim president. He replaces Cr Coral Ross, from Boroondara, who retired at the recent local government elections.

Josh Gilligan

Gilligan was first elected to Wyndham in 2016, where he served as mayor for the 2019/2020 term. At 26 years of age he was the youngest person to be elected mayor in Wyndham’s history. He has served as a board member of MAV since 2017, representing six councils in Melbourne’s West.

Gilligan thanked Ross for her leadership during her two years as president, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, and her contribution to local government over 18 years as a councillor.

“It goes without saying that this year has provided many challenges, and the year ahead provides opportunities for all levels of government to come together to support the community and businesses as they move forward,” he said.

“Councils have shown their commitment to helping communities stay connected and supported, recognising the likely economic impacts of the pandemic on businesses and households.”

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