The Victorian Department of Health and Human Services will be separated into two new departments as the state government seeks to focus on its COVID-19 recovery, including through the delivery of essential community services.
Premier Daniel Andrews on Monday announced that the Department of Health would return and a new Department of Families, Fairness and Housing would be established to better align with the state government’s post-pandemic priorities.
“The health response to the pandemic has been our highest priority in 2020. This new structure will mean a greater focus on our recovery while we remain vigilant in our fight against coronavirus,” he said.
Commencing operation from February 1, the Department of Health will be responsible for the health, ambulance services, mental health, and ageing portfolios. Under the leadership of Martin Foley, the department will continue delivering the government’s public health response to the pandemic.
Meanwhile, the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing will take on the current DHHS portfolios of child protection, prevention of family violence, housing, and disability, with Richard Wynne named as coordinating minister.
Andrews noted the families department would also be responsible for multicultural affairs, LGBTQI+ equality, veterans, and the offices for women and youth, which currently fall under the Department of Premier and Cabinet.
“The government’s significant reform agenda in housing, child protection and family violence mean this is the right time to provide a dedicated focus to that work,” Andrews said.
“Our diverse communities are part of what makes Victoria so strong and ensuring they have direct connections to services and strong advocacy inside government is vital.”
Professor Euan Wallace was recently appointed as DHHS secretary following the shock resignation of Kym Peake. Wallace will continue to lead the department through the transition period before officially heading up the Department of Health.
Sandy Pitcher has been appointed secretary of the families department. She will commence in the role on December 14, ahead of the formal transition.
Pitcher was chief executive officer of the South Australian Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources when she became one of four senior public servants to be sacked by Premier Steven Marshall within days of him winning the 2018 state election.
She moved from SA to Victoria in 2019 to take on the role of deputy secretary, higher education and skills at the Department of Education and Training. Since July, she has been deputy secretary for case, contact tracing and outbreak management in DHHS.
Pitcher has also previously worked for the commonwealth public service, the private sector, and at the UK Commission for Racial Equality.
Andrews said the appointments of Pitcher and Wallace would “ensure there is strong leadership at this critical time”.
He said the government would work closely with workers and their unions over the next two months to manage the transition.
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