Movers & shakers: The year in review

By Shannon Jenkins

December 18, 2020

A round up of the biggest public sector appointments across the country in 2020.


Professor Brendan Murphy

Way back at the beginning of the year, Professor Brendan Murphy was named secretary of the Department of Health. He was set to replace Glenys Beauchamp at the end of February, but little did he know that he would be remaining in the role of chief medical officer for a few more months, to lead Australia’s COVID-19 response.


Former chief of the Defence Force Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin was picked to lead the royal commission into the bushfires which, at the time, were continuing to devastate Australia.


Rebecca Skinner

March was a big month in the public sector. Rebecca Skinner was appointed CEO of Services Australia, after serving as associate secretary of the Department of Defence, and the National COVID-19 Coordination Commission was established, with Nev Power as head.

To mark International Women’s Day, Julie-Ann Guivarra was named as Australia’s ambassador for gender equality. Guivarra was the first Indigenous person to serve in DFAT’s highest ranks, and the first Indigenous woman to represent Australia as an ambassador.

Meanwhile, Abigail Bradshaw was named head of the Australian Cyber Security Centre, and Linda Geddes returned to the Australian Signals Directorate in a senior role.

The Victorian Department of Transport’s head of transport services Jeroen Weimar resigned, only to reappear months later as head of the state government’s COVID-19 contact tracing regime.


Randall Brugeaud

Digital Transformation Agency boss Randall Brugeaud was appointed as the digital head of profession.

In the states and territories, Kathrina Lo was named New South Wales Public Service commissioner, while Gary Barnes was appointed to lead the new Department of Regional NSW. Former Victorian Public Sector commissioner Dr Paul Grimes also took up a new role in NSW, as coordinator general environment, energy and science in the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment.

Meanwhile, Jim Bamber was appointed as head of the Northern Territory Department of Local Government, Housing and Community Development, and the head of the Western Australian Corruption and Crime Commission, John McKechnie, was pushed out of the role when the parliamentary committee tasked with appointing a CCC boss refused to endorse him.


Ruth Vine

Former Productivity Commission chair Peter Harris was appointed as CEO of the National COVID-19 Coordination Commission, while Ruth Vine was named Australia’s first deputy chief ­medical officer for mental health.


Scott Cass-Dunbar was appointed as chief strategy officer at the DTA, replacing Anthony Vlasic.

In Victoria, Danny Pearson was named minister for government services.


Brendan Murphy finally took up his new role as Health secretary, while Anne Hollonds was named national children’s commissioner.

The Mandarin revealed the head of the Civil Aviation Safety Authority, Shane Carmody, would step down from the role at the end of the year. The agency has not yet named a replacement.

Read more: Date set for Brendan Murphy’s move to secretary role


Daryl Quinlivan

Former secretary of the federal Department of Agriculture Daryl Quinlivan was appointed as NSW’s first agriculture commissioner, while former air chief marshal Sir Angus Houston was named head of the Murray-Darling Basin Authority.

August also saw the emergence of rumours that Tony Abbott had been appointed to the United Kingdom government’s Board of Trade.


Services Australia chief operating officer Amanda Cattermole left the role to lead the Australian Digital Health Agency.

The Victorian government began facing the fallout of its second COVID-19 wave in September, with the resignation of health minister Jenny Mikakos.

Jeremi Moule


In October, Andrew Shearer was named as director-general of the Office of National Intelligence, replacing Nick Warner.

Trade minister Simon Birmingham was also officially sworn in as the finance minister, replacing Mathias Cormann.

Over in Victoria, Jeremi Moule was appointed as secretary of the Department of Premier and Cabinet just days after Chris Eccles resigned from the role.

Read more: The key events leading up to Chris Eccles’ resignation


Virgin Galactic’s chief operating officer Enrico Palermo was appointed head of the Australian Space Agency, replacing inaugural chief Dr Megan Clark.

Cathy Foley

Victorian Department of Health and Human Services secretary Kym Peake resigned. She was replaced by Professor Euan Wallace, who will continue to lead the department when it becomes the Department of Health in 2021.

Meanwhile, Sandy Pitcher was appointed secretary of the new Department of Families, Fairness and Housing.

CSIRO’s head scientist Dr Cathy Foley was named as Australia’s next chief scientist.


And finally, some last minute appointments.

Ross Barnett

Earlier this week senior mandarin Chris Moraitis was named director-general of the new Office of the Special Investigator, with Mark Weinberg appointed special investigator, and Ross Barnett named as director of investigations.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has also made a number of diplomatic appointments, including Mark Foxe as Australia’s next consul-general in Lae, Papua New Guinea, Paula Ganly as Australia’s next ambassador to Iraq, Catherine Raper as Australia’s first female ambassador to the Republic of Korea, and Paul Kelly as Australia’s next Ambassador to the Lao People’s Democratic Republic.

Read more: Chris Moraitis departs secretary role to lead Office of the Special Investigator


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