2021 Public Service Medals highlight leadership during bushfires and COVID-19

By Shannon Jenkins

Tuesday January 26, 2021

A strong theme has emerged within this year’s list of Public Service Medal recipients.

While the 2021 PSM has recognised outstanding federal, state, territory, and local government employees just like every other year, it has specifically highlighted the many ways in which public servants have contributed to the COVID-19 response — in areas such as education, employment, and, of course, health.

It has also served as a reminder of the work that continues to be undertaken to address the impacts of the devastating Black Summer bushfires, which were ravaging the nation when COVID-19 first hit Australian shores.

See the full list of PSM recipients below.


Dr Richard Blewett, for outstanding public service through advancing the use of geophysical data to attract investment in Australia’s minerals industry.

During Blewett’s public service career, which spans more than three decades, he has fundamentally changed Australia’s approach to mineral exploration and has enhanced Australia’s international influence.

“He has spearheaded the unification of state, territory and commonwealth government geoscience agencies under the single banner of ‘Australian Minerals’, ensuring that Australia is a pre-eminent country in attracting mineral exploration investment from the private sector.”

Caroline Edwards, for outstanding public service to the development and implementation of health and social policy, and leading the government’s health response to COVID-19.

Among her many achievements, the Department of Health associate secretary has used her leadership skills to help enact changes to legislation, secure funding support for the development and implementation of COVID-19 related programs and policies, and facilitate research opportunities for potential treatments and vaccines both domestically and internationally.

“Her ability to mobilise, motivate and lead a team in the delivery of new technology and initiatives, working with a range of commonwealth agencies to fast-track reforms, has been exemplary.”

Dr Marion Healy, for outstanding public service to policy and regulatory practice including in the areas of food, chemicals and plant biosecurity.

Healy has been at the forefront of decision making and implementation of the government’s policy on plant biosecurity, and has transformed the Biosecurity Plant Division of the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment into a modern regulator, among other achievements.

“She has been key to revolutionising the processes which assess the pest and disease risk of prospective imports, dramatically reducing the time required to make these assessments and balancing this with the scientific validity. Their implementation has led to a considerable increase in Australia’s plant based export market.”

Rachel Henry, for outstanding public service to the development and implementation of the National Consumer Protection Framework for Online Wagering.

The framework is one of the critical components of the government’s national online wagering reforms, and Henry was instrumental in its delivery.

“The flow on effects of the implementation of the framework include a reduction of the number of people who experience harm through online gambling, leading to improvements for their financial wellbeing, stronger mental health and family relationships.”

Dr Doug Marmion, for outstanding public service through the strengthening of Indigenous language infrastructure.

Marmion has been key to the reawakening of the Ngunnawal language, and he has worked closely with federal ministers, senior APS executives, and the governor-general, coaching them to embed Ngunnawal acknowledgements into APS protocols. He established AUSTLANG, which has become the world authoritative standard to identify Indigenous languages.

“He has also been key to instigating opportunities for community grounded collaboration between elders and linguistics specialists to capture Indigenous languages which may have been thought lost, or have very few speakers remaining.”

Lisa Schofield, for outstanding public service in the delivery of the treaty establishing maritime boundaries between Australia and Timor-Leste.

Schofield’s negotiating skills were critical to the resolution of key issues pertaining to national boundary changes for Australia, as well as for the significant oil and gas investments in the region. She was also deeply involved in steering amendments to more than 30 pieces of legislation, spanning eight government portfolios.

“Her strong leadership of the whole-of-government negotiations and implementation of the treaty has led to enhanced economic and social outcomes for Timor-Leste, and has provided legal certainty to the maritime boundary between Australia and Timor-Leste.”

Andrew Todd, for outstanding public service through the development and implementation of federal government policy on consular matters, and the response to offshore crises.

With an extensive career in public service, Todd’s professionalism and ability to lead teams during adversity throughout a number of high profile activities has been key to achieving quality outcomes for Australians abroad.

“His ability to work decisively under extreme pressure has been integral during the COVID-19 pandemic, and essential to the repatriation of Australians from overseas … Additionally, his management of international offers of assistance during the Black Summer bushfire crisis resulted in the timely delivery of highly valued bushfire assets for frontline firefighting agencies, and linked Emergency Management Australia with foreign government support at a time of national need.”

Paul Way, for outstanding public service through the development of programs which support current, and transitioning, Australian Defence Force members and their families.

With an extensive background in the military and public administration, Way has been instrumental in changing the way that Defence supports current serving members of the ADF and their families, including during their transition from military service to civilian life.

“He consistently demonstrates a keen willingness to review and scrutinise accepted processes, and considers issues raised by ADF members and their families whilst developing practical solutions to create a better needs-based transition experience.”

Jennifer Wilkinson, for outstanding public service in the development of fiscal policy, particularly in the formulation of the federal government’s economic response to COVID-19.

As a key architect of the Job-Keeper program, Wilkinson led highly innovative work, collaborating with the best of the Australian Public Service and the private sector to deliver a program designed to provide crucial financial support to more than 3.5 million Australians to maintain their employment during COVID-19.

“She also consistently delivers high-level, complex advice on a wide range of matters, including fiscal and budget policy. She is a trusted adviser and has been essential in assisting the government with the implementation of its fiscal strategy through her contribution to key economic policy decisions.”

New South Wales

Lewis Bezzina, for outstanding public service to the Lithgow City Council, particularly during the 2019-2020 bushfires.

Bezzina, Lithgow City Council’s Transport Manager, was vital to the coordination of Lithgow’s recovery program following the December 2019 Gospers Mountain bushfire.

“He liaised with impacted and traumatised residents, managing to satisfy their immediate needs with compassion and empathy. He also successfully coordinated arborists and Australian Defence Force personnel to quickly remove over 2,000 dangerous trees within the Lithgow local government area.”

Sally Bryant, for outstanding public service to Legal Aid NSW, particularly during the 2019-2020 bushfires.

A senior solicitor in the Civil Law Division of Legal Aid NSW, Bryant coordinated 68 civil lawyers over several months to provide holistic, trauma-informed legal services during the 2019-2020 bushfires.

“Bryant throughout her more than 24 year career has demonstrated outstanding leadership and commitment to Legal Aid NSW, bringing frontline legal services to people, particularly to those in regional and remote New South Wales.”

Dr Armand Casolin, for outstanding public service to rail transport in NSW, particularly to the development of safe working protocols during COVID-19.

As chief health officer for Sydney Trains and NSW TrainLink, Casolin provides advice on the development, implementation and evaluation of medical and health systems in the organisations, ensuring they meet legislative requirements, the National Standard for Health Assessment of Rail Safety Workers, and best practice standards.

“Currently during the challenging times of the COVID-19 pandemic, he has responded to time critical and complex enquiries, and has established protocols to support at risk employees through special leave policies and provided consultation on complex cases.”

Stephen Cathcart, for outstanding public service to the National Parks and Wildlife Service, particularly to the protection of the Wollemi Pines during the 2019-2020 bushfires.

Cathcart has dedicated his almost 30 year career to the conservation of NSW’s natural and cultural heritage. During the bushfires, he was a key member of a group of highly experienced firefighters and ecologists working to minimise the impacts of fire on the Wollemi Pines.

“As the fire reached the canyon where the Wollemi Pines were located he was winched into the site and found that fire had damaged the irrigation system and that some of the pines had been affected by fire. He quickly repaired the damaged irrigation section and extinguished most of the active fire at the site thereby saving these important trees.”

Terrance Clout, for outstanding public service to NSW Health.

Clout has been vital to the development of improved services in mental health, oral health, child protection, domestic violence, Aboriginal health and HIV/Hepatitis C, and worked tirelessly to improve organ and tissue donation rates in NSW up until his retirement in 2014. At the request of the NSW Health secretary, Clout returned to the role of acting CEO, Southern Local Health District, in January 2020.

“With extreme bushfires ravaging Southern NSW, he drew upon his strong leadership and expertise in disaster management and recovery to guide the Local Health District through extraordinary times.”

Stephen Durnford, for outstanding public service to building regulation in NSW

Durnford’s advice, ideas and expertise have been instrumental in many major building reforms in NSW, and nationally, since the 1980s.

“His in-depth knowledge of building regulation, standards and codes and the ability to translate such technical jargon into a language that is easy and understandable for executives, government ministers and the Australian Building Code Board has been of the highest order.”

Susan French, for outstanding public service to education in NSW.

During her roles as high school teacher, principal, NSW coordinator of the Australian National Schools Network, and member of the Secondary Principal’s Council and Strategic Projects Officer, French has significantly improved the performance of students, teachers, and schools, and has led system-wide reform.

“Throughout her career she has been an advocate of equal educational opportunities for all students and has been active in seeking additional support and resources for students from lower socio-economic, Indigenous, and multicultural backgrounds. She also played a significant role in the development of policies on how gender is constructed and the impact of class, race, cultural background and sexuality on the lives of students.”

Lisa Gardner, for outstanding public service to the NSW Police Force.

Gardner has been a vital part of the management and training of more than 21,000 police recruits during her time at the NSW Police Academy, including overseeing more than 60 Attestation Parades.

“Her knowledge of the local Goulburn area, and her nurtured relationships with community and business leaders make her an invaluable conduit between the Academy and the community.”

Jody Grima, for outstanding public service to the community through Service NSW.

During her time as executive director, service delivery at Service NSW, Grima has been instrumental in creating a diverse and inclusive workforce that fosters strong employee engagement.

“She has held several roles throughout her 20 year career in the NSW public service, all of which have led to significant reform in service provision and the running of large multidisciplinary teams in complex environments.”

Kate Hackett, for outstanding public service to health care delivery in Western Sydney.

In 2015 Hackett was part of the team that initiated the State of Bio-preparedness and High Consequence Infectious Diseases projects to support succession planning in the event of new and emerging infectious diseases. She adapted these plans in January 2020 to prepare the hospital to respond to COVID-19.

“During the pandemic she has been exceptional in developing and rapidly implementing strategies for her nursing staff to ensure a well-managed response to COVID-19, while maintaining a high level of care and compassion for hospital patients.”

Anita Hawtin, for outstanding public service to the NSW Public Service Commission.

Among Hawtin’s achievements has been her work on the redesign and expansion of the NSW government’s graduate program and the PSC’s talent pool program.

“These whole-of-government initiatives have played a key role in the NSW government becoming an employer of choice.”

Natasha Luschwitz, for outstanding public service to emergency crisis management in NSW.

In her role as executive director, strategic coordination in the Department of Premier and Cabinet, Luschwitz has shown expertise and commitment in her leadership during the 2019-2020 bushfires and COVID-19.

“Ms Luschwitz fosters a culture of high-performance and empowers staff to produce high calibre policy advice in complex and high-pressure situations, while prioritising the delivery of tangible positive impacts for the community of New South Wales.”

Charles MacLachlan, for outstanding public service to local government in NSW, particularly during the emergency response to the 2019 bush fires.

As local emergency management officer for the Glenn Innes Severn Council, MacLachlan coordinated emergency services support for the region during the 2019 bushfire emergency, providing invaluable leadership, integration and support across multiple agencies.

“Mr MacLachlan had a profound impact on colleagues and stakeholders alike as a source of encouragement and support during a time of unprecedented crisis.”

Dr Paul Wood, for outstanding public service to education in NSW

Wood has led a number of Department of Education initiatives, and during COVID-19 was instrumental in leading the drive for remote learning in NSW public schools.

“One of the key initiatives he oversaw during this time was the creation of curriculum based virtual state-wide staff rooms which provided an environment to facilitate discussions between teachers, as well as sharing of their own resources and insights … He also established a partnership with ABC TV to nationally broadcast additional teaching resources to complement existing learning tools.”

Sarah Wylie, for outstanding public service to regional NSW, particularly to community recovery programs following the 2019-2020 bushfires.

Wylie has been a senior leader at the Department of Regional NSW’s Public Works Advisory for more than 12 years. As director of the Bushfire Clean-Up Program, she delivered meaningful outcomes for communities affected by the 2019-2020 bushfires.

“Tasked with undertaking the biggest bush fire clean-up in Australian history, she and her team prioritised the removal of destroyed and damaged structures to allow people to rebuild their homes and lives … Due to the scale of the devastation the program is still in operation as a result of continued community engagement and submission of registrations for clean-up assistance.”


Wilma Culton, for outstanding public service to education in Victoria.

The Serpell Primary School principal was selected for the state-wide advisory group of principals, responsible for a system-wide strategy for school improvement.

“Culton, throughout her career, has devoted herself to mentoring staff and colleagues locally and internationally, and has been prolific in elevating others into leadership positions across the Victorian Department of Education and Training.”

Lynn Glover, for outstanding public service to education and training in Victoria.

Glover, in her role as the inaugural CEO of the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority (VRQA), was instrumental in the establishment and development of the regulatory authority’s form and functions.

“Glover has provided dedicated and exemplary service to the Department of Education and Training in Victoria, and to the wider community.”

Fern Hames, for outstanding public service to nature conservation in Victoria.

Hames has developed and implemented innovative new programs in environmental education and citizen science, and has helped craft policy and decision making at the highest levels in Victoria. Following the 2009 bushfires, she supported the recovery of the community of Marysville and the conservation of the threatened fish species.

“Ms Hames has provided dedicated and exemplary service to the Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, and to the community, throughout her career.”

Dr David Howes, for outstanding public service to education in Victoria.

During his more than 33 year career, Howes has undertaken a range of positions including as a teacher, researcher, administrator and system leader, and has led key change strategies in curriculum, assessment and student learning.

“Dr Howes’ ability to lead during a time of crisis, including during the 2019-2020 Victorian Bushfires, has enabled the Victorian Department of Education and Training to effectively continue to deliver educational equity and excellence for Victoria’s school students.”

Ian Ireson, for outstanding public service to land titles process and product innovation in Victoria.

Ireson has delivered the most significant reform of Victoria’s Torrens land titles system since its establishment in 1862. During the transition to electronic processing of conveyancing transactions, the integrity and efficacy of the land titles system was maintained, and it has become one of the most advanced in the world.

“His expertise is highly recognised and regarded, and his advice is often sought when implementing similar transformations to land titles systems.”

Anthony Murphy, for outstanding public service to vocational education and training in Victoria.

Murphy has made a lasting contribution to the vocational education and training sector in Victoria, and is most recognised for leading the creation and operation of the Automotive Centre of Excellence (ACE).

“He was instrumental in garnering support from industry and government to develop the state of the art automotive facility. Under his leadership, ACE has transformed the automotive training industry and is a model for other similar centres around the world.”

Karyn Myers, for outstanding public service to youth justice custodial services in Victoria.

Myers has helped improve services and care to vulnerable children and young people in custody.

“In extremely challenging and complex circumstances she has led key initiatives to improve the lives of young offenders, including expanding education opportunities, and strengthening mental health and rehabilitation treatment programs.”

An Nguyen, for outstanding public service to major infrastructure delivery in Victoria.

Nguyen has kept Victoria at the forefront of major infrastructure procurement and financing. Her leadership helped Victoria navigate the Global Financial Crisis and enabled projects to be successfully delivered, despite the challenges in financial markets at the time.

“Ms Nguyen has had an influential role in a broad range of major infrastructure projects that will serve Victorians for many decades, and her dedication and commitment to the Victorian Department of Treasury and Finance has also been exemplary.”


Gordon Buchanan, for outstanding public service to the transport sector in Queensland.

During his two decades in the public service, Buchanan coordinated and operationalised Transport and Main Road’s Commonwealth Games transport plan for spectators and workforce, and led TransLink Division’s coordinated public transport COVID-19 response.

“He again demonstrated his commitment to the Queensland community through leading this complex project in a never-before-experienced crisis.”

Suzanne Coxon, for outstanding public service to child protection and family violence policy development in Queensland.

Since joining the predecessor of the Department of Child Safety, Youth and Women in 1987, Coxon has provided dedicated service in the areas of child protection and domestic and family violence policy and program development, as well as frontline child protection work.

“Her efforts in developing Queensland’s responses to domestic and family violence are worthy of particular attention. She has worked tirelessly to reduce the impacts of violence on women and children and to hold accountable those who have perpetrated the violence.”

Shannon Gibbs, for outstanding public service to local government in Queensland through financial management roles.

While working at the Hope Vale Aboriginal Shire Council, Gibbs has transformed the council from an organisation with difficulties in operating sustainably and meeting its statutory reporting obligations into one which is now a prime example of sound financial management.

“Her efforts have enabled the Hope Vale Aboriginal Council to significantly reduce its reliance on grants and increase employment and training opportunities in the Hope Vale Shire. Additionally, through her innovative approach to resource management, council is now able to pursue numerous important priorities including the provision of housing and other services.”

Anthony O’Dea, for outstanding public service to rural and industry financial assistance in Queensland.

O’Dea has more than 35 years of experience in rural lending and the administration of government financial assistance schemes, having most recently overseen the design and delivery of the government’s $1 billion COVID-19 Jobs Support Loan Scheme for small businesses and non-profit organisations financially impacted by the pandemic.

“His extensive knowledge and experience of administering financial assistance schemes for rural and regional Queensland is highly regarded, not only within government circles, but also among fellow banking and finance professionals and primary industry groups.”

Peter Shaddock, for outstanding public service to Corrective Services in Queensland.

Shaddock commenced his career with Queensland Corrective Services in 1984. His notable achievements include improving the management of female and transgender prisoners, providing spiritual support to prisoners of the Islamic faith, and the management of the closure of the Darling Downs Correctional Centre.

“He has remained at the core of Custodial Operations through numerous machinery-of-government changes, and under the leadership of different commissioners and directors-general due to his ability to embrace change and continue to lead custodial operations with passion and resilience.”

Josephine Whitehead, for outstanding public service to health care in northern Queensland.

A passionate healthcare leader, Whitehead has been a driving force in the establishment of the ‘Northern Collaborative’, which aims to better understand, prioritise and improve the health and wellbeing of rural and regional Queenslanders.

“Her leadership and contribution has also been demonstrated in her role as the co-chair of the Queensland Hospital and Health Services’ Chief Executive Forum, a peak leadership group in the Queensland public health system.”

Western Australia

Police Chaplain Keith Carmody, for outstanding public service to the WA Police Forces through chaplaincy roles.

Carmody has been a member of the WA Police Force since August 1997 and has been a Police Chaplain since 2007. He works tirelessly to look after the mental and spiritual health of all police and public servants and is widely respected and admired by those in his care.

“He undertakes baptisms, marriages, funerals, visits unwell officers and provides pastoral care for families in need. He is also a Pastor at his local church in Secret Harbour and Chaplain for the Fremantle Dockers Football Club.”

Nicholas Egan, for outstanding public service as State Solicitor of WA.

Egan has significant experience in providing advice on complex legal matters and is currently playing a lead role in advising on, negotiating, and resolving those brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“His critical advice in all stages of the pandemic has ensured a robust statutory framework in Western Australia for the effective operation of emergency management and public health responsibilities. These arrangements have enabled executive government, statutory officers, health and emergency management professionals, industry and the community to operate with certainty during these challenging times.”

Vicki McKeown, for outstanding public service to education in WA.

During her time as principal of Coodanup College, McKeown has shifted the culture and reputation of the college, winning the respect and confidence of the young people attending the school, the staff working there, and the community.

“Ms McKeown’s steadfast belief that all children deserve equal access to education and the opportunities that come from that has seen her take Coodanup College from a school in crisis to an inclusive community where young people know they will be supported to follow their passions and achieve.”

South Australia

Sarah Moore, for outstanding public service to cancer pathology science in SA.

Moore has shown leadership at a state, national and international level over a career spanning 40 years, and is currently head of the Cancer Cytogenetics laboratory at SA Pathology.

“Moore epitomises the finest qualities of a public pathology scientist. She implements the highest standard of diagnostics, teaching, training and research, and has delivered positive health outcomes for the community of South Australia throughout her career.”

Erma Ranieri, for outstanding public service to people management, and to public sector reform, in SA.

Ranieri is a strong advocate for diversity and gender equality in leadership in the public sector, and she challenges barriers to drive innovative, collaborative and connected services for the South Australian community.

“A highlight of her long career includes recognition for placing the highest number of people with a disability in ongoing employment in the South Australian public sector. She has had extensive advocacy for domestic violence awareness in South Australia including introduction of paid domestic violence leave for public sector employees.”

Dr Duncan Taylor, for outstanding public service to forensic DNA statistics in SA.

As one of the foremost international experts in forensic DNA statistics, Taylor helped develop software, named STRmix, to probabilistically interpret DNA profiles. The software is in regular use in 37 laboratories in USA, Canada, England, Scotland and Ireland.

“Notably, he has been vital to achieving appropriate justice outcomes through expert DNA evidence in some of South Australia’s most compelling criminal cases in recent times.”

Australian Capital Territory

Mark Huxley, for outstanding public service to education in the ACT.

As Huxley has moved from the classroom to the Education Support Office in the ACT Education Directorate in significant leadership roles, he has always maintained a focus on delivery of benefits to students and schools.

“In his role as executive group manager, school improvement he has been integral to the coordination and ongoing success of the ACT education system’s continuity of education programs for all students. In particular, he has provided superior management of the Territory’s COVID response, and the transition to student online learning.”

Anita Perkins, for outstanding public service to strategic communications and community engagement in the ACT.

During her career Perkins has been committed to revolutionising ACT government communications to ensure the Canberra community is kept informed and engaged on the issues that matter most to them.

“Since March 2020 she has been the public information coordinator for the ACT government’s COVID-19 pandemic response and, under her leadership, the Canberra community has been kept abreast of the government’s actions to this public health emergency, and the actions the community needs to take to stop the spread of the coronavirus.”

Narelle Rivers, for outstanding public service through improved outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the ACT.

Rivers is a proud Darug woman who has a long and outstanding service record in both the ACT government and the Australian government. In 2017 she was appointed to lead the Our Booris, Our Way Review into the circumstances of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in contact with the ACT child protection system.

“Throughout this complex, dynamic and sensitive review she demonstrated incredible, authentic and genuine leadership, often under pressure from competing groups and priorities. She supervised and led a team of highly experienced reviewers to remain focused on their often traumatic and challenging task.”

Northern Territory

Dr Hugh Heggie, for outstanding public service to community health in the NT.

Heggie has been a research pharmacologist and a rural generalist practitioner for 40 years. In his current role as chief health officer, Heggie has successfully led the territory’s COVID-19 response.

“Dr Heggie, throughout his career in the Northern Territory, has demonstrated outstanding service from a clinical, leadership, management and administrative perspective, and his contribution to the health and wellbeing of the people of the territory, particularly to the Indigenous community, has been exemplary.”

Jodie Ryan, for outstanding public service to the community of the NT through a range of roles.

In 2016 Ryan became the first female to be appointed as CEO of the Department of the Chief Minister, and most recently steered the NT government and public service through the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Her style of leadership is inclusive and this means that her staff and colleagues have a great deal of loyalty and respect which leads to a high level of achievement on the goals of government, and better outcomes for Territorians.”

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