Movers & shakers: Education settles its leadership team, new race commissioner, solicitor general, and more

By The Mandarin

October 5, 2018

For appointments and promotions this week the Education portfolio has concluded a significant shake up of its senior ranks. Plus the new race discrimination commissioner, a new solicitor general, a deputy secretary at Home Affairs, and Australia’s inaugural chief environmental biosecurity officer.

Education and Training

The Department of Education and Training has filled its remaining three vacant deputy secretary positions, following an open call in July. Like many APS senior executive job ads in the last couple of years, the pitch explicitly encouraged applications from the private sector, while simultaneously requiring demonstrated experience as an outstanding public servant who has built trusting relationships with ministers and other government agencies — specific relationships less frequently called upon in the corporate world, we suspect.

Nadine Williams is the external pick among the three new deputy secretaries, moving to DET from Department of Communications and the Arts where she was an acting deputy secretary. Williams was also the inaugural chair of the Indigenous Talent Council from her time at the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet’s Indigenous Affairs group.

Marcus Markovic is currently acting deputy secretary of the Corporate Strategy cluster and has now been promoted to deputy secretary.

Alex Gordon is currently acting deputy secretary of the Schools and Youth cluster and has now been promoted to deputy secretary.

Prior to the recent restructure, the Schools and Youth cluster was headed by an associate secretary, Tony Cook, who left earlier this year to become head of the Queensland Department of Education and Training. Cook keeps a foot in the federal system with a non-executive director role in the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership.

The Corporate Strategy cluster was previously headed by Carolyn Smith who left the APS in July for consulting work at Auxilium Advisory.

The final vacant cluster, Skills & Training, was headed by Dr Subho Banerjee, who left the APS in April for academia, joining ANZSOG as its new research project director, Griffith University as an Adjunct Associate Professor in the School of Government and International Relations, and ANU’s Crawford School of Public Policy as a visiting fellow. Dr James Hart has been acting as head of the Skills & Training clusters.

The three new deputy secretaries join the current leadership team of department secretary Dr Michele Bruniges, Early Childhood and Child Care deputy secretary Jackie Wilson, and Higher Education, Research and International deputy secretary David Learmonth.

Human Rights Commission

Chin Tan has been appointed the new Race Discrimination Commissioner for a five-year term. Tan has practiced as a lawyer for more tha 20 years, and was most recently the multicultural engagement director at Swinburne University and prior to that chair of the Victorian Multicultural Commission. He replaces Tim Soutphommasane, whose term ended earlier this year. According to public statements, he’ll take a different approach to the role from Soutphommasane, who clashed with conservative politicians over racial generalisations in their public comments. Tan says:

“It’s not my role to canvass an opinion about what politicians say from time to time, unless it becomes a public issue of a dimension that requires my involvement within the confines the Act.”

WA Solicitor General

Joshua Thomson SC has been appointed solicitor general of Western Australia. The appointment is for a five year term and fills the vacancy left behind by Peter Quinlan SC, who was appointed WA chief justice in August. Thomson became a barrister in 2001 and was made senior counsel in 2012.

Home Affairs

The monumental task of filling the enormous Department of Home Affairs continues — it’s no hyperbole, the executive organisational chart has more names on it than the infamous tablesheet-sized Australian Senate ballot sheet for NSW voters.

Cheryl-Anne Moy has been promoted to deputy secretary. Moy is currently acting as chief operating officer and deputy secretary for the Corporate and Enabling group.

Mark Brown has been promoted to first assistant secretary. Brown is currently acting chief audit executive and first assistant secretary of the Integrity, Security and Assurance division.

Agriculture and Water Resources

Ian Thompson has been appointed Australia’s inaugural chief environmental biosecurity officer. Thompson was previously first assistant secretary of the Sustainable Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Division within the department, which included responsibility for the National Landcare Programme, along with community and Indigenous engagement.

The government announced the creation of the role in June, with an ongoing annual project fund of $825,000.


Three new assistant directors in the Office of the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecution (CDPP) have been appointed in NSW, Queensland and Victoria.

  • Andrew Doyle — NSW
  • Roberta Devereaux — Queensland.
  • Mathew Sinnett — Victoria.

Vic Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources

Gerard Seeber has been appointed the new commissioner for Victoria to the Middle East, Africa and Turkey. He is a former Austrade consul-general in Dubai and general manager for the Middle East and Africa. He takes over from John Butler, who has held the position for almost a decade.

Commonwealth Band 1 promotions

Robert Bryson has been promoted to SES and appointed general manager of the Tasmanian-based Antarctic Modernisation Branch in the Department of the Environment and Energy.

Matthew Swainson has been promoted to SES and appointed general manager of Comcare’s legal group.

See last week’s movers and shakers update here.

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