Find out about the people who lead us in our Executive team, including the experience they bring to Health.

Our Secretary

Dr Brendan Murphy

Portrait of Professor Brendan Murphy Chief Medical Officer of Australia

Dr Brendan Murphy commenced as the Secretary of the Department of Health on 13 July 2020.

Prior to his appointment as Secretary, Brendan was the Chief Medical Officer for the Australian Government and prior to this, the Chief Executive Officer of Austin Health in Victoria.

Dr Murphy is:

  • a Professorial Associate with the title of Professor at the University of Melbourne
  • an Adjunct Professor at Monash University and at the Australian National University
  • a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences
  • a Fellow of the Royal Australian College of Physicians
  • a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

He was formerly CMO and director of Nephrology at St Vincent’s Health, and sat on the Boards of the Centenary Institute, Health Workforce Australia, the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health, the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute and the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre. He is also a former president of the Australian and New Zealand Society of Nephrology.

Associate Secretary

Caroline Edwards

Photo of Caroline Edwards

Caroline Edwards commenced as the Associate Secretary, Department of Health, on 10 August 2020. As the Associate Secretary, Caroline has responsibility for whole of portfolio strategic policy and relations, health economics and medical research, sport and the strategic and corporate operations of the Department. She was previously Deputy Secretary (2017-2019) with responsibility for primary care and mental health, health economics and research, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, whole of portfolio strategic policy and long-term health reform.

Caroline moved into the role of Deputy Secretary for Social Policy at the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet in 2019 until her recall to Health in February 2020 to assist with the COVID19 response.

Caroline’s previous roles include Deputy Secretary of the Health and Aged Care Group in the Department of Human Services (DHS) where she delivered programs in the health portfolio including Medicare, the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and Aged Care payments and Chief Adviser in the Revenue Group of the Treasury.

Caroline’s career has focused on social policy, particularly remote service delivery and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander land and housing programs. She spent 10 years in the Northern Territory where she worked for Aboriginal Legal Aid as a Judicial Registrar in the Northern Territory Magistrates Court and in the Federal Court where she mediated and case-managed Native Title and other cases as judge’s delegate.

Caroline is committed to developing leadership within the Australian Public Service as well as fostering diversity and innovation. Caroline holds a Bachelor of Laws with first class Honours from Monash University.

On Australia Day 2021, Caroline was awarded the Public Service Medal for outstanding public service to the development and implementation of health and social policy, and leading the Government’s health response to COVID-19.

Chief Medical Officer

Professor Paul Kelly

Photo of Paul Kelly

Professor Paul Kelly is the Chief Medical Officer for the Australian Government and is the principal medical adviser to the Minister for Health and the Department of Health. He also holds direct responsibility for Health’s Office of Health Protection and Response Division. Professor Kelly is a public health physician and epidemiologist with more than 30 years’ research experience. He has worked around the world in health system development and infectious disease epidemiology.

Paul was one of the leads in developing the FluCAN project – a national influenza surveillance system used by hospitals to track patients who are hospitalised with influenza. This work helps to determine the effectiveness of the yearly influenza vaccine.

Paul has vast experience in infectious disease epidemiology, in particular influenza, pneumonia and tuberculosis. This will help us understand how coronavirus spreads through the community and what we can do to slow the spread.

Deputy Secretary for Health Resourcing

Penny Shakespeare

Photo of Penny Shakespeare

Penny Shakespeare is Deputy Secretary of the Health Resourcing Group. This includes the Technology Assessment and Access Division, Medical Benefits Division, Benefits Integrity and Digital Health Division.

Since joining Health in 2006, Penny has held a number of senior leadership positions, including First Assistant Secretary of the Technology Assessment and Access Division and Health Workforce Division.

Prior to joining Health, Penny was an industrial relations lawyer in the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations and worked in regulatory policy roles, including as head of the ACT Office of Industrial Relations.

Penny has a Bachelor of Laws, a Master’s degree in International Law and is admitted as a Barrister and Solicitor.

Deputy Secretary for Health Products Regulation

Adjunct Professor John Skerritt

Adjunct Professor John Skerritt heads the Health Products Regulation Group which works to safeguard and enhance the health of all Australians through effective, timely and risk-proportionate regulation of therapeutic goods and control of drug import, export and production.

He was formerly a Deputy Secretary in the Victorian Government and has extensive experience in medical, agricultural and environmental policy, regulation, research management, technology application and commercialisation. John was also previously the Deputy CEO of a Commonwealth Statutory Authority, a Ministerial appointee on the Gene Technology Technical Advisory Committee and Chair of the Board of a major International technical organisation. During the 1990s he held senior management positions in CSIRO and Cooperative Research Centres.

He has significant experience on Boards of international and national organisations and more than 25 years’ experience in negotiating and leading international technical and commercial collaborations. He is currently Vice-Chair of both the International Coalition of Medicines Regulatory Authorities and the Scientific Advisory Council of the Centre for Innovation in Regulatory Science.


  • is an Adjunct Full Professor of the Universities of Sydney, Queensland and Canberra
  • has a University Medal and PhD from the University of Sydney
  • is a graduate of the Senior Executive Programs of London Business School and of IMD Business School, Switzerland
  • is a Fellow of the Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering
  • is a Fellow of the Institute of Public Administration of Australia (Vic).

    Deputy Secretary for Ageing and Aged Care

    Mr Michael Lye

    Mr Michael Lye

    Michael Lye joined the Department of Health in December 2019 as Deputy Secretary responsible for Ageing and Aged Care.

    Prior to joining Health, Michael was the Deputy Secretary responsible for disability and carers policy at the Department of Social Services, where his responsibilities included disability and carers policy and programs, the National Disability Strategy, the National Disability Insurance Scheme and Disability Employment Services.

    Michael has a Bachelor of Arts degree majoring in Psychology and a Master of Social Welfare Administration and Planning, both of which are from the University of Queensland.

    Special Advisor

    Dr Margot McCarthy

    Dr Margot McCarthy

    Dr Margot McCarthy joined Health in November 2015 after responsibility for the Ageing and Aged Care portfolio transferred to Health from the Department of Social Services.

    Margot has held a number of senior positions in the Department of Defence, the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C) and the Department of Social Services.

    In February 2013, she was appointed as an Associate Secretary in PM&C, leading the National Security and International Policy Group which provided advice to the Prime Minister, and whole-of-government coordination on national security matters.

    Margot is a graduate of Oxford University (DPhil in English Literature) and the London School of Economics and Political Science (MSc in Management). She completed her undergraduate studies at the University of New England.

    Deputy Secretary for Primary and Community Care

    Tania Rishniw

    Photo of Tania Rishniw

    Tania joined the Department of Health in 2015. With a background in social, environmental and economic policy, Tania has more than 20 years of experience as a leader in the Australian Public Service. Tania is currently the Deputy Secretary of the Primary and Community Care Group, and is responsible for leading the Department’s work on policies and programs relating to mental health; primary care; population health, prevention and cancer screening; and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health.

    Her achievements include:

    • leading the Department’s response to the 2019/20 black summer bushfires
    • providing strategic support through the development and implementation of Australia’s primary care response to COVID-19
    • leading negotiations for a new National Health Reform Agreement
    • heading up the Victorian State Office for Health
    • establishing the Indigenous Australians Health Program
    • representing the Australian Government at the United Nations World Conference of Indigenous Peoples, United Nations committees on the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
    • leading the environmental response to the Montara oil spill in the Timor Sea
    • heading the Forrest Review taskforce.

    She was involved in the reconstruction and development taskforce responding to the 2004 Tsunami and the development and implementation of the Australian Government’s cost recovery policy.

    Tania has worked across several Commonwealth agencies, including the Departments of:

    • Prime Minister and Cabinet
    • Finance
    • Education and Employment
    • Environment and Heritage.

    She has extensive experience in developing innovative policies and programs – working with diverse stakeholder and industry groups to develop solutions that work. She has worked as a regulator in environmental protection and financial management.

    Tania holds degrees in law, psychology and an executive masters degree in public administration. Outside of work she enjoys attempting to box and spin, walking Bronte the family Labrador and entertaining Trousers the Burmese therapy cat.

    Chief Operating Officer

    Charles Wann


    Charles Wann was appointed as Acting Chief Operatimg Officer in February 2020.

    Charles joined the Department of Health in 2016, initially as Chief Budget Officer. In July 2017, he became First Assistant Secretary of the Financial Management Division. In April 2019, he moved to the Aged Care Reform and Compliance Division, where he and his team implemented reforms to aged care quality and safety, workforce and the transition of compliance functions to the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission.

    Before joining the Department, Charles worked as Chief of Staff to the Minister for Social Services, and Senior Budget Advisor to the Treasurer.

    Previously, he worked in diverse roles for the Department of Immigration and Border Protection and the Department of Home Affairs in policy, program management and client and corporate services in Australia and overseas.

    He led teams responsible for introducing risk-based approaches to visa compliance and status resolution, and providing health, income and employment support to asylum seekers living in the community.

    Charles holds a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) from the Australian National University, specialising in Classics.

    Last updated: 
    14 May 2021

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