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

Our Secretary

Professor Brendan Murphy AC

Professor Brendan Murphy AC 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.

Professor 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.

Chief Medical Officer

Professor 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 Aged Care and the Department of Health and Aged Care. He also holds direct responsibility for the Department’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.

Deputy Secretary for Strategy, Evidence and Research

Blair Exell

Blair is the Deputy Secretary for Strategy, Evidence, Research and First Nations Health in the Department of Health and Aged Care.

Blair has been a senior leader in foreign affairs, indigenous and development agendas in Australia and across the Asia Pacific region for almost 30 years.

Prior to his role in the Department of Health and Aged Care, Blair was the Deputy CEO of the National Indigenous Australians Agency responsible for Operations and Delivery. This followed 25 years in the foreign affairs and international development arena working across the Asia-Pacific region. He began his career in non-government organisations in Cambodia and Vietnam and later moved across to the Australian Public Service where Blair has now held senior roles for AusAID, DFAT, PMC, NIAA and DOHAC.

Blair was Australia’s most senior aid representative while posted to Cambodia, Solomon Islands and Indonesia. Blair was the inaugural Australian Ambassador for Regional Health Security (2017-2018) and served as Australia’s Board member to the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (2017-2018).

Deputy Secretary for Health Resourcing

Penny Shakespeare

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

    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.

    Deputy Secretary for Primary and Community Care

    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 has been Chief Operating Officer (COO) since February 2020. He holds a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) from the Australian National University, specialising in Classics.

    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 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 has 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.

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