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

Our Secretary

Mr Blair Comley PSM

Blair commenced as the Secretary of the Department of Health and Aged Care on 17 July 2023.

Blair has served as the Secretary of the Commonwealth Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency and the Secretary of the Commonwealth Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism. Blair has also served as Secretary of the NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet, NSW’s most senior public servant.

Prior to these positions, Blair held senior leadership positions in Treasury including General Manager of the Indirect Tax Division, the Business Tax Division, and the Macroeconomic Policy Division and the Acting Chief Executive of the Australian Office of Financial Management with responsibility for managing the Commonwealth’s debt and derivative portfolio.

Blair trained as an economist and has worked extensively on market design issues including leading the design of carbon prices, the GST and Commonwealth competitive neutrality policy and other aspects of competition policy. Blair has had extensive engagement with Commonwealth State relations, including reform of the Federation and Health funding in his role as Secretary of the Department of Premier and Cabinet in the NSW Government.

Blair also has significant private sector experience as a strategy consultant advising governments, not for profits, and corporates on a wide range of matters including climate, energy, human services, health, organisational leadership and design, governance and economic policy.

In 2012 Blair was awarded the Public Service Medal for outstanding public service in the development of public policy, particularly in the areas of carbon pricing and emissions trading, tax policy design and debt management.

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 Health Strategy, First Nations and Sport

Blair Exell

Blair is the Deputy Secretary for Health Strategy, First Nations and Sport 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 of the Health Products Regulation Group

Professor Tony Lawler

Professor Tony Lawler is the Deputy Secretary of 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 the control of drug imports, exports and production.

Prior to joining the Department in June 2023, Tony was the Chief Medical Officer and Deputy Secretary of Clinical Quality, Regulation and Accreditation with the Tasmanian Department of Health. This role included providing leadership to health professionals, system-wide clinical governance oversight, and the regulation of private health services.

Having studied medicine at the University of Tasmania, Tony has worked in the health system as a Specialist Emergency Physician, Specialist Medical Administrator, and senior health public servant for almost 30 years. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Tony was the Tasmanian Health Service Emergency Operations Commander.

Tony is a Board Member with the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care. He has previously held positions as a member of the Council of the National Health and Medical Research Council, President of the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine, and Deputy Head of the Tasmanian School of Medicine.

Tony is a Professor in Health Services with the University of Tasmania.

Deputy Secretary for Ageing and Aged Care

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.

Date last updated:

Help us improve health.gov.au

If you would like a response please use the enquiries form instead.