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This week the Prime Minister, the Hon Scott Morrison MP, and Minister for Health, the Hon Greg Hunt MP, announced the retirement of Secretary for Health, Ms Glenys Beauchamp PSM.

Replacing Ms Beauchamp will be the nation’s Chief Medical Officer, Professor Brendan Murphy. While the announcement may have come as a surprise to some within the health sector, close observers will recall media reports that the Government’s overhaul of the public service included six Department Heads to be moved on. The Government ended up announcing five Department Heads would be moved on, leaving the sixth and last undisclosed.

Ms Beauchamp leaves behind a distinguished public service career spanning more than 30 years, including nine years at Secretary level, as well as 12 years in the ACT public service. In 2010, Ms Beauchamp received the Public Service Medal for outstanding public service forcoordinating the Commonwealth’s response to the 2009 Victorian bushfires.

Secretary-designate, Professor Brendan Murphy, will be the first medical doctor to serve as Secretary of the Department of Health in its nearly 100-year history.

In his current role as the Department of Health’s Chief Medical Officer, Professor Murphy is responsible for the Office of Health Protection and Health Workforce Division. He is currently coordinating Australia’s response to the rapidly growing threat posed by the coronavirus and the health-orientated response to the bushfire disaster. Professor Murphy has held this role since his appointment in 2016 by former Secretary of Health, Mr Martin Bowles AO PSM.

Professor Murphy also serves as Australia’s Member for the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IRAC) Governing Committee and represents Australia at the World Health Assembly.

Prior to his appointment, Professor Murphy was the Chief Executive Officer of Austin Health in Victoria.

Professor Murphy is a Professor at the University of Melbourne and holds the title of Adjunct Professor at Monash University. Professor Murphy is also a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences, a Fellow of the Royal Australian College of Physicians and the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

Professor Murphy previously served as the Chief Medical Officer and Director of Nephrology at St Vincent’s Health and sat on the Boards of the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute, the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health and the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre.

Professor Murphy also served as the Independent Chair of Health Services Innovation Australia and is a former President of the Australian and New Zealand Society of Nephrology and former Deputy Chair of Health Workforce Australia.

Since joining the Department of Health in 2016 as the Chief Medical Officer, Professor Murphy has been active in tackling key issues facing the health sector and in particular within the pharmaceutical sector. Most notably, Professor Murphy used his position to tackle the overprescribing of opioids by sending out warning letters to 4,800 GPs found to be prescribing opioids excessively.

Professor Murphy was criticised by some GPs for his direct and blunt approach to the opioid issue and it remains to be seen if Professor Murphy will continue a similar approach as Secretary of the Department of Health.

Throughout his tenure in the Public Service, Professor Murphy has enjoyed bipartisan support in his 40-year involvement in the health sector.

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