Brendan Murphy to step down as Health Department head

Professor Brendan Murphy, who led the health department during its biggest public health response in a century during the Covid pandemic, has announced his retirement.

Professor Brendan Murphy

Professor Murphy will retire as Secretary of the Department of Health and Aged Care on July 6, health minister Mark Butler announced on Thursday.

Professor Murphy, who joined the department as Chief Medical Officer in 2016, became a familiar public face during his Covid briefings, but Mr Butler said the health boss played a much wider role.

As Chair of the Australian Health Principal Protection Committee (AHPPC) he provided guidance on shutting down business and community activities and implementing physical distancing.

As well as overseeing major reforms to aged care, mental health, primary care and the health workforce, Professor Murphy also led a renewed focus on Commonwealth-State health relations and provided key advice to National Cabinet, Mr Butler said.

“I want to thank Professor Murphy for his professionalism and his help in establishing the Health and Aged Care Ministerial Office for the Albanese Government,” he said in a statement.

A ‘steady hand’ during Covid

The AMA congratulated Professor Murphy on his leadership and described him as a steady hand during the pandemic.

Professor Murphy was the first medical doctor to run Health in 40 years, it said.

“As Chief Medical Officer, Professor Murphy was instrumental in establishing the National Medical Workforce Strategy and working closely with the AMA on its development,” the AMA said in a statement.

“He was well respected across the profession from Doctors in Training to Fellows.”

Professor Murphy was also formerly CEO of Austin Health in Victoria, CMO and director of Nephrology at St Vincent’s Health, a member of numerous health boards and president of the Australian and New Zealand Society of Nephrology.

Professor Murphy took on the role of health department secretary in July 2020.

He was named ACT Australian of the Year in 2021.

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