Coronavirus

Who are the experts behind Australia’s coronavirus response?

Who are the doctors behind Australia's COVID-19 response? Source: SBS News

Australia’s federal and state leaders say they are basing their decisions on the advice of medical experts - but who are these experts charting the course for Australia?

Together, these few doctors have played a major role in deciding Australia’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Here’s what they did before they became the top doctors in their states. 

Professor Brendan Murphy.
Professor Brendan Murphy.
AAP

Australia

Professor Brendan Murphy is the chief medical officer for Australia.

Before taking Australia’s highest medical post, much of Professor Murphy’s early career was centred around kidney health.

Professor Murphy worked his way from renal physician to renal dialysis services director at St Vincent’s Hospital in Fitzroy, Melbourne, before becoming the President of the Australian and New Zealand Society of Nephrology.

He has spent the past two decades in health management roles; he was first St Vincent’s Hospital chief medical officer and then took on the top job at Melbourne’s Austin Hospital before finally being appointed Australia’s chief medical officer in 2016.

AAP

Queensland

Dr Jeannette Young is the chief health officer in Queensland.

She began her medical career more than three decades ago at Westmead Hospital in Sydney, where she was appointed the hospital’s assistant director of medical services.

Dr Young later became executive director of medical services at Brisbane’s Princess Alexandra Hospital before taking the state’s top job in 2005.

In 2014, she won a Pride of Australia medal for her work in improving Queensland’s vaccination rates in children. 

Dr Kerry Chant.
Dr Kerry Chant.
AAP

New South Wales 

Dr Kerry Chant is the chief health officer for NSW.

A public health physician, Dr Chant has focused on communicable disease prevention and control throughout her career.

She also has interests in blood-borne viral infections and Indigenous health and held various management positions in the state’s public health units since the early 90s before taking the top role in 2011.

Professor Brett Sutton.
Professor Brett Sutton.
AAP

Victoria

Professor Brett Sutton is the chief health officer for Victoria. 

His experience in public health and communicable diseases largely stems from his work as an emergency physician in Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Kenya and Timor-Leste.

Professor Sutton took on the state’s top medical job in March last year and now represents Victoria on the Communicable Disease Network of Australia.

He is also Victoria’s chief biosecurity officer.

Associate Professor Nicola Spurrier.
Associate Professor Nicola Spurrier.
AAP

South Australia

Associate Professor Nicola Spurrier is the chief public health officer for South Australia.

She has been with SA Health for almost 30 years and also works as a consultant paediatrician and senior lecturer at Flinders University and the Flinders Medical Center.

Throughout her career, she has focused particularly on children’s health, and has named obesity prevention as one of her key interests.

Dr Andrew Robertson.
Dr Andrew Robertson.
Australasian Military Medicine Association

Western Australia

Dr Andrew Robertson is the chief health officer for Western Australia. 

He has specialist qualifications in public health medicine and served in the Royal Australian Navy for almost 20 years, completing three tours to Iraq as a Biological Weapons Chief Inspector.

Before taking on the state’s top medical post, he was the director of disaster preparedness and management for WA Health.

Dr Robertson’s experience includes leading an Australian relief team in the Maldives after the December 2004 Tsunami, managing WA’s response to the Bali bombing in 2005 and working as a radiation health advisor to the Australian embassy after Japan's Fukushima nuclear incident in 2011. 

Professor Tony Lawler.
Professor Tony Lawler.
Emergency Tasmania

Tasmania 

Professor Tony Lawler is the chief medical officer for Tasmania.

Much of his medical career has been spent in emergency medicine; he was once president of the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine and worked as the emergency department director at the Royal Hobart Hospital.

Professor Lawler also spent a year as the Tasmanian Health Minister’s clinical advisor before taking on the state’s top medical role.

He remains a professor of health services at the University of Tasmania, where he has taught for nine years. 

Dr Hugh Heggie.
Dr Hugh Heggie.
AAP

Northern Territory

Dr Hugh Heggie is the chief health officer for the Northern Territory.

He worked as a pharmacologist before becoming a rural general practitioner in 1980, working in various remote communities throughout the NT and once served as the only permanent doctor in the entire eastern half of the state.

Obstetrics and emergency medicine were two of his key focuses before becoming the chief health officer.

He has cited Aboriginal health, remote medicine, and remote workforce issues as some of his key interests throughout his career. 

Dr Kerryn Coleman.
Dr Kerryn Coleman.
Central West Hospital and Health Services

Australian Capital Territory

Dr Kerryn Coleman is the chief health officer for the Australian Capital Territory.

She has worked for ACT Health for about three years, first as a public health physician before her promotion to chief health officer.

Prior to moving to the capital, Dr Coleman was the director of public health at the Central Queensland Hospital.

She has held government positions before, serving as a medical advisor in the federal Department of Health and Ageing twice as well as in communicable disease control for the NT

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others and gatherings are limited to two people unless you are with your family or household.

If you believe you may have contracted the virus, call your doctor (don’t visit) or contact the national Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080. If you are struggling to breathe or experiencing a medical emergency, call 000.

SBS is committed to informing Australia’s diverse communities about the latest COVID-19 developments. News and information is available in 63 languages at sbs.com.au/coronavirus

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