Movers & Shakers, Government | December, 2021 – January, 2022

Alister Henskens NSW Government Technology
NSW's first Minister of Science, Innovation & Technology, Alister Henskens MP

NSW establishes new Enterprise and Investment Department, with dedicated tech and innovation minister; WA once again shifts ministerial responsibility for Innovation and ICT; and DTA loses senior tech leaders, with Services Australia picking up two senior digital appointees.


New South Wales MP, Alister Henskens (pictured), has been sworn in as the state’s Minister for Science, Innovation and Technology following a late 2021 cabinet reshuffle by NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet.

Perrottet said the new Enterprise and Investment Department, unveiled at the very end of last year, was an effort to further boost the state’s “home-grown research” capability, with the new Innovation and Technology ministry falling under its umbrella.

Henskens had previously served as Minister for Families, Communities and Disability Services, with his first appointment to cabinet in May 2021.

Alongside Henskens, Stuart Ayers MP has added the Enterprise portfolio to his existing responsibilities for Investment and Trade.


Meanwhile, the Western Australia Government has announced another change to its cabinet line-up, appointing Stephen Dawson as Minister for Innovation and ICT.

Dawson assumes the tech portfolio from Don Punch; Punch was appointed Minister for Disability Services, Fisheries, Innovation and ICT, Seniors and Ageing following the Labor Government’s re-election last March. While Punch loses the ICT and Innovation portfolio, he picked up the Small Business.

Punch took over the ICT portfolio from Dave Kelly, who is currently WA’s Minister for Water, Forestry and Youth.

“These portfolio changes are about getting the balance right across the cabinet and sharpening the government’s agenda as we enter the next phase of the pandemic,” Premier Mark McGowan said.

In addition to ICT and Innovation, Dawson also takes on the Emergency Services, Medical Research and Volunteering portfolios.


The Australian Government has formally appointed Heath Axelby as the Treasury’s Chief Information Officer.

Axelby, who served a six-month stint as interim CIO before his formal appointment, replaces Mike Webb, who stepped into a branch Assistant Secretary role at the Treasury Department as head of Major IT Projects in April 2021.

Webb served two-and-a-half years as the Treasury’s CIO, replacing Eamonn Rooney in November 2018.


– Services Australia has appointed Charles McHardie as Chief Information and Digital Officer (CIDO).

The role, formerly held by Michael McNamara, was vacated last September, with McNamara jumping ship to lead Digital Victoria – the state’s recently established digital transformation agency – to serve as its inaugural Chief Executive. McNamara had served as Services Australia CIDO since January 2019.

McHardie, who has been with the Services Australia for nearly two years, was previously Deputy CEO of Transformation Projects. He was also at the agency’s predecessor, the Department of Human Services, for nearly four years as CTO, including one year as Acting CIO, before a year-and-half-long stint at the Department of Veterans Affairs.


With a major blow to the Digital Transformation Agency (DTA), Australia’s Department of Defence has poached DTA Deputy Chief Peter Alexander.

According to his LinkedIn, Alexander has been appointed First Assistant Secretary in Defence’s Chief Information Officer Group.

Alexander served more than five years in total at the DTA, including as Deputy CEO, a stint four-month stint as Acting CEO and, prior to this, Chief Design Officer for three years.


– Services Australia has also picked up fellow DTA alum Jonathon Thorpe to serve as Service Design Division General Manager.

Thorpe was previously Digital Discovery and Sourcing General Manager at the DTA, joining the digital agency in early 2018 after eight years with the Australian Taxation Office (ATO). He previously held senior roles overseeing Digital Identity, Digital Services and myGov at the ATO.


– Central Highlands Water, based in Victoria’s Central Highlands region east of Ballarat, has appointed Claudio Cavallo as General Manager of IT and Digital, with Cavallo announcing the move on LinkedIn.

Cavallo currently serves as Darebin City Council’s Chief Information Officer – a position he has held for three and half years.

“I have been fortunate to work with many outstanding and dedicated professionals both internal and external to the council,” Cavallo wrote.

“I would like to thank Darebin for the opportunities, experiences, education and most of all, the great people.


– James Cook University, based in North Queensland, has appointed Geoff Purcell as Chief Digital Officer (CDO), with Purcell announcing the move on his LinkedIn.

Previously Chief Technology Officer at Melbourne Water for more than six years, Purcell left the role in July last year.

He replaces Jonathan Churchill, who in October last year stepped into a new role as CIO at the Australian National University.

Purcell will lead JCU’s digital strategy across the university.


The Queensland Government has appointed Paxton Booth as the state’s Privacy Commissioner.

Booth replaces outgoing state Privacy Commissioner Philip Green.

Formerly a Supreme Court barrister and Executive Director of the Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC), Booth brings more than two decades of legal experience to the role.

Booth also held roles within the Office of the Health Ombudsman and Queensland Police Service.


– Darriea Turley has been elected President of Local Government NSW.

Turley served as Mayor of Broken Hill City Council from 2016 as well as on the Australian delegation to the United Nations for the Commission on the Status of Women during its 56th session.

She replaces outgoing president Linda Scott.


– Nicole Mayo has been promoted to Chief Operating Officer at the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC). Mayo was previously General Counsel/National Manager Legal Services at ACIC for nearly five years.


The Federal Government has promoted Phannaruemon Jory to the role of Enterprise Strategy and Modernisation Assistant Commissioner at the Australian Electoral Commission.


– NBN Co has appointed Kate McKenzie as Chair.

McKenzie has served on the board since 2019 as well as being a member of a number of NBN Co Committees: Audit and Risk; Financing; Nominations; and People and Remuneration.

She replaces outgoing Chair Ziggy Switkowski, who departed from the role on 1 January.


– Gordon Dunsford has stepped down as Chief Information and Technology Officer at NSW Police, moving over to join the private sector as Executive General Manager of Digital at the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO).

Dunsford joined NSW Police as CITO in January 2018 following a three-year stint as WaterNSW’s Chief Information Officer.

Alongside his role as CITO, Dunsford also served as NSW Police’s Digital Technology and Innovation (DTI) Group Executive Director.

During his time with the Force, he oversaw the overhaul of its more than two-decade-old computerised operational policing system (COPS).

Dunsford commences his new role with the AEMO at the end of January 2022, replacing Chief Digital and Business Transformation Officer Mario Tieppo.


– Victoria Police’s Chief Digital Officer (CDO) Bret Giles has reportedly departed after five years in the role.

iTnews reports that while a member from the force has been appointed to the role on an interim basis, Victoria Police has not disclosed the individual nor the exact date when Giles left the role.

Victoria Police has been recruiting for a “senior IT professional” to take on the CDO role since late December, as well as for a separate Chief Information Security Officer (CISO).