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The Department is responsible for centrally coordinated strategy and policy leadership in relation to emergency management including disaster recovery and resilience, the protection of Australia’s sovereignty, citizenship and social cohesion, cyber systems and critical infrastructure, immigration, border security and management, law enforcement, and counter-terrorism. Through our Commonwealth Coordinators and the Director-General of Emergency Management Australia, the Department enables rapid responses to threats of foreign interference, terrorism, organised crime and natural disasters. The Department promotes social cohesion through multicultural programs, and manages and confers citizenship through the Australian Citizenship Program. The Department also contributes to Australia’s unity and prosperity through the management and delivery of the migration, refugee and humanitarian programs, and through modernising our trade and travel systems.


Figure 2 – The Department at a glance

Figure 2 - the Department at a glance  People, Client contact, National security and Staff


The Department’s organisational structure at 30 June 2020 is shown in Table 1 below:

Table 1: Department organisational structure

 National Counter Foreign Interference Coordinator, Counter-Terrorism Coordinator, Director-General Emergency Management Australia and Coordinator General Migrant Services.


As at 30 June 2020:

Photograph of Michael Pezzullo AO, Secretary of the Department of Home Affairs
Michael Pezzullo AO, Secretary of the Department of Home Affairs

Michael Pezzullo AO was appointed Secretary of the Department of Home Affairs on 20 December 2017.

Throughout 2019–20, Michael was responsible for providing leadership and coordination of strategy, planning and policy for the Department, and was the principal official policy adviser to the Portfolio’s Ministers on issues related to emergency management, countering espionage and foreign interference, immigration and citizenship, multicultural affairs, cyber security, critical infrastructure protection, customs and border protection, trade and travel facilitation, law enforcement, counter-terrorism, countering violent extremism and transport and civil maritime and aviation security.

Michael also had overall accountability to manage both risk and performance as the Accountable Authority for the Department of Home Affairs and the Australian Border Force. As Secretary of the Home Affairs Portfolio, in collaboration with the heads of Portfolio agencies, Michael ensured that the Portfolio delivered effective outcomes for the Australian Government, the community and our partners.

Photograph of Marc Ablong PSM, Deputy Secretary Policy Group
Marc Ablong PSM, Deputy Secretary Policy Group

Marc was responsible for the Department’s strategy and capability, and its comprehensive policy capability, including law enforcement, international policy, cyber security, and intelligence policy. Marc was also responsible for the Operation Sovereign Borders Joint Agency Task Force, which ensured whole-of-government effort to counter people smuggling.

Photograph of Paul Grigson, Deputy Secretary National Coordination Mechanism Taskforce
Paul Grigson, Deputy Secretary National Coordination Mechanism Taskforce

In Paul’s role as Head of the National Coordination Mechanism Taskforce he was responsible for supporting the Government to meet the challenges of COVID-19 and its impact on the community. Paul was responsible for supporting operations of Government, including the Australian Cabinet, National Cabinet, National Security Committee, Secretaries’ Committee on National Security, National Coordination Mechanism, Emergency Management Australia, and liaison with the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee.

Photograph of Andrew Kefford PSM, Deputy Secretary Immigration and Settlement Services Group
Andrew Kefford PSM, Deputy Secretary Immigration and Settlement Services Group

Andrew was responsible for the administration of Australia’s permanent and temporary migration programs, the Refugee and Humanitarian Program and settlement programs. Andrew also delivered status resolution in detention and the community, and managed the Department’s client facing services and information services.

Photograph of Luke Mansfield, Deputy Secretary Citizenship and Social Cohesion
Luke Mansfield, Deputy Secretary Citizenship and Social Cohesion

Luke was responsible for supporting social cohesion through citizenship and multicultural programs, including citizenship application processing, conferral and revocation of citizenship, multicultural community engagement, and counter violent extremism capability building programs. Luke was also responsible for coordinating Australia’s counter-terrorism arrangements for the Prime Minister and the Minister for Home Affairs, working closely with state and territory agencies.

Photograph of Cheryl-anne Moy, Deputy Secretary Corporate and Enabling and Chief Operating Officer
Cheryl-anne Moy, Deputy Secretary Corporate and Enabling and Chief Operating Officer

Cheryl-anne was responsible for delivering strategic and tactical corporate capabilities to the Department and the ABF. The integrated range of services and products, including specialised people, finance and data services, supported the Department and the ABF to function effectively.

Photograph of David Nockels, Deputy Secretary Security and Resilience
David Nockels, Deputy Secretary Security and Resilience

David was responsible for security in the aviation and maritime sectors and to Australia’s critical infrastructure, and for leading the Australian Government’s efforts in emergency preparedness. David was also responsible for building national identity and biometrics capabilities to support policy, operational and decision-making capabilities of the Department and our partners.

Photograph of Alison Larkins, Coordinator-General for Migrant Services
Alison Larkins, Coordinator-General for Migrant Services

Alison joined the Department as the inaugural Coordinator-General for Migrant Services on 19 December 2019 as part of the Department’s response to the independent review into Australia’s integration, employment and settlement outcomes for refugees and humanitarian entrants. Alison was responsible for overseeing the implementation of the Government’s migrant services, policies and programs.

Photograph of Chris Teal, National Counter Foreign Interference Coordinator
Chris Teal, National Counter Foreign Interference Coordinator

Chris was responsible for delivering an effective, efficient and consistent national response to foreign interference by providing a focal point for coordinating policy and program development and leading on engagement across government, business and academia.

Photograph of Pip de Veau, Group Manager Legal
Pip de Veau, Group Manager Legal

Pip was responsible for providing in-house specialist legal services and advice to the Minister, the executive and to departmental and ABF staff, and supporting lawful implementation of the Department’s objectives.

Photograph of Richard Johnson, Group Manager Citizenship, Social Cohesion and Multicultural Programs, and Deputy National Coordination Mechanism Communication and Information Operations
Richard Johnson, Group Manager Citizenship, Social Cohesion and Multicultural Programs, and Deputy National Coordination Mechanism Communication and Information Operations

Richard was responsible for end-to-end delivery of the Citizenship Program, including pre-lodgement, application and conferral and revocation of citizenship, as well as social cohesion and multicultural policy and programs.

Richard was also responsible for supporting the National Coordination Mechanism Taskforce by driving communications to inform the Australian public about actions the Government is taking to slow the spread of COVID-19, save lives and maintain public safety.

Photograph of Michael Milford AM, Group Manager Technology and Major Capability
Michael Milford AM, Group Manager Technology and Major Capability

Mike was responsible for managing the end-to-end information and technology environment for the Department. This included the day to day delivery and improvement of the technologies that support the 24/7 operations of the Department and the ABF. Mike was responsible for developing enhancing and maintaining the systems that underpin the Department’s operations and position it to meet operational priorities and evolving strategic direction.

Changes to the Executive Team

The following changes in the Department’s leadership occurred during 2019–20:

  • Rachel Noble PSM left the position of Deputy Secretary Executive in July 2019 to fill the position of Head of the Australian Cyber Security Centre.
  • Linda Geddes was appointed Deputy Secretary Citizenship and Social Cohesion in July 2019. Linda left the position of Deputy Secretary Citizenship and Social Cohesion, and Commonwealth Counter-Terrorism Coordinator in March 2020 to fill the role of Deputy Director General SIGINT and Network Operations in the Australian Signals Directorate.
  • Karl Kent OAM left the position of Transnational Serious and Organised Crime Coordinator in October 2019 to fill the position of Deputy Commissioner Capability at the Australian Federal Police.
  • Alison Larkins joined the Department as the inaugural Coordinator-General for Migrant Services on 19 December 2019. Before this, Alison was a Principal at the Nous Group.

COVID-19 leadership changes

From March 2020, a number of structural changes and short-term leadership appointments were made for an initial period of six months to support the Department’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Michael Pezzullo AO assumed the role of Commonwealth Counter-Terrorism Coordinator in addition to his duties as Secretary.
  • Luke Mansfied was appointed Deputy Secretary Citizenship and Social Cohesion. Luke was previously First Assistant Secretary Refugee, Humanitarian and Settlement Division.
  • Andrew Kefford was appointed Deputy Secretary Immigration and Settlement Services. Andrew was previously First Assistant Secretary Visa Delivery Transformation Division.
  • David Nockels was appointed Deputy Secretary Security and Resilience Group. David was previously First Assistant Secretary Identity and Biometrics Division.
  • Pip De Veau was appointed Group Manager Legal, in addition to her role as General Counsel.
  • Richard Johnson was appointed Group Manager Citizenship, Social Cohesion and Multicultural Affairs, and Deputy National Coordination Mechanism Communications and Information Operations. Richard was previously First Assistant Secretary Citizenship and Social Cohesion Policy Division.
  • Paul Grigson was appointed Head of the National Coordination Mechanism Taskforce. Paul was previously Deputy Secretary Security and Resilience.


Our performance

In 2019–20, the Department of Home Affairs contributed to Australia’s Prosperity, Security and Unity by delivering critical services that the Australian public, industry and international stakeholders rely on. The Home Affairs Portfolio has played a vital role in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. The integration of previously disparate national security functions has contributed to achieving success in 2019–20 through greater multidisciplinary cohesion and the collective use of resources.

The Department and the ABF have continued to work domestically, at our borders and internationally to protect Australia and its interests. Throughout 2019–20, we have demonstrated an ability to rapidly pivot our resources, our focus and our strategies to respond to Government priorities. Our experiences and the lessons learnt from recent crises allow the Department and our partners to enhance preparedness, build community resilience and position us to manage future challenges.

The Department swiftly responded to the escalating 2019–20 bushfires, including through quickly providing assessments enabling more than $100 million in disaster recovery payments for individuals impacted by the 2019–20 bushfires.

With the COVID-19 pandemic closely following the 2019–20 bushfires, we adopted an all-hazards approach to emergency management and crisis coordination and response.

The deep, versatile capabilities within Department and Portfolio enabled us to surge resources into emergency management and disaster recovery.

On 5 March 2020, drawing on and complementing existing capabilities within the Department and across the Portfolio, the Australian Government established the National Coordination Mechanism (NCM), with the primary focus being to coordinate and facilitate nationally consistent approaches to non-health-related planning and responses to COVID-19. This included resolving complex issues such as the movement of resources, sector personnel and goods across domestic borders, supporting vulnerable people, including through engagement with the not-for-profit sector on home delivery and service options, and managing the repatriation of Australian citizens, permanent residents and their immediate relatives to Australia.

The NCM demonstrated effective collaboration and sharing of information across the Commonwealth, states and territories and the private sector which enabled timely and comprehensive advice to be provided to national leaders on both practical solutions and emerging risks.

On 18 March 2020, the Australian Government established the Supermarket Taskforce. The Taskforce brought together major supermarket executives, relevant peak bodies, states, territories and local authorities to discuss and resolve the issues supermarkets were facing due to COVID-19 and to ensure all Australians could continue to access essential items. This included working with the Australian Local Government Association and local councils to adjust trucking curfew arrangements to ensure that curfews did not impede the restocking of shelves in Australian supermarkets. The Taskforce is a testament to the Department’s ability to work flexibly in support of domestic security and prosperity priorities.

We rapidly implemented enhanced border control measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in cooperation with whole-of-Government partners. The ABF has been at the forefront of the Australian Government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, through the implementation and enforcement of these enhanced biosecurity and border measures for trade and travel. In airports, the ABF rapidly responded to the COVID-19 pandemic through updating procedures for incoming passengers and implementing new programs and capabilities to reduce the likelihood of transmission.

Despite the unprecedented disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department continued to deliver our migration and citizenship programs under adjusted policy settings, monitor and evaluate potential terrorist threats at home and abroad, mitigate threats to Australia’s democracy through espionage, foreign interference and disinformation, and combat the rise in online child exploitation and abuse.

The Department continued to protect Australia from national security and criminal threats throughout 2019–20. Through effective national coordination and engagement with our Government and industry partners, the Department launched the Home Affairs Portfolio Illicit Drug Action Plan on 20 November 2019 and supported the Australia-New Zealand Counter-Terrorism Committee to bring forward projects to enhance Australia’s ongoing capability in identifying, mitigating and responding to terrorism.

The Department also coordinated the ‘No Money for Terror’ Ministerial Conference on Counter-Terrorism Financing, which was held in Melbourne in November 2019. More than 65 delegations came together as part of a collective commitment to combat the financing of terrorism. The conference actively contributes to the delivery of our Portfolio priorities of regional and international capacity building and participating in cooperative solutions for global problems. The success of the conference built on the reputation of the Department and Australia for making significant contributions to challenging policy debates and hosting major international events.

Cyber threats are growing in sophistication and scale and continue to be a constant threat. In 2019–20, the Department completed the delivery of all initiatives under the 2016 Cyber Security Strategy, and worked towards finalising Australia’s Cyber Security Strategy. In finalising Australia’s Cyber Security Strategy, the Department extensively consulted with industry and government. This included receiving 215 submissions on the discussion paper ‘Australia’s Cyber Security Strategy: A Call for Views’, 1400 face-to-face stakeholder consultations across every state and territory and the establishment of an Industry Advisory Panel. The Industry Advisory Panel met 13 times throughout 2019–20 to guide the development of the strategy. Implementation of the Australia’s Cyber Security Strategy 2020 will be achieved through continued strong partnerships that drive cyber resilience across industry, government and the community and the relationships built in the 2019–20 period will be fundamental to the Strategy’s success.

The Department remained committed to effectively managing the Citizenship Program by quickly adapting our approach to citizenship ceremonies and appointments to provide COVID-19-safe service delivery for the Australian community. From 31 March 2020 to 30 June 2020, 45,000 individuals acquired citizenship through online ceremonies, with more than 750 people per day becoming citizens through online ceremonies from 30 April onwards.

Throughout 2019–20, we have demonstrated our ability to operate in a complex, intensified and highly demanding context, mitigating and responding to immediate threats, while at the same time maintaining ‘business as usual’ services and activities. The Annual Performance Statement at Part 2 shows that despite 40 metrics being impacted by COVID-19, 27 of these metrics were met and nine were partially met.

Our business and systems improvements

The Department and the ABF worked continuously to improve our programs and systems to ensure services were delivered seamlessly and efficiently, in line with the Australian Government’s service delivery reform agenda. Throughout 2019–20, the Department continued to transform how services are delivered and connected, utilising technology and data to provide better, more accessible services.

For example, the Department trialled a Virtual Assistant (VA) to assess the viability and client appetite for such a service, the primary goal of which was to support clients to quickly find relevant information online. During the trial, the VA responded to more than 210,000 immigration and citizenship enquiries.

Following a successful trial, the VA was expanded to assist clients with enquiries relating to COVID-19 border restrictions and was instrumental in assisting the Department to respond quickly and effectively to a significant increase in client enquiries.

The Department’s websites continued to play a major role in providing information to clients and the Australian community. During the 2019–20 summer bushfires and the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department’s online presence was redeveloped to provide a consistent and comprehensive source of information on visas, citizenship, travel restrictions and support services. The Department launched new websites, including COVID-19 and the border to provide clear information about the impact of the pandemic on visa and border arrangements, and COVID-19 in your language in April 2020 to provide non-English speakers with a single source of accurate, official information and updates from across Government.

The Department also continued to refine and adjust call handling processes to ensure the Global Service Centre (GSC) provided a responsive and timely service during periods of heightened demand. A new Ticket Management System was introduced in April 2020, delivering improved tracking and, where required, follow-up of all client enquiries received by the GSC. This end-to-end visibility of client enquiries will identify further opportunities to respond to client needs, especially in resolving complex case enquiries.

Our people

Throughout 2019–20, our staff demonstrated flexibility and commitment to Australian Government priorities by redeploying to support critical government functions during the peak of the COVID-19 response. We have continued to mature our responsiveness and flexibility and have embedded this approach into our current operating model and our Future Ready strategy, launched on 1 July 2020.

The Department continued to foster a high performance culture through enhanced people management and development. In 2019–20, the Department conducted individual capability assessments for our Senior Executive Service, executive level employees, and a selection of APS6 employees.

The Department has demonstrated its ability to quickly develop and deploy innovative solutions in the normal course of business, sustain high levels of activity for extended periods through surge arrangements, and continue to deliver critical services while navigating the challenges of social distancing and other necessary operational restrictions. This included supporting our staff throughout the transition to working from home arrangements. For example, the Department launched two internal online sites to support staff transitioning to working from home. These sites provided staff with a range of curated online learning and training resources. The Department also expanded our network capacity to enable more staff to work remotely.

The Department continued to implement action plans to celebrate the diversity of the Department and the Australian community.

The Department launched the LGBTIQ+ Action Plan 2019–2022 which has had significant impacts on the way in which we record information in regard to sex and gender, as well as how we recognise and support our colleagues, individuals and families.

Through the Disability Action Plan 201620, the Department committed to a three year contract which established participation in the Dandelion Program. There has been a positive uptake of the program with the Department continuing to provide support and resources to enable participants to achieve positive outcomes.

As part of the ongoing implementation of the Department’s Reconciliation Action Plan 201922 four staff participated in the Jawun Secondment Program. Staff were placed into Indigenous communities providing an immersive learning experience focused on developing cultural competence and an understanding of Indigenous culture.

The Department continued to implement initiatives within the Gender Equality Action Plan 201720. This ongoing commitment saw 53.3 per cent of board positions in the Home Affairs Portfolio filled by women.

In March 2020, the Department finalised its Integrity Strategy 2025, which was released in August 2020. The Integrity Strategy 2025 focuses on providing our staff with proactive, targeted and tailored training to support the Department to dynamically respond to integrity risk across the organisation.

The Department welcomed 52 graduates in February 2020 through the Graduate Development Program, which aims to develop a professional and agile workforce to address the Department’s critical skill gaps and build workforce capability. Nine Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander apprentices were engaged under the Department of Human Services’ Indigenous Apprenticeship Program and graduated with a nationally recognised Certificate IV in Government.

Looking forward

Throughout 2019–20, the Department and the ABF demonstrated our ability to protect Australia from security threats in a complex and evolving environment, against the backdrop of the 2019–20 bushfires and the unprecedented impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our performance in supporting whole-of-government response and recovery efforts, and the continuous delivery of our core functions has demonstrated the Department’s ability to pivot its resources and remain agile in times of adversity.

We have remained vigilant and will continue to prepare for, and where possible mitigate against, emerging national security threats. The Department will continue to lead efforts in ensuring Australia’s national civil contingency arrangements have the capability to respond to more concurrent, interdependent and intensifying natural and man-made disasters.

The work of Emergency Management Australia and the National Coordination Mechanism (NCM) in response to COVID-19 and the 2019–20 bushfires has highlighted the importance and efficacy of central coordinating systems. The economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are in flux, with the pace of economic recovery aligned with state and regional ability to reduce the spread and health-related impacts of COVID-19.

The Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements is examining the role of the Commonwealth in responding to national emergencies. These findings will be implemented moving into 2020–21. We will continue to enhance our civil defence capabilities and embed the NCM and the Department’s surge personnel arrangements to ensure we are able to respond to future crises.

From 1 July 2020, the NCM has been embedded as a permanent function of the Department, with work currently being scoped on scaling the NCM to respond to other crisis situations in the future. By engaging early and regularly with stakeholders (particularly our state and territory colleagues), the NCM is building a diverse network of connections that we can draw on in a crisis or where an event or policy decision requires cross-jurisdictional consultation. This ensures a nationally consistent approach to issues relevant to the Home Affairs Portfolio. The NCM continues to coordinate the national non-health response to COVID-19.

Global interconnectedness and technological advancement is fundamental to our future wellbeing, however will also continue to be a source of new, complex and pervasive challenges and threats that will need to be actively managed by the Department. Since the establishment of the Portfolio in December 2017, with the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) joining in May 2018, we have continued to harness our collective strengths to achieve our enduring purposes. As we approach the third anniversary of the Portfolio, we have demonstrated our effectiveness in proactively managing an increasingly complex security environment while simultaneously responding to and reducing the impacts of hazards, including extreme weather events and the COVID-19 pandemic. The Portfolio will build on and celebrate our achievements, while continuing to enhance national resilience to protect Australia’s Prosperity, Security and Unity. The insights gained throughout 2019–20 will be embedded into our operating model and will position the Department to capitalise on future opportunities.