Victoria’s Brett Sutton Resigns As Chief Health Officer

Victoria’s Brett Sutton Resigns As Chief Health Officer
Victorian Chief Health Officer Professor Brett Sutton speaks to the media at the daily briefing in Melbourne, Australia on Aug. 16, 2020. (Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)

Victoria’s Chief Health Officer (CHO), Brett Sutton, has resigned from his post after four years leading the state’s COVID-19 pandemic response.

Sutton will take up the role of director of Health and Biosecurity at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO).

Labor Premier Daniel Andrews thanked Sutton for his service with the state's Health Department over the past 12 years.

Sutton was appointed CHO in 2019, where he became the face of the state’s pandemic response.

“For more than a decade, Professor Sutton has served our state and guided us through some of the most difficult times,” Andrews wrote on Twitter.

“As CHO, Brett helped keep us informed, and above all, safe.

“Thank you for your service, and all the very best for your next role.”

The Department of Health’s Secretary Euan Wallace described Sutton as an “invaluable leader” whose experience and leadership during the pandemic response would continue in his new role.

“Professor Sutton is an invaluable leader in the field of public health and will be continuing this great work in his new role at CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency, as Director of Health and Biosecurity,” Wallace said.

"He was appointed Chief Health Officer in 2019 and led Victoria’s health response throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, playing a key role in keeping the community safe and informed.

"This experience will no doubt be instrumental in his new role at CSIRO where he will remain engaged in health and wellbeing at a national and regional level.

"It also provides a great opportunity for us to strengthen the partnership between our two organisations."

CSIRO executive director, Kirsten Rose, said Sutton’s experience overseas and during the pandemic would provide a unique skillset in his role.

"The magnitude of the challenges Professor Sutton faced as Victoria's Chief Health Officer in guiding the public health response to COVID-19, together with his specialised knowledge in tropical medicine and infectious disease, gives him a unique and compelling skill set to continue to drive CSIRO's leadership in health and biosecurity research," she said.

In 2020, the 53-year-old told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) that he enjoyed his work as the CHO.

"I know that it's busy and I know that things like pandemics can challenge every fibre of your being in terms of being able to respond, but there's nothing I'd prefer to be doing to be honest,” he said

"I love the job. I absolutely adore it."

Sutton's Tough Tenure As CHO

As the face alongside Premier Daniel Andrews during the pandemic response, Sutton faced public backlash throughout the pandemic as the state endured six lockdowns numbering 262 days.

For example, Sutton maintained that he was unaware private security guards were used in the mishandling of the state's hotel quarantine system.

He also acknowledged failures within Victoria's contact tracing system during a state parliamentary inquiry.

In March 2021, Sutton conceded that his decisions as the state’s CHO weighed on him.

“You get torn apart over this stuff, I continue to,” he told Susan Biggar on the Taking Care podcast.

“There is no path of least resistance. There are decisions to be made that will affect thousands upon thousands of people and cause harm.

“You were just trying to find the least worst pathway possible.”

Sutton will begin his new role with the CSIRO in September 2023.

Henry Jom is an Australian-based reporter who focuses on Australian and health-related news. He has a bachelor's in health science, specialising in rehabilitation, and is currently completing a postgraduate degree in law. Henry can be contacted at