The dual role of Surgeon General of the Australian Defence Force (SGADF) and Commander Joint Health (CJHLTH) was formally handed over to Rear Admiral Sarah Sharkey from Air Vice-Marshal Tracy Smart on December 4.

Following her promotion to Rear Admiral on November 29, a 25-year career as a Medical Officer in the Royal Australian Navy, and assuming the role of Deputy CJHLTH since 2017, Rear Admiral Sharkey will take Joint Health Command (JHC) forward on the command’s journey, continuing the outstanding work of her predecessor.

On handing over command after four years in the role, Air Vice-Marshal Smart said she was pleased to see her deputy promoted and ready to step into her shoes.

“With a lot of exciting things on the horizon for JHC and for Defence broadly, in the healthcare space, it is a great time for a new JHC leadership team with Rear Admiral Sharkey at the helm, to come on board,” Air Vice-Marshal Smart Smart said.

As SGADF and CJHLTH, Rear Admiral Sharkey will have oversight of 58 Defence health centres domestically, and one overseas in Malaysia (RMAF Butterworth), that provide for the health and wellbeing needs of serving personnel.

At the handover of command parade, Rear Admiral Sharkey said she was privileged to be given the opportunity to serve as SGADF and CJHLTH, in particular given the great shape JHC had been left in under the leadership of Air Vice-Marshal Smart.

“Having shadowed AVM Smart over the past weeks in various forums and meetings, both internal and external to Defence, the one constant that has been obvious is the high esteem with which JHC, its people and its outputs are held,” Rear Admiral Sharkey said.  

"Defence health services directly impact every uniformed member of the ADF and directly contribute to ADF capability."

“This is a testament to how far we have come, the leadership of AVM Smart and the work of all of you."

While Air Vice-Marshal Smart’s specialisation was in aviation medicine, Rear Admiral Sharkey will bring with her a clinical background mainly of submarine and diving medicine.

In her time as Deputy CJHLTH, Director-General Garrison Health Operations and Director-General Health Business and Plans, Rear Admiral Sharkey was also the Head of the Navy Health Community.

Rear Admiral Sharkey most recently led the Next Generation Health Services project, with a Defence-BUPA contract being signed on January 14, 2019.

Rear Admiral Sharkey noted in her inaugural speech as CJHLTH that it was an exciting time to be in Defence, with huge investments in capability and many reform programs and projects on the cusp of being delivered, including in Defence health.

“The importance of this role is not lost on me. And nor are the inherent and inevitable challenges we will face. Defence health services directly impact every uniformed member of the ADF and directly contribute to ADF capability,” Rear Admiral Sharkey said.

“We have a unique and critical contribution to make.

“Fundamental to this are all of you, the people of Joint Health Command. Our people are our most valuable resource. I look forward to serving with you, and for you, as we work together and in collaboration with our single service colleagues, other groups and other government agencies and departments to deliver the best, agile, capable and defence health services and capabilities possible.”