Victoria honours outgoing CHO with top gong

Outgoing chief health officer Brett Sutton has been named 2023 Victorian of the Year for leading the state through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Former premier John Brumby presented the award to Professor Sutton at a Victoria Day celebration at Melbourne’s Town Hall on Friday, which he said was a profound honour.

“The work that I did was an absolute privilege in having to steward the state and the people of Victoria through very, very choppy waters, through the crisis of a lifetime,” Professor Sutton said during his acceptance speech.

“But it was not an achievement of mine, it was an achievement of the people of Victoria.”

Mr Brumby said Professor Sutton’s ability to lead Victoria during the health crisis deserved recognition.

“Can I again congratulate Brett Sutton who, when you look back on that period, was I think unquestionably the right person to perform one of the most difficult jobs at one of the most difficult times in our history,” Mr Brumby said.

Professor Sutton resigned earlier in June after four years in the state’s top health job. He will take up a new position as director of health and biosecurity at the CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency.

The honour was awarded by the Victoria Day Council, which is separate to the Australia Day Council awards.

Professor Sutton first joined the Department of Health in 2011 and was appointed chief health officer in 2019. He became a familiar face during the pandemic as he appeared alongside premier Daniel Andrews at media conferences.

He admitted almost being crushed by the pressure of overseeing the state’s COVID response and on reflection would have done some things differently.

At times, he was marred by controversy, particularly after Melbourne had one of the world’s longest lockdowns, which he maintains was necessary.

Professor Sutton developed parts of the framework supporting the state’s disastrous hotel quarantine program and had raised concerns about the use of private guards.

He previously acknowledged failures within Victoria’s contact tracing system during an appearance before a state parliamentary inquiry into the matter.

Victorian minister Gayle Tierney did not consider Professor Sutton a controversial selection for the award.

“He was an absolute stalwart right through the COVID lockdowns,” Ms Tierney said.

“He put in so much time, effort and energy in making sure that we had the right settings, and I absolutely applaud his work.

“Every Victorian owes Brett Sutton an enormous amount given how he gave, essentially, his life to the cause over Victoria’s most difficult period of time.”

Other award recipients include Madeleine Buchner, who was named Young Victorian of the Year for her contribution to youth work.

The Victorian Women’s Trust was also recognised for its service, while Castlemaine Art Museum was honoured with the Victoria Day Award for the Arts.


Stay informed, daily
A FREE subscription to The New Daily arrives every morning and evening.
The New Daily is a trusted source of national news and information and is provided free for all Australians. Read our editorial charter
Copyright © 2024 The New Daily.
All rights reserved.