26 September 2023

Public Servants honoured on King’s Birthday

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Members of Australian Public Services in all States and Territories of the nation have been recognised for their commitment and abilities on King Charles’ Birthday Honours List for 2023.

The King’s recognition for members of the Queensland Public Service were presented in accordance with the Order of Australia and announced on His Majesty’s behalf by his Excellency the Governor-General, General David Hurley.

“Learning about the wide-ranging service of recipients, which spans almost every field of endeavour imaginable, is uplifting and makes me enormously optimistic for our country,” the Governor-General said.

“Collectively they speak to who we are now and who we can be in the future,” he said.

“Notably, for the first time since the Order of Australia was established in 1975, the majority of recipients in the General Division are women. Similarly, there is gender parity or better at the three highest levels in the Order.”

Current and past members of the QPS honoured on the occasion, including the recipients of the Public Service Medal this year, were:


Cheryl Anne VARDON AO

Queensland Family and Child Commission

For distinguished service to public administration, particularly education and health, and for the protection of children and young people.

Ms Vardon was Chief Executive Officer and Principal Commissioner of the Queensland Family and Child Commission from 2015 to 2021.


Bernadette Louise DITCHFIELD PSM

Department of Agriculture and Fisheries

For outstanding public service during the COVID-19 pandemic for the protection and development of agribusiness in Queensland.

Mrs Ditchfield has an extensive background in policy development and service delivery, coupled with a strong industry development focus.

She has more than 20 years’ experience in the private and public sectors and has held senior roles in the former Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy, Queensland Treasury and the Department of the Premier and Cabinet.

As Deputy Director-General Agriculture, Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Mrs Ditchfield is responsible for enabling the growth of the agriculture industry, by leading the development of policies, research and initiatives that enhance the productivity, profitability and sustainability of Queensland’s agribusinesses.

In response to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, Mrs Ditchfield convened the Agriculture Coordination Group (ACG) to enable focused collaboration between government and industry for the quick escalation and resolution of issues. The ACG met weekly and was integral in identifying and developing practical solutions to COVID-19 impacts and risks on agribusinesses, thus ensuring critical business continuity.

She led the implementation of a suite of state-wide programs to address the resulting agricultural workforce shortages in Queensland. These included the Pacific Labour Scheme and Seasonal Worker Program, the Back to Work in Agriculture Incentive Scheme and #PickQld campaign.

This campaign is a workforce attraction campaign to attract and assist Queenslanders not in agriculture to mobilise to available seasonal jobs across Queensland, and the Queensland Agriculture Workforce Network. Through a regional network of industry-based agriculture workforce officers, the campaign attracted more seasonal workers onto farms and delivered local solutions to workforce issues.

Mrs Ditchfield also delivered on Queensland’s COVID-19 Economic Recovery Strategy and Plan to lead economic recovery initiatives that supported the agriculture sector to continue to prosper following the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jodie Anne ELDER PSM

Department of Children, Youth Justice and Multicultural Affairs

For outstanding public service to youth justice in Queensland.

Ms Elder is a proud descendant of the Quandamooka traditional owners of north Stradbroke.

She has been a youth justice advocate for over 20 years, having started her career as an Information Referral Officer within the Department of Families, Young Offenders Program in Ipswich.

When Queensland rolled out the first five Youth Justice Service Centres, Jodie obtained a position at Logan Youth Justice Service Centre. Here she gained skills developing program responses for young people who were in contact with the youth justice system, working across various areas within youth justice and seeing the breadth of services delivered to young people.

This influenced her decision to move from the frontline to a more central role, through the Youth Justice Cultural Unit, providing integral advice on the development of youth justice policies, procedures and practice resources.

This work also included working on the Closing the Gap Strategy, focusing on improving life outcomes and reducing the overrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in the youth justice system.

Ms Elder’s career highlights include her work on the family-led Decision-Making Initiative and the development and implementation of Youth Co-responder Teams Program – each the first of their kind in Queensland.

Her work in leading the co-responder initiative has opened a productive partnership between the Queensland Police Service and the Department of Children, Youth Justice and Multicultural Affairs, whereby youth justice staff and police work together to provide culturally appropriate prevention and diversion responses for young people at risk or those requiring additional support to comply with statutory orders.

Through her work, Ms Elder demonstrates her commitment and passion to the community, young people and to addressing the disproportionate representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait young people within youth justice. She has continuously shown excellence, whether in frontline, management or leadership positions.

Matthew Bryan HIGGINS PSM

Formerly Department of Resources

For outstanding public service to Queensland with international impact in the fields of surveying, geodesy and spatial sciences.

Mr Higgins is recognised internationally for his expertise in Positioning, Navigation and Timing (PNT). He is the current president of the International Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) Association and a member of the US Government National Space-Based PNT Advisory Board.

Mr Higgins commenced his career in surveying in 1978 as a cadet surveyor. On retirement in 2022, Matt completed his 44-year career with the Department of Resources as Principal Survey Advisor of Geodesy and Positioning, recognised both nationally and internationally for his expertise in GNSS and the implementation of these technologies.

During his distinguished career with the Queensland government, Mr Higgins worked across many roles in surveying, geodesy and the broader spatial sciences.

His vision and innovation saw Queensland at the forefront in leveraging GNSS technology that not only improved the accuracy of the Queensland spatial reference systems but also transformed farming, mining and construction through the adoption of real time machine guidance and positioning.

He represented Queensland on the Intergovernmental Committee on Surveying and Mapping Geodesy Working Group for more than 20 years and was instrumental in the development of the national standards for Australian geodetic datum definition and survey control networks.

Mr Higgins was an early advocate for creating greater benefit from positioning infrastructure by seeking cooperation between government and industry investment. This is now a primary tenet of the federal Positioning Australia Program.

His contributions to policy development, technical innovation and outreach around geodesy and positioning has directly led to earlier adoption, improved and more efficient use, and broader industry engagement regarding GNSS in Queensland. The result of which is reduced cost and more accurate spatial information to the Queensland community.

Malcolm Alexander LETTS PSM

Department of Agriculture, Fisheries & Forestry

For outstanding public service to state and national biosecurity.

Since 2017, Mr Letts, Deputy Director-General and Chief Biosecurity Officer, has led the policy and operations of Biosecurity Queensland.

The agency is responsible for the Queensland Government’s efforts in preventing, responding to and recovering from biosecurity threats across the state. Mr Letts has achieved significant outcomes for industry and business by consistently improving the relevance and quality of biosecurity strategy, policy and process within Queensland.

Mr Letts’ dedication to driving change and improvement across the national biosecurity system demonstrates his commitment to leadership over and above his current role.

He has displayed exceptional leadership across the national biosecurity system as a driving force of positive change across all levels of government, industry and wider stakeholders.

Mr Letts’ collaborative leadership approach has facilitated a transformational shift in cross-border and national coordination and collaborations with a key focus on co-designed strategies and initiatives.

His work around a system-wide approach to biosecurity has seen him advocating for, and achieving, coordinated strategies, improved governance arrangements and delivery of collaborative projects that have changed the face of biosecurity in Australia. Central to his focus has always been the principle of a shared responsibility to protect Australia’s biosecurity status.

Mr Letts has championed the development of the first ever National Biosecurity Strategy and the national Decade of Biosecurity initiative.

His advocacy has led to national coordination on significant emergency animal disease projects, coordination and prioritisation of national research and development efforts, communication, training and improved approaches to traceability.

Professor Elizabeth Shirley McCREADY (WHITING) PSM

Queensland Health

For outstanding public service to healthcare in Queensland, particularly for aged care.

Professor Elizabeth Whiting is one of the most senior female doctors at Queensland Health’s Metro North Hospital and Health Services and started her medical career as a Geriatric Advanced trainee at The Prince Charles Hospital in 1994.

In 2007, Professor Whiting led the new and innovative models of care; developed, researched and documented all the project plans and policies; and led the trials, before the opening of The Prince Charles Hospital’s first general medicine patients were admitted.

She pioneered the concept and design of the first interdisciplinary clinical council of The Prince Charles Hospital.

The clinical council collaboratively worked as an interspeciality team to identify ways to provide a service of excellence to the staff and consumers of the facility. The clinical council was seen as a prestigious committee that worked and succeeded in their design of patient pathways and facilitated the framework for the development of clinical councils across the Metro North Health Service.

One of Professor Whiting’s most significant career legacies to date is the extensive and pioneering work, advocacy, and dedication she committed to what became Metro North’s Year of the Frail Older Person (2017) which subsequently became the Frail Older Person Collaborative.

Professor Whiting’s leadership in driving interdisciplinary care and passion for the frail older person has provided the platform for what will hopefully see Metro North as the centre of excellence in providing care to the growing population of ageing persons in Queensland.

Professor Whiting continues to foster growth and lead specialist physicians with her long-standing commitment to the Clinical Examination Committee of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians. As the Executive Director of Clinical Services in Metro North Hospital and Health Service, Professor Whiting achieves all these governing and operational successes, whilst maintaining her clinical credibility in working as a geriatrician in a patient facing on-call roster.

Michael James SHEARER PSM

Department of Children Youth Justice and Multicultural Affairs

For outstanding public service to youth, community and families in regional Queensland.

Mr Shearer has 35 years’ experience in the human services sector having worked within several Queensland Government departments throughout the state.

He has delivered, managed and led child protection, youth justice, social housing, disability, community recovery and community services initiatives during his long career.

He is currently the Regional Executive Director of Brisbane and Moreton Bay region with the Department of Children Youth Justice and Multicultural Affairs.

He was formerly Regional Executive Director in Central Queensland within the Department of Child Safety, Youth and Women. He was first appointed to the role of Regional Executive Director in 2005.

Mr Shearer has played a leading role in the establishment of place based cross-government sector initiatives such as Every Child CQ, the Regional Managers Coordination Network (RMCN), the Senior Officers Network (SON), Schools to Job Alliance, live WELLCQ in Central Queensland and the One Gov initiative which have focused on improved outcomes to communities and vulnerable children and families through active partnership and true collaboration.

He is highly skilled in building relationships with stakeholders, analysing needs and developing practical responses with shared ownership for outcomes. Mr Shearer’s experience and expertise of service systems, and the needs of children and family saw him called on to undertake reviews such as the review of the Townsville Stronger Communities Early Action Group which took place in 2021.

He has provided exemplary leadership and executive influence on significant agency and sector reforms, across a number of significant service delivery initiatives, including the instrumental part he played in developing the department’s cultural capability framework. Mr Shearer has been deeply committed to help change the lives of young people and families in the youth justice system, help protect and keep children safe and provide assistance to parents and families to make communities safer.

Mr Shearer is passionate about providing the best level of service to vulnerable families, children and young people and through his leadership he has helped deliver on key changes in the youth justice and child safety systems over a number of years.

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