Attorney-General's Department (Australia)

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Attorney-General's Department
Attorney-General's Department logo (Australia).png
Attorney-General's Department.jpg
Robert Garran Offices, head office of the Attorney-General's Department, located in Barton, Australian Capital Territory (ACT).
Department overview
Formed 1901[1]
Jurisdiction Commonwealth of Australia
Employees 1,461 (estimate for 2013–14)[2]
Annual budget A$800 million (2011–12)
Minister responsible George Brandis QC,
Attorney-General of Australia
Department executive Chris Moraitis PSM, Secretary (2014–)
Child agencies Australian Government Solicitor
Australian Federal Police
Australian Security Intelligence Organisation
Administrative Appeals Tribunal
Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity
Australian Crime Commission
Australian Human Rights Commission
Australian Institute of Criminology
Australian Law Reform Commission
Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre
Family Court of Australia
Federal Court of Australia
Federal Magistrates Court of Australia
National Library of Australia
National Native Title Tribunal
Office of the Australian Information Commissioner
Office of Parliamentary Counsel
Office of the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions
Insolvency and Trustee Service Australia

The Australian Attorney-General's Department is a department of the Government of Australia charged with the responsibility to serve the people of Australia by providing essential expert support to the Government in the maintenance and improvement of Australia's system of law and justice. It is also the central policy and co-coordinating element of the department and its associated agencies.

The head of the department is the Secretary of the Attorney-General's Department, who reports to the Attorney-General of Australia, currently Senator George Brandis QC.


The Attorney-General's Department is one of seven original Commonwealth Departments of state, commencing with the Commonwealth of Australia on 1 January 1901. It is one of only three departments, along with Defence and Treasury, to have operated continuously under their original name and charter since Federation.[3]


The department is organised into three groups, each headed by a Deputy Secretary. These Deputy Secretaries report to the Secretary who co-ordinates and devises departmental structure and policy.

These three groups are:

  • Civil Justice and Legal Services
  • National Security and Criminal Justice
  • Strategic Policy and Coordination

The Attorney-General's Department is located at the Robert Garran Offices, 3-5 National Circuit, Barton in the Australian Capital Territory.[4]

Departmental Secretary[edit]

On the recommendation of the Prime Minister, the Governor-General has appointed the following individuals as Secretary of the department:

Order Official Official title Date appointment
Date appointment
Term in office Ref(s)
1 Sir Robert Garran Secretary of the
Attorney‑General's Department
1 January 1901 (1901-01-01) 9 February 1932 (1932-02-09) 31 years, 39 days [5]
2 Sir George Knowles 10 February 1932 (1932-02-10) 8 May 1946 (1946-05-08) 14 years, 87 days [6]
3 Sir Kenneth Bailey 9 May 1946 (1946-05-09) 2 February 1964 (1964-02-02) 17 years, 269 days [7]
4 Ted Hook 3 February 1964 (1964-02-03) 2 February 1970 (1970-02-02) 5 years, 364 days [7][8]
5 Sir Clarrie Harders OBE 1970 July 1979 9 years [9][10]
6 Alan Neaves July 1979 March 1983 4 years [11]
7 Pat Brazil AO 16 March 1983 (1983-03-16) 1989 6 years [12]
8 Alan Rose AO 1989 23 May 1994 (1994-05-23) 5 years [13]
9 Stephen Skehill 23 May 1994 (1994-05-23) 1998 4 years [14]
10 Tony Blunn AO 1998 17 December 1999 (1999-12-17) 2 years [15]
11 Robert Cornall AO 24 January 2000 (2000-01-24) 31 August 2008 (2008-08-31) 8 years, 220 days [15][16]
12 Roger Wilkins AO 1 September 2008 (2008-09-01) 31 August 2014 (2014-08-31) 5 years, 364 days [17][16][18]
13 Chris Moraitis PSM 15 September 2014 (2014-09-15) incumbent 261 days [19][20]

Mission and outcomes[edit]

The Office of Legislative Drafting and Publishing in Deakin, ACT. The Office is a division of the Attorney-General's Department.

The mission of the department is "achieving a just and secure society". In pursuing this mission, the department works towards achieving *A just and secure society through the maintenance and improvement of Australia’s law and justice framework and its national security and emergency management system".[citation needed]

Operational functions[edit]

The Administrative Arrangements Order made on 18 September, following the 2013 federal election, details the following responsibilities to the department:[21]

  • Law and justice including -
  • Legal services to the Commonwealth
  • Criminal law and law enforcement
  • National security, protective security policy and co-ordination
  • Protective services at Commonwealth establishments and diplomatic and consular premises in Australia
  • Commonwealth emergency management
  • Natural disaster relief, recovery and mitigation policy and financial assistance including payments to the States and Territories and the Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment
  • Administrative support for Royal Commissions and certain other inquiries
  • Critical infrastructure protection co-ordination
  • Privacy
  • Freedom of Information
  • Cultural affairs, including movable cultural heritage and support for the arts
  • Management of government records

The department does not provide legal advice to members of the public. While legislative drafting is listed in the Administrative Arrangements Order, the function was taken over by the Office of Parliamentary Counsel in July 2012.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ CA 5: Attorney-General's Department, Central Office, National Archives of Australia, retrieved 25 October 2013 
  2. ^ Australian Government. "Budget Paper No. 1". 2013-14 Commonwealth Budget. Statement 6: Expenses and Net Capital Investment: Australian Government. Archived from the original on 24 September 2013. 
  3. ^ Cornall, Robert (2 November 2007), Redefining the role of Government lawyers in today's Public Service – ACLA National Conference 2007, archived from the original on 8 June 2011 
  4. ^ "Contact us". Attorney-General's Department. Retrieved 25 October 2013. 
  5. ^ Key People, National Archives of Australia, archived from the original on 11 February 2014 
  6. ^ Whitlam, E.G. (1983), Knowles, Sir George Shaw (1882–1947), archived from the original on 28 February 2014 
  7. ^ a b Jennings, Rosemary (2007), Hook, Edwin John (Ted) (1910–1990), archived from the original on 28 February 2014 
  8. ^ "Obituary: Edwin Hook: Sound lawyer, good officer, reliable friend". The Canberra Times. 5 April 1990. p. 7. Archived from the original on 28 February 2014. 
  9. ^ Whitlam, Edward Gough; Hughes, Tom (10 March 1997). "An Adviser Who Gave His All". The Sydney Morning Herald. Archived from the original on 18 April 2013. 
  10. ^ Fraser, Malcolm (3 July 1979). "Retirement of Sir Clarrie Harders" (Press release). Archived from the original on 28 February 2014. 
  11. ^ Title: Senator the Honourable Gareth Evans, Attorney General with Alan Neaves, Secretary of the Attorney General's Department and another, National Archives of Australia 
  12. ^ Hawke, Robert (16 March 1983). "Appointment of permanent heads" (Press release). Archived from the original on 28 February 2014. 
  13. ^ Mr Alan Rose AO, Australian Government Defence Honours and Awards Appeals Tribunal, archived from the original on 4 February 2014 
  14. ^ Keating, Paul (11 May 1994). "Statement by the Prime Minister" (Press release). Archived from the original on 28 February 2014. 
  15. ^ a b New Secretary Appointed To Attorney-General’s Department, Australian Politics, 8 December 1999, archived from the original on 30 April 2013 
  16. ^ a b "Management and Accountability", Annual Report 2008–09 (Attorney-General's Department), archived from the original on 12 February 2014 
  17. ^ "New Secretary for Attorney-General’s Department" (PDF), The Australian Journal of Emergency Management 24 (1), February 2009, archived from the original (PDF) on 12 February 2014 
  18. ^ Thomson, Phillip (1 September 2014). "Retired public servant Roger Wilkins urges colleagues to loosen up". The Sydney Morning Herald (Fairfax Media). Archived from the original on 3 September 2014. 
  19. ^ Abbott, Tony (3 September 2014). "Appointment of Departmental Secretaries" (Press release). Archived from the original on 3 September 2014. 
  20. ^ Mannheim, Markus (3 September 2014). "Chris Moraitis joins the top table in Abbott's latest reshuffle of department heads". The Canberra Times (Fairfax Media). Archived from the original on 3 September 2014. 
  21. ^ "Administrative Arrangements Order" (PDF). Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. Commonwealth of Australia. 18 September 2013. Retrieved 27 October 2013.