Attorney-General's Department (Australia)

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Attorney-General's Department
Coat of Arms of Australia.svg
Attorney-General's Department.jpg
Robert Garran Offices, head office of the Attorney-General's Department, Barton, Australian Capital Territory.
Department overview
Formed1 January 1901[1]
JurisdictionCommonwealth of Australia
Employees1,461 (estimate for 2013–14)[2]
Annual budgetA$800 million (2011–12)
Minister responsible
Department executive
Child Department
Agency IDNAA CA 5

The Attorney-General's Department is a department of the federal government of Australia responsible for law and justice, and since 29 May 2019, industrial relations.[3]

The head of the department is the Secretary of the Attorney-General's Department, currently Chris Moraitis PSM, who reports to the Attorney-General for Australia, currently Senator Michaelia Cash.


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.[4]


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

These five groups are:

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

Departmental Secretary[edit]

The permanent secretary of the Attorney-General's Department is the non-political public service head of the department. This role dates from federation, and the first incumbent, Sir Robert Garran, was the first (and for a time the only) public servant employed by the federal government. In that role, he was responsible for overseeing the first federal election and setting up the rest of the federal bureaucracy by transferring state government functions to the federal government.

From 1916, when the position of Solicitor-General of Australia was created as the second law officer and deputy of the Attorney-General, the permanent secretary served concurrently as Solicitor-General, until the two roles were separated in 1964. Under the Law Officers Act passed that year, the Solicitor-General's role was clarified as statutory counsel deputising for the Attorney-General, separate from the role of the permanent secretary.

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 [6]
2 Sir George Knowles 10 February 1932 (1932-02-10) 8 May 1946 (1946-05-08) 14 years, 87 days [7]
3 Sir Kenneth Bailey 9 May 1946 (1946-05-09) 2 February 1964 (1964-02-02) 17 years, 269 days [8]
4 Ted Hook 3 February 1964 (1964-02-03) 2 February 1970 (1970-02-02) 5 years, 364 days [8][9]
5 Sir Clarrie Harders OBE 1970 July 1979 9 years [10][11]
6 Alan Neaves July 1979 March 1983 4 years [12]
7 Pat Brazil AO 16 March 1983 (1983-03-16) 1989 6 years [13]
8 Alan Rose AO 1989 23 May 1994 (1994-05-23) 5 years [14]
9 Stephen Skehill 23 May 1994 (1994-05-23) 1998 4 years [15]
10 Tony Blunn AO 1998 17 December 1999 (1999-12-17) 2 years [16]
11 Robert Cornall AO 24 January 2000 (2000-01-24) 31 August 2008 (2008-08-31) 8 years, 220 days [16][17]
12 Roger Wilkins AO 1 September 2008 (2008-09-01) 31 August 2014 (2014-08-31) 5 years, 364 days [17][18][19]
13 Chris Moraitis PSM 15 September 2014 (2014-09-15) incumbent 6 years, 228 days [20][21]

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 19 April 2018 details the following responsibilities to the Department:[22]

  • Law and justice, including -
  • Legal services to the Commonwealth
  • Administration of criminal justice, including -
    • Criminal law policy and principles of criminal responsibility
    • Matters relating to prosecution
    • Sentencing and management of federal offenders
    • Internal crime cooperation, including extradition and mutual assistance in criminal matters
  • Protective security policy
  • Administrative support for Royal Commissions and certain other inquiries
  • Privacy
  • Freedom of Information
  • Management of government records
  • Native title
  • Fraud and anti-corruption policy
  • Whole of government integrity policy and activities
  • Work health and safety, rehabilitation and compensation
  • Workplace relations policy development, advocacy and implementation
  • Promotion of flexible workplace relations policies and practices, including workplace productivity

See also[edit]


  1. ^ CA 5: Attorney-General's Department, Central Office, National Archives of Australia, retrieved 9 February 2021
  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.CS1 maint: location (link)
  3. ^ "Administrative Order Arrangements" (PDF). Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. Commonwealth of Australia. 29 May 2019. Retrieved 2 June 2019.
  4. ^ 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. The Attorney-General’s Department was one of the seven original Commonwealth departments of State. It is one of only three departments, along with Defence and The Treasury, which have operated for over one hundred years under their original name and broad charter.
  5. ^ "Contact us". Attorney-General's Department. Retrieved 25 October 2013.
  6. ^ Key People, National Archives of Australia, archived from the original on 11 February 2014
  7. ^ Whitlam, E.G. (1983), Knowles, Sir George Shaw (1882–1947), archived from the original on 28 February 2014
  8. ^ a b Jennings, Rosemary (2007), Hook, Edwin John (Ted) (1910–1990), archived from the original on 28 February 2014
  9. ^ "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.
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ Fraser, Malcolm (3 July 1979). "Retirement of Sir Clarrie Harders" (Press release). Archived from the original on 28 February 2014.
  12. ^ Title: Senator the Honourable Gareth Evans, Attorney General with Alan Neaves, Secretary of the Attorney General's Department and another, National Archives of Australia
  13. ^ Hawke, Robert (16 March 1983). "Appointment of permanent heads" (Press release). Archived from the original on 28 February 2014.
  14. ^ Mr Alan Rose AO, Australian Government Defence Honours and Awards Appeals Tribunal, archived from the original on 4 February 2014
  15. ^ Keating, Paul (11 May 1994). "Statement by the Prime Minister" (Press release). Archived from the original on 28 February 2014.
  16. ^ a b New Secretary Appointed To Attorney-General’s Department, Australian Politics, 8 December 1999, archived from the original on 30 April 2013
  17. ^ a b "Management and Accountability", Annual Report 2008–09, Attorney-General's Department, archived from the original on 12 February 2014
  18. ^ "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
  19. ^ 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.
  20. ^ Abbott, Tony (3 September 2014). "Appointment of Departmental Secretaries" (Press release). Archived from the original on 3 September 2014.
  21. ^ 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.
  22. ^ "Administrative Arrangements Order". Federal Register of Registration. Commonwealth of Australia. 19 April 2018. Retrieved 20 August 2018.