Stephen Duckett

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Stephen Duckett

Secretary of the Department of Human Services and Health
In office
1 July 1994 – 11 March 1996
Preceded byTony Cole
Succeeded byAndrew Podger
Personal details
Stephen John Duckett

(1950-02-18) 18 February 1950 (age 69)
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Spouse(s)Terri Jackson[1]
Alma mater
OccupationPublic servant, health service manager, academic, economist

Stephen John Duckett FASSA (born 18 February 1950) is a health economist and think-tanker who has occupied many leadership roles in health services in both Australia and Canada, including as Secretary of the Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing. He is current health program director at the Grattan Institute, an Australian public policy think tank and Emeritus Professor of Health Policy at La Trobe University.[2]

Educational background[edit]

Stephen Duckett was born in Sydney and educated at Woollahra Public School (Opportunity classes) and Fort Street High School. He subsequently studied economics at the Australian National University (BEc) and health administration at the University of New South Wales (MHA, PhD). His academic contributions have been recognized by the University of New South Wales by the award of a higher doctorate, Doctor of Science, (DSc), and by election as a Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia (FASSA) in 2004[3] and of the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences (FAHMS) in 2015.[4]

Career 1970s to 2009[edit]

Duckett worked as an academic (Lecturer/Senior Lecturer) in the School of Health Administration at the University of New South Wales from 1974 to 1983. He was an active public commentator supporting Australia's Medicare scheme, and worked with a number of non-government organizations such as the Australian Council of Social Service and the New South Wales Council on the Ageing. His research also examined aspects of hospital administration[5]

He worked in the Victorian health system for a number of years from 1983 including as Regional Director and subsequently Director of Acute Health for the Victorian Department of Health and Community Services, in the latter role he was responsible for introducing case mix funding to Australia. This was the first major application of this approach to hospital funding in a publicly funded health system[6]

Duckett was appointed Departmental Secretary to the Australian Government Department of Human Services and Health on the recommendation of Prime Minister Paul Keating in 1994 and served in that role until the change of government following the 1996 federal election.[7][8]

From 1996 to 2005 he worked at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia as Professor of Health Policy, Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences and, for part of that period, Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Learning and Teaching. During this period he continued research on aspects of hospital economics and published a book on the Australian health care system.

Duckett served as chair of the Board of Directors of the Brotherhood of St Laurence (2000–2005) and of Bayside Health (2000–2006).

He was recruited to Queensland Health in 2006 in the wake of the Dr Death scandal,[9] to lead improvements in quality and safety as Chief Executive Officer of the Centre for Healthcare Improvement.

Alberta Health Services (2009–2010)[edit]

Duckett was hired by the provincial government of Alberta in the spring of 2009 as President and Chief Executive Officer of its newly created health "superboard", Alberta Health Services with a significant reform agenda. (Alberta Health Services is a quasi-independent agency of the Alberta government created in May 2008 to operate hospitals and other public health services throughout the province of Alberta). Duckett moved to Edmonton Alberta and took up his duties on 23 March of that year.

Shortly after his appointment, the provincial government imposed a significant ($1billion) budget cut on Alberta Health Services. Implementation of these cuts by Alberta Health Services was unpopular and controversial.

Cookie controversy[edit]

On 20 November 2010, Duckett came under scrutiny for televised remarks to the media following a high-level meeting about the situation in the province’s emergency rooms. During the aired segment, Duckett refused to answer questions by reporters waiting outside the meeting room, using the excuse he was eating his cookie[10] and that another person had been designated to make comments. He later issued an apology noting that he had not felt comfortable as a non-elected official being asked to respond to the comments of other, elected, officials.[11] He has subsequently stated that he had been instructed by the office of Alberta Premier Stelmach not to make any comments.[12] On 24 November 2010, following political intervention,[13] the chairman of the Alberta Health Services Board announced that, by mutual agreement, Duckett would vacate his role. Both parties felt that his ability to continue in his duties had been "compromised".[14] Three members of the Board of Directors of Alberta Health services also resigned. On 29 July 2011, based on the terms of his contract, Duckett was paid one year's salary as severance pay.[15]

Career 2011–2018[edit]

After leaving Alberta Health Services, Duckett worked as a professor in the School of Public Health at the University of Alberta, and published a book about the future of the health care system in Canada.[16] He returned to Australia in 2012 and helped to design Australia's new activity based funding arrangements. In late 2012 he joined Grattan Institute, a domestic public policy think tank based in Melbourne, as head of its Health program. He has since published reports identifying improvements to be made in pricing for Australia's Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme[17] and ways to improve paying for hospital care.[18] He has also published on improving access to primary care in rural and remote Australia.[19]


  • Duckett S, Warburton J (2014). Foreword
  • Duckett S, Peetoom A (2013). Canadian medicare: We need it and we can keep it
  • Duckett S (2004). The Australian health care system
  • Kendig H, Duckett S (2001). Australian directions in aged care: the generation of policies for generations of older people
  • Duckett S (2000). The Australian Health Care System


  1. ^ "Wife defends Duckett, blasts Tories". CBC/Radio-Canada. Archived from the original on 22 November 2015.
  2. ^ "Stephen Duckett". HuffPost Australia. Retrieved 23 July 2019.
  3. ^ "Fellows Detail » ASSA". Retrieved 26 June 2018.
  4. ^ "Fellowship | AAHMS – Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences". Retrieved 26 June 2018.
  5. ^ Duckett, S. J. et al. The organisation of medical staff in Australian hospitals. Churchill Livingstone, 1981
  6. ^ Duckett, Stephen (1995), "Hospital payment arrangements to encourage efficiency: the case of Victoria, Australia", Health Policy, 34 (2): 113–134, doi:10.1016/0168-8510(95)94014-y
  7. ^ CA 7853: Department of Human Services and Health, Central Office, National Archives of Australia, retrieved 18 January 2014
  8. ^ Keating, Paul (7 October 1994). "STATEMENT BY THE PRIME MINISTER, THE HON P J KEATING, MP APPOINTMENT OF SECRETARY, DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES AND HEALTH" (Press release). Archived from the original on 18 January 2014.
  9. ^ "Health economist questions federal hospital funding". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 14 November 2006. Archived from the original on 5 January 2010.
  10. ^ "Stephen Duckett's "Cookie Exchange" with Edmonton media". CTV News. 19 November 2010. Retrieved 19 November 2010.
  11. ^ blog entry Archived 23 November 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 5 March 2011. Retrieved 4 March 2011.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  13. ^ see page 175 of Health Quality Council of Alberta. "Review of the Quality of Care and Safety of Patients Requiring Access to Emergency Department Care and Cancer Surgery and the Role and Process of Physician Advocacy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 19 December 2012.
  14. ^ "Alberta health board replaces controversial CEO". CBC News. 24 November 2010. Retrieved 27 November 2010.
  15. ^ Alberta Health Services. "Settlement agreement with Dr Stephen Duckett concluded" (PDF). Retrieved 29 July 2011.
  16. ^ Duckett, Stephen Where to from here? Keeping Medicare Sustainable. McGill Queen's University Press, 2012
  17. ^ Duckett, S., Breadon, P., Ginnivan, L. and Venkataraman, P. (2013) Australia's bad drug deal: High pharmaceutical prices, Grattan Institute
  18. ^ Duckett, S., Breadon, P., Weidmann, B. and Nicola, I. (2014) Controlling costly care: a billion-dollar hospital opportunity, Grattan Institute
  19. ^ Duckett, S., Breadon, P. and Ginnivan, L. (2013) Access all areas: new solutions for GP shortages in rural Australia, Grattan Institute

External links[edit]

Government offices
Preceded by
Tony Cole
as Secretary of the Department of Health, Housing, Local Government and Community Services
Secretary of the Department of Human Services and Health
Succeeded by
Andrew Podger
as Secretary of the Department of Health and Family Services