Navy officer takes command of Joint Health

Published on Mrs Claudia Henry (author), Mr Jay Cronan (photographer)

Location(s): Canberra, ACT

Topic(s): Change of Command, Joint Health Command

Air Vice-Marshal Tracy Smart, AO, handing over command of Joint Health Command to the incoming Commander Joint Health and Surgeon General of the Australian Defence Force, Rear Admiral Sarah Sharkey, RAN, CSC, during a parade at Campbell Park Offices, Canberra. (photo: Jay Cronan)
Air Vice-Marshal Tracy Smart, AO, handing over command of Joint Health Command to the incoming Commander Joint Health and Surgeon General of the Australian Defence Force, Rear Admiral Sarah Sharkey, RAN, CSC, during a parade at Campbell Park Offices, Canberra.

The dual role of Surgeon General of the Australian Defence Force and Commander Joint Health was formally handed over to Rear Admiral Sarah Sharkey from Air Vice-Marshal Tracy Smart on 4 December.

Sarah Sharkey was promoted to Rear Admiral on 29 November, having already served a 25-year career as a Medical Officer in the Royal Australian Navy, most recently as the Deputy Commander of Joint Health.

She will now drive Joint Health Command forward, continuing the outstanding work of her predecessor and former boss.

On handing over command after four years in the role, Air Vice-Marshal Smart said she was pleased to see her deputy promoted and ready to step into her shoes.

“With a lot of exciting things on the horizon for Joint Health Command, and for Defence more broadly in the healthcare space, it is a great time for a new Joint Health Command leadership team to come onboard, with Rear Admiral Sharkey at the helm,” Air Vice-Marshal Smart said.

As Surgeon General and Commander Joint Health, Rear Admiral Sharkey will have oversight of 58 Defence health centres domestically, and one overseas in Malaysia (at RMAF Butterworth), that provide for the health and wellbeing needs of serving personnel.

At the handover of command parade, Rear Admiral Sharkey said she was privileged to be given the opportunity to serve in both roles, in particular given the great shape Joint Health Command had been left in under the leadership of Air Vice-Marshal Smart.

“Having shadowed Air Vice-Marshal Smart over the past weeks in various forums and meetings, both internal and external to Defence, the one constant that has been obvious is the high esteem with which Joint Health Command, its people and its outputs are held,” Rear Admiral Sharkey said.

“Defence health services directly impact every uniformed member of the ADF and directly contribute to ADF capability.

“This is a testament to how far we have come, the leadership of Air Vice-Marshal Smart and the work of all of you.”

While Air Vice-Marshal Smart’s specialisation was in aviation medicine, Rear Admiral Sharkey will bring with her a clinical background mainly concentrated in submarine and diving medicine.

In her roles as Deputy Commander Joint Health, Director-General Garrison Health Operations and Director-General Health Business and Plans, Rear Admiral Sharkey was also the Head of the Navy Health Community.

Rear Admiral Sharkey most recently led the Next Generation Health Services project, with a Defence-BUPA contract being signed on 14 January 2019.

Rear Admiral Sharkey noted in her inaugural speech as Commander Joint Health that it was an exciting time to be in Defence, with huge investments in capability and many reform programs and projects on the cusp of being delivered, including in Defence health.

“The importance of this role is not lost on me. And nor are the inherent and inevitable challenges we will face.

“Defence health services directly impact every uniformed member of the ADF and directly contribute to ADF capability.

“We have a unique and critical contribution to make.

“Our people are our most valuable resource. I look forward to serving with you, and for you, as we work together and in collaboration with our single service colleagues, other groups and other government agencies and departments to deliver the best, agile, capable and Defence health services and capabilities possible,” Rear Admiral Sharkey said.

Imagery is available on the Navy Image Library at https://images.navy.gov.au/S20193195.