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 The Hon. Christian Porter MP.
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.
The department is organised into four groups, each headed by a Deputy Secretary. These Deputy Secretaries report to the Secretary who co-ordinates and devises departmental structure and policy.
These four groups are:
- Australian Government Solicitor
- Civil Justice and Corporate Services
- Criminal Justice
- National Security and Emergency Management
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 incumbant, 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.
|Order||Official||Official title||Date appointment |
|Date appointment |
|Term in office||Ref(s)|
|1||Sir Robert Garran||Secretary of the |
|1 January 1901||9 February 1932||31 years, 39 days|||
|2||Sir George Knowles||10 February 1932||8 May 1946||14 years, 87 days|||
|3||Sir Kenneth Bailey||9 May 1946||2 February 1964||17 years, 269 days|||
|4||Ted Hook||3 February 1964||2 February 1970||5 years, 364 days|||
|5||Sir Clarrie Harders OBE||1970||July 1979||9 years|||
|6||Alan Neaves||July 1979||March 1983||4 years|||
|7||Pat Brazil AO||16 March 1983||1989||6 years|||
|8||Alan Rose AO||1989||23 May 1994||5 years|||
|9||Stephen Skehill||23 May 1994||1998||4 years|||
|10||Tony Blunn AO||1998||17 December 1999||2 years|||
|11||Robert Cornall AO||24 January 2000||31 August 2008||8 years, 220 days|||
|12||Roger Wilkins AO||1 September 2008||31 August 2014||5 years, 364 days|||
|13||Chris Moraitis PSM||15 September 2014||incumbent||5 years, 30 days|||
Mission and outcomes
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".
The Administrative Arrangements Order made on 19 April 2018 details the following responsibilities to the Department:
- 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
- Freedom of Information
- Management of government records
- Native title
- Fraud and anti-corruption policy
- Whole of government integrity policy and activities
- List of Australian Commonwealth Government entities
- Australasian Fire and Emergency Service Authorities Council
- CA 5: Attorney-General's Department, Central Office, National Archives of Australia, retrieved 25 October 2013
- 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.
- "Administrative Order Arrangements" (PDF). Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. Commonwealth of Australia. 29 May 2019. Retrieved 2 June 2019.
- 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.
- "Contact us". Attorney-General's Department. Retrieved 25 October 2013.
- Key People, National Archives of Australia, archived from the original on 11 February 2014
- Whitlam, E.G. (1983), Knowles, Sir George Shaw (1882–1947), archived from the original on 28 February 2014
- Jennings, Rosemary (2007), Hook, Edwin John (Ted) (1910–1990), archived from the original on 28 February 2014
- "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.
- 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.
- Fraser, Malcolm (3 July 1979). "Retirement of Sir Clarrie Harders" (Press release). Archived from the original on 28 February 2014.
- Title: Senator the Honourable Gareth Evans, Attorney General with Alan Neaves, Secretary of the Attorney General's Department and another, National Archives of Australia
- Hawke, Robert (16 March 1983). "Appointment of permanent heads" (Press release). Archived from the original on 28 February 2014.
- Mr Alan Rose AO, Australian Government Defence Honours and Awards Appeals Tribunal, archived from the original on 4 February 2014
- Keating, Paul (11 May 1994). "Statement by the Prime Minister" (Press release). Archived from the original on 28 February 2014.
- New Secretary Appointed To Attorney-General’s Department, Australian Politics, 8 December 1999, archived from the original on 30 April 2013
- "Management and Accountability", Annual Report 2008–09, Attorney-General's Department, archived from the original on 12 February 2014
- "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
- 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.
- Abbott, Tony (3 September 2014). "Appointment of Departmental Secretaries" (Press release). Archived from the original on 3 September 2014.
- 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.
- "Administrative Arrangements Order" (html). Federal Register of Registration. Commonwealth of Australia. 19 April 2018. Retrieved 20 August 2018.