Overview: about the agency (DHW Annual Report 2020 - 21)

Department for Health and Wellbeing Annual Report 2020-21

In this section

Our strategic focus

Our purpose

The Department for Health and Wellbeing (the department, DHW) is responsible for providing system leadership and developing the vision, direction and long-term strategies that will sustain the South Australian public health system, now and in the future.

Through the Chief Executive, the department is responsible to the Minister for Health and Wellbeing (the Minister). The department provides expert health, public health and wellbeing advice, supporting the Minister and Chief Executive in exercising their powers and functions.

Our vision

The Health and Wellbeing Strategy 2020-2025 establishes a strong vision that South Australians experience the best health and wellbeing in Australia.

To achieve this vision, a strategic focus on prevention, protection, innovation, and sustainability will be maintained across SA Health, with the primary objective to improve the health and wellbeing of all South Australians.

Five principle themes support SA Health’s achievement of the vision and strategic direction. These themes form the foundation for the deliverable actions identified in the SA Health and Wellbeing Strategy 2020-2025 and inform the principle rationale for determining, planning, and developing new improvement activities, initiatives and projects:

  • Together – working in partnership to develop patient-centred solutions and service improvements
  • Trusted – providing safe, reliable, and high-quality treatment and care
  • Targeted – addressing priority health needs and disparities with the right evidence, motivation, and interventions
  • Tailored – meeting the diverse and complex needs of individuals
  • Timely – optimising health and wellness outcomes by delivering timely and appropriate health care.

Our values

The South Australian Public Sector values articulate our commitment to each other, consumers and the community. These are Service, Professionalism, Trust, Respect, Collaboration and Engagement, Honesty and Integrity, Courage and Tenacity and Sustainability. Further, to support these values, SA Health upholds Care and Kindness values that underpin how we treat each other and our patients and work together to provide services.

Our functions, objectives and deliverables

The department supports the delivery of public health services, formulates health and wellbeing policies and programs, facilitates public and consumer consultation on health issues, and monitors the performance of South Australia’s health system by providing timely advice, research, and administrative support. As part of supporting the delivery of public health services, the department is responsible for:

  • COVID-19 management, including public communications, compliance monitoring, contact tracing, COVID-19 safe planning, outbreak investigations, surveillance, quarantine and medi-hotels, and testing
  • COVID-19 vaccination rollout, providing all South Australians access to safe and effective vaccines to protect the South Australian community

The department is the health system leader, in the context of the department’s relationship with the Local Health Networks (LHNs) and SA Ambulance Service (SAAS). The department aims to improve whole-of-system capability and performance through alignment, culture, partnership, connectivity, and collaboration.

Led by the Chief Executive, the department is responsible for:

  • Supporting and advising the Minister and government on strategic policies and directions
  • Coordinating Parliamentary and Cabinet briefing processes
  • Statutory reporting requirements
  • Intergovernmental relations
  • Participating in, and supporting the Minister to participate in, national reforms through national councils and committees
  • Regulatory and licencing functions

As the system leader for the delivery of health services, the department will:

  • Develop the vision, direction and long-term planning strategy to sustain the health system
  • Provide strategic leadership, planning and direction for health care services in South Australia
  • Ensure strong alignment with the purpose activation toolkit, released by the Department of the Premier and Cabinet linking into strategic priority areas that intersect with specific health services including:
    • Economic growth - e.g. Infrastructure, workforce capability
    • Thriving SA - e.g. Vulnerable families, mental health and wellbeing, Aboriginal people and ageing well
    • Easy to do business with – e.g. Enabled by agility, technology and collaboration
  • Guide, inform and fulfil the planning and commissioning cycle including
    • Making recommendations for the allocation of funding from the health portfolio budget to health service providers
    • Enter into Service Agreements with health service providers outlining budget, activity and performance measures
    • Monitor performance and take remedial action when performance does not meet expected standards
    • Demonstrate strong financial management and accountability that prioritises investment in high value, evidence informed service responses and system sustainability at a local level
  • Arrange for the provision of health services by contracted health entities
  • Oversee, monitor and promote improvements in the safety and quality of health services
  • Prioritise and set system-wide interventions including regulations, policy directives, guidelines, funding, performance and programs
  • Support, promote and lead the delivery of relevant system-wide strategies, policies, plans, and innovation
  • Build system-wide collaboration and interagency stakeholder networks
  • Foster a leadership culture that supports accountability, transparency, collaboration and encourages innovation.

Our organisational structure

Changes to the agency

During 2020-21 there were no changes to the agency’s structure and objectives as a result of internal reviews or machinery of government changes.

Structures and functions have been developed to support the department’s commitment to minimising the impact of COVID-19 on the South Australian community.

Our Minister

Hon Stephen Wade MLC is the Minister for Health and Wellbeing in South Australia.

The Minister oversees health, wellbeing, mental health, ageing well, substance abuse and suicide prevention.

Our Executive team

  • Dr Christopher McGowan is the Chief Executive.
  • Professor Nicola Spurrier is the Chief Public Health Officer.
  • Dr John Brayley is the Chief Psychiatrist, responsible for functions relating to the administration of the Mental Health Act 2009 and the standard of mental health care in South Australia.
  • Don Frater is the Deputy Chief Executive, System Leadership and Design.
  • Lynne Cowan is the Deputy Chief Executive, Commissioning and Performance.
  • Julienne TePohe is the Deputy Chief Executive, Corporate and System Support Services.
  • Bret Morris is the Chief Digital Health Officer, responsible for the department’s information technology strategy.

Legislation administered by the agency

The department plays a role in administering all legislation committed to the Minister for Health and Wellbeing with some legislation administered in conjunction with other public sector agencies:

  • Advance Care Directives Act 2013
  • Aged Citizens Clubs (Subsidies) Act 1963
  • Ageing and Adult Safeguarding Act 1995
  • Assisted Reproductive Treatment Act 1988
  • Blood Contaminants Act 1985
  • Consent to Medical Treatment and Palliative Care Act 1995
  • Controlled Substances Act 1984
  • Food Act 2001
  • Gene Technology Act 2001
  • Health and Community Services Complaints Act 2004
  • Health Care Act 2008
  • Health Practitioner Regulation National Law (South Australia) Act 2010
  • Health Professionals (Special Events Exemption) Act 2000
  • Health Services Charitable Gifts Act 2011
  • Mental Health Act 2009
  • National Health Funding Pool Administration (South Australia) Act 2012
  • Prohibition of Human Cloning for Reproduction Act 2003
  • Public Intoxication Act 1984
  • Research Involving Human Embryos Act 2003
  • Retirement Villages Act 2016
  • Safe Drinking Water Act 2011
  • South Australian Public Health Act 2011
  • Tobacco and E-Cigarette Products Act 1997
  • Transplantation and Anatomy Act 1983

Pertinent updates to legislation during 2020-21 include:

  • The South Australian Parliament passed the Health Care (Governance) Amendment Act 2021 on 8 June 2021 to come into effect in August 2021. The amendments aim to deliver improved governance, ensuring clear statutory roles, responsibilities and accountabilities across the State’s health system.
  • Consultation on proposed amendments to the Gene Technology Act 2001 closed on 19 April 2021. The Act currently mirrors the Commonwealth Gene Technology Act to ensure national consistency and the proposed change will improve processes in South Australia for future changes in relation to the Act.
  • Public consultation was undertaken on the Advanced Care Directives (Review) Amendment Bill 2021. The Bill will inform amendments to the Advance Care Directives Act 2013 which aims to better support South Australians in planning ahead for their future healthcare.
  • On 24 June 2021, the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2021 was passed by the South Australian Parliament. Regulations to support the safe implementation of the legislation are now in development and will enable the introduction of a safe, accessible scheme to give South Australians with a terminal illness choice at the end of life.
  • Following significant consultation with key stakeholders, the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law (South Australia) (Telepharmacy) Amendment Bill 2020 was introduced in the Legislative Council on 15 October 2020. The Bill will make permanent and clarify the legal provisions for the authorising of telepharmacy in South Australia.
  • Under the South Australian Public Health Act 2011, the No Jab No Play amendments came into effect on 7 August 2020, prohibiting enrolment and provision of early childhood services unless the child meets the immunisation requirements.


  • The Statutes Amendment (COVID-19 Permanent Measures) Bill 2021 making ongoing changes to various pieces of legislation, including the Public Health Act 2011, was introduced into Parliament in June 2021 and is currently awaiting assent. Changes to the Act include providing the Chief Public Health Officer and authorised officers with additional powers to respond quickly and effectively in order to control the spread of infectious diseases, such as COVID-19.
  • The COVID-19 Emergency Response Act 2020 is a time-limited Act extended until 17 September 2021 to provide additional measures to support the Government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and includes various temporary amendments to the Public Health Act 2011.
  • Adverse event following immunisation was declared by the Minister to be a notifiable condition pursuant to Section 63(2) of the Public Health Act 2011 by notice in the South Australian Government Gazette on 15 April 2021.

Other related agencies (within the Minister's area/s of responsibility)

The public sector agencies listed below are responsible for reporting information about their activities and operations in their own annual report submitted to the Minister for Health and Wellbeing:

  • Barossa Hills Fleurieu Local Health Network
  • Central Adelaide Local Health Network
  • Commission on Excellence and Innovation in Health
  • Controlled Substances Advisory Council
  • Country Health Gift Fund Health Advisory Council Inc.
  • Regional Health Advisory Councils (39 across South Australia)
  • Eyre and Far North Local Health Network
  • Flinders and Upper North Local Health Network
  • Health and Community Services Complaints Commissioner
  • Health Performance Council
  • Health Services Charitable Gifts Board
  • Limestone Coast Local Health Network
  • Northern Adelaide Local Health Network
  • Office for Ageing Well
  • Pharmacy Regulation Authority of South Australia
  • Riverland Mallee Coorong Local Health Network
  • SA Ambulance Service
  • SA Ambulance Service Volunteers’ Health Advisory Council
  • SA Medical Education and Training Health Advisory Council
  • South Australian Public Health Council
  • Southern Adelaide Local Health Network
  • Wellbeing SA
  • Women’s and Children’s Health Network
  • Veterans’ Health Advisory Council
  • Yorke and Northern Local Health Network

Other related agencies (within the Minister’s area/s of responsibility)

The Health Care (Governance) Amendment Act 2021 will come into effect to amend the Health Care Act 2008 on 23 August 2021.

The 2021 Amendment Act provides for the formal dissolution of the below metropolitan LHN governing councils, which have not operated since 1 July 2019 due to the establishment of the LHN governing boards.

  • Central Adelaide Local Health Network Health Advisory Council (Governing Council)
  • Northern Adelaide Local Health Network Health Advisory Council (Governing Council)
  • Southern Adelaide Local Health Network Health Advisory Council (Governing Council)
  • Women’s and Children’s Health Network Health Advisory Council (Governing Council).