On Thursday night the chief health officer of Victoria, Professor Brett Sutton, gave an address to the Australian Public Health Conference, speaking about the frontline experience of Covid-19 in Victoria.
He presented alongside Professor Devi Sridhar, the Chair of Global Public Health and Edinburgh University Medical School.
Sutton spoke briefly about the importance of strong leadership in a pandemic, telling attendees; “I hope I played my role in that space”.
“I think the critical elements for me have been listening and learning… It is never a case of a single individual having the answers. It is never the case of a single individual being able to make those decisions in a vacuum I have had literally thousands of people in supporting my decision making, and I have been explicit in reaching out as broadly as I can for the critical voices, for the supportive voices, for the innovative ideas, and for all of the new and challenging perspectives that must be brought because we need to mobilise the very best of our team. And we need to regard the team as all of the Victoria, Australia and indeed the global public health community”.
Sutton also spoke about public health communication, and the need to tailor messages to different audiences throughout a pandemic. He said risk communication is critical and needs to be engaging to multiple different parts of the community; one message for all people is not good enough.
“I think they all need an honest and authentic voice,” Sutton said. “I think that needs to speak to the things that are working the things that are not working… the things we know, the things we don’t know, but also be motivating where fatigue is so real, where a crisis that would have been tough for a month has been going for nine months. It needs to take people on a journey that they can remain engaged with.”
Sutton’s leadership has been under question in recent weeks following his appearance at the hotel quarantine inquiry when he said he had no knowledge of the decision to use security guards in hotel quarantine. The Age revealed last week an email chain showing Sutton had authorised a response to the federal government in March which said Victoria would rely on private security at quarantine hotels.
Sutton has been asked by the inquiry to provide an affidavit answering questions raised by the newly-released emails.