Ray Johnson to move to ESA, lead bushfire review

Ian Bushnell 29 April 2020
CPO Ray Johnson

CPO Ray Johnson will bolster the ESA’s leadership. Photo: File.

A shuffle at the top of ACT police and emergency services will give the Territory a new Chief Police Officer and create a deputy for ESA Commissioner Georgeina Whelan.

Current CPO Ray Johnson will move across to the Emergency Services Agency to bolster its leadership team while Australian Federal Police Deputy Commissioner Neil Gaughan will take charge of the ACT’s police.

Commissioner Whelan carried the burden of leading the ACT’s bushfire campaign alone last summer and the move will provide valuable support for her and back-up if she is unavailable or needs to be deployed elsewhere.

Minister for Police and Emergency Services Mick Gentleman said Assistant Commissioner Mr Johnson would lead the review of the 2019-20 bushfire season as well as lead ESA’s enabling services, including People and Culture.

“The role will support the ESA Commissioner, and work collaboratively across the ACT Government and with community partners,” Mr Gentleman said.

”In addition, the Deputy Commissioner will be responsible for ESA capability and ensuring members of the emergency services and volunteers are properly equipped, trained and prepared for their work protecting the community.”

Assistant Commissioner Johnson will begin at the ESA on 18 May.

Mr Gentleman said Deputy Commissioner Gaughan’s experience across local, national and international policing issues would be of great value to the service and the wider Canberra community.

“Restructuring the Chief Police Officer position to the Deputy Commissioner level will help drive the implementation of the Police Services Model and will continue the great work ACT Policing does to keep the Canberra community safe,” he said.

Deputy Commissioner Gaughan’s career with the AFP spans more than 30 years. He has extensive operational experience in general policing and investigative roles in ACT Policing (1984 to 1999) and later moved to AFP National Operations.

Since 2018, Deputy Commissioner Gaughan has led the AFP’s response to serious and organised criminal networks, economic and serious crimes, cybercrime and human exploitation. He has also managed the AFP’s international engagement and been involved in the development of contemporary Australian counter terrorism policy and contributed to national countering violent extremism strategies.

Deputy Commissioner Gaughan will also start in the role on 18 May.

Assistant Commissioner Neil Gaughan

Assistant Commissioner Neil Gaughan will take charge of Canberra’s police. Photo: AFP.

Commissioner Whelan said the review of the 2019-20 bushfire season would evaluate the effectiveness of ESA’s operational response, as well as recommend opportunities and strategies to prepare for and respond to emergencies in the futures.

“I’m very excited about the appointment of Ray Johnson to the position of ESA Deputy Commissioner,” Commissioner Whelan said.

“Ray and I worked closely during the 2019-20 bushfire season and I know we will make a great team.

“Together, we have a strong focus on enhancing mental health and wellbeing, and we will continue to seek improvements for our people while running an operational agency.

“His appointment will be the injection of leadership that ESA needs to continue our journey of reform for a modernised ESA, and a safer Canberra.”

Assistant Commissioner Johnson said he was honoured to have the opportunity to continue to serve Canberra’s community in the new role.

“As the Chief Police Officer I made a commitment to serve the Canberra community and I see this role as an opportunity to continue that service for our community,” he said.

“My commitment has always been to building a safer community and supporting people in their time of need. This year alone has proven to be a challenge for us all when considering the bushfires, storms and COVID-19.

“Choosing to leave the AFP after 35 years’ service has been a difficult and deeply personal decision and I will miss the dedicated people who do such a great job. However, I am looking forward to bringing my experience in emergency management to the ESA whilst I also continue to learn from the great people in ESA.”

Assistant Commissioner Johnson has 35 years’ experience across local, national and international policing. He joined the AFP in 1985, starting his policing career in Canberra where he undertook both community policing and detective duties before moving to AFP National, investigating serious and organised crime at a local and national level.

More recently he led a program of cultural reform and improved staff wellbeing support that included significant professional standards, diversity and inclusion reforms for the AFP.


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