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Sarah Byrne


Sarah is a lawyer who has worked in the areas of public and administrative law, health law, employment law, intellectual property and ethics for more than 30 years. Positions she has held include in-house counsel for State and Commonwealth health departments, General Counsel and Director of Ethics for the Australian Medical Association, General Counsel for the Commonwealth Departments of Finance, and Family & Community Services, Human Rights Advisor to the ACT Government, Deputy CEO for the ACT Department of Justice, ACT Public Advocate and, most recently, the Executive Director responsible for corporate services, grants administration and research integrity at the National Health and Medical Research Council. More recently she has worked in private practice as Public Law Lead for a team which was twice voted by clients as the Lawyers Weekly Government Law Team of the Year. 

Sarah is an accredited mediator with particular experience in the resolution of workplace disputes, and a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors, maintaining an interest and involvement in clinical and corporate governance in the non-profit sector. Sarah has expertise in good decision-making and regulatory compliance. She is also a capable investigator with experience in workplace conduct and research misconduct processes.

Sarah is also recognised for her considerable expertise in information and privacy law, having headed the Information Law practice of a national law firm and produced an award-winning manual for the Commonwealth Department of Health. She has been closely involved in the development of policy and legislation around informed consent and substituted decision-making in several of her previous roles. Most recently she has been working with the Department of Social Services on privacy and information law, integrity issues, and the Redress Scheme for survivors of child sexual abuse.


Sarah’s other recent experience includes:

Various government clients

Investigations and reviews into code of conduct matters, legislative compliance, and conduct of litigation. Sarah has led several reviews and audits of government agency compliance with employment law, legislative obligations and the Legal Services Directions. She has also undertaken investigations into some highly sensitive workplace misconduct matters. She has advised agencies on preparing for the National Anti-Corruption Commission, and compliance with privacy law and provided practical and strategic advice to address the findings of Royal Commissions.

Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources

  • Research and Development Incentive Tax Program – assessing applications, liaising with applicants and providing recommendations to the ISA Board
  • Venture Capital Program – conducting training on reading legislation and contracts and administrative decision-making, complex statutory interpretation advice on the Venture Capital Act, Pooled Development Funds Act, and tax law
  • Office of Energy Infrastructure – advising on developing a regulatory framework for offshore renewable energy
  • Australian Building Codes Board – advising on managing and enforcing intellectual property rights; advising on potential liability for products carrying the CodeMark and WaterMark; Board appointments, contracts and indemnities; inter-governmental agreements
  • Australian Jobs Act – advising on enforcing the Act in respect of major private sector infrastructure programs and statutory appointments under the Act
  • commercial work including outsourcing of Questacon Cafe, contracts for goods and services, licensing agreements and non-APS employment contracts; discharge of loan securities, probity and procurements
  • grants and funding agreements, including GrantsHub matters
  • review of the Public Interest Disclosure framework and redrafting policies and templates
  • a range of other advice on matters including regulatory compliance, dispute resolution, FOI and privacy law, legislation development, statutory interpretation and employment law.

Department of Veterans Affairs

  • advising on preparing for Royal Commission, including templates and organisational processes and establishing the National Commissioner’s Office
  • advising on litigation strategy and responding to inquests
  • advising on major commercial procurements, contracts and funding agreements
  • dealing with unrepresented claimants and complaints, and security threats
  • advising on statutory interpretation on all portfolio legislation
  • assessing Claims for Compensation for Defective Administration
  • advising on Freedom of Information and Privacy and preparing recommendations
  • advising on audit and risk function, and reviewing Business Continuity Plan
  • managing complex underperformance and potential employee fraud
  • reviewing delegations framework and drafting instruments.

Australian Digital Health Authority

  • reviewing Governance and Committee framework
  • business cases to APSC re SES cap and outsider delegations
  • reviewing delegations framework and providing new instruments and training.


20 February 2024 - Knowledge

‘The Idea of Perfection’ – when is your administrative decision truly complete?

#Government, #Administrative Law

We discuss the elements of a ‘perfected’ decision – that is, one which is legally complete and not capable of being unilaterally withdrawn by the decision-maker.