New top vet takes charge from the far north

Chief vet Dr Beth Cookson. | Newsreel
Australian Chief Veterinary Officer Dr Beth Cookson. | Supplied: Andrew Watson

Far North Queensland vet Dr Beth Cook is Australia’s new Chief Veterinary Officer.

Dr Cookson, who lives in Cairns, brings a wealth of experience to the role, having worked in various operational and policy roles in the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry since 2006.

Most recently she was Deputy Chief Veterinary Officer and had a strategic focus on emergency animal disease preparedness in northern Australia and strengthening engagement within the Indo-Pacific region.

Dr Cookson is Australia’s Delegate to the World Organisation for Animal Health and will continue to work strategically to ensure Australia’s animal health system supports trade interests and global reputation and is well placed to address current and emerging animal health threats.

Key priorities including strengthening international networks and engagement, to influence international trade standards underpinning Australia’s animal health and welfare whilst supporting market access interests.

Another key priority is working collaboratively to build regional partnerships with Australia’s near-neighbour partners and Pacific Island countries and territories, to strengthen animal health and production in the region, and in turn safeguarding Australia’s biosecurity.

Dr Cookson said her appointment came amidst significant challenges in the regional and global environment.

“We have seen the global spread of animal diseases, such as lumpy skin disease, foot-and-mouth disease and African swine fever, including in our region. Addressing these challenges and others like the global threat of antimicrobial resistance and veterinary workforce challenges in Australia and abroad, will take a collaborative effort across government and non-government sectors, which I’m excited to be part of,” she said.

During her career Dr Cookson has worked as a government field veterinarian and program manager delivering exotic animal disease surveillance across northern Australia.

She has also previously worked in a senior executive position in Canberra focused on animal imports and biosecurity policy, and as Head of Engagement with the National Recovery and Resilience Agency (now the National Emergency Management Agency). Dr Cookson was appointed Deputy Chief Veterinary Officer in March 2022 when she returned to northern Australia.