Natalie James is the Secretary of the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations – commencing her role on 11 July 2022.

Natalie is a workplace relations expert with over twenty years’ experience. Prior to commencing her role as Secretary of the department, Natalie was a Partner at Deloitte Australia where she established the firm’s Workplace Integrity practice, a national practice made up of several partners and talented staff who help businesses develop data-driven, risk informed solutions to their workplace relations challenges.

Natalie was appointed as the Fair Work Ombudsman in July 2013 for a period of five years. She led the organisation’s work supporting employees and businesses understand their entitlements and obligations under the Fair Work Act 2009.

Between 2000 and 2013, Natalie held various roles in the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, including State Manager Victoria and Chief Counsel Workplace Relations. Her achievements include leading the development of workplace relations laws, including the Fair Work Act, and supporting successive governments to reform workplace relations legislation. Natalie also oversaw critical policy-based interventions in the courts, including the High Court challenge to the Work Choices laws, and provided legal and policy advice within Government.

Earlier in her career, Natalie worked in a range of roles in the Australian Public and Parliamentary Services including at the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. Before all that, she worked in retail and fast food through high school and university in Townsville, and held elected roles in the James Cook University Student union and in the National Union of Students.

Natalie was the Chair of the Victorian Government’s Inquiry into the On-Demand Workforce, producing a report in July 2020 which made groundbreaking recommendations about the frameworks regulating the gig economy.

She was named National Small Business Champion by the Council of Small Business Organisations Australia for 2018 for her support of small business in understanding their workplace obligations.

Natalie has a Bachelor of Arts Law (James Cook University) and a Masters in Law (Commercial – Labour Law, Australian National University). She is a Fellow of the Institute of Company Directors.

Natalie is an Adjunct Professor at Swinburne University of Technology’s Centre for the New Workforce. She co-authored Making Fair Work FlexWork: Reset, Restore, Reframe, with Swinburne University. This report is based on research about the value of flexible working and how they consider this to be a critical part of the employee value proposition.