He's best known in Canberra as a long-serving public service chief.
But many years before Peter Shergold became secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet in the Howard era, he worked with refugees and migrants as an academic.
More than 30 years after that experience led him into the federal bureaucracy - to establish the Office of Multicultural Affairs - Professor Shergold's latest role carries an echo of his earlier career.
This month he joined the board of Australia for UNHCR, the charity that raises funds for the United Nations Refugee Agency.
"It was an opportunity in a different context, in a different time, in a slightly different organisation, to go back to something I cared about," he says.
Since 2015 he's also been immersed in helping lead a NSW government program to resettle refugees.
After Mike Baird lobbied the federal government to grow its refugee intake from Syria and Iraq, the then-premier asked Professor Shergold to become NSW's coordinator-general for refugee resettlement.
Sometimes I get very despondent about things going on in the world, so it's nice sometimes to see, hidden from view, there is a degree of kindness and care.Peter Shergold
The role - since renamed and broadened to include migrant services - has shown him up close the resilience of refugees and their desire to succeed in their new country.
Professor Shergold says refugees should not be viewed simply through the lens of social deprivation.
"What I see is refugees are extraordinary people," he says.
"They are for very obvious reasons risk takers. They tend to be quite entrepreneurial.
"They are desperately looking to build new lives, which if you look around the world and if you look in Australia, you will often see that many of those who had succeeded in business most often, have been refugees."
Professor Shergold looked to the NSW public service to help refugees get started in the job market. In response, the state's bureaucracy employed 150 refugees. Most have stayed there, have been promoted or made permanent staff.
"My view was that if I was going to be trying to persuade and cajole private sector employers to open up opportunities for refugees, then the NSW government, the largest employer in NSW, should be seen to be doing it itself," he says.
Professor Shergold, who remains a close observer of public services in Australia, says he would have liked the federal bureaucracy to have taken a similar position.
"Public service is a place that has a lot of short-term temporary positions, which you can use to help support."
He has joined the Australia for UNHCR board as the global coronavirus pandemic halts migration and further complicates the situation of an estimated 80 million forcibly displaced people across the world.
Those who have been granted necessary visas can't reach Australia, and refugee camps are vulnerable to COVID-19 outbreaks.
The coronavirus has stopped some of the charity's usual fundraising activity, but donation levels have remained high, Professor Shergold says. He's hopeful that it can raise similar funds to last year, when it received $32 million in donations for refugees.
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A recent COVID-19 appeal quickly raised more than $2 million to help distribute soap and clean water to help prevent outbreaks overseas.
"To be frank when everything can seem pretty bleak and dark, it gives you hope that at the moment, the level of financial support for Australia for UNHCR is continuing to be maintained," Professor Shergold says.
"It does mean that people are still willing to respond to something beyond their own suburb.
"Sometimes I get very despondent about things going on in the world, so it's nice sometimes to see, hidden from view, there is a degree of kindness and care, which may not be instantly obvious."
Learning from failure
Professor Shergold has watched as public services have helped lead the nation's response to the health emergency and economic shock of the pandemic.
Asked about the public sector's handling of responses to COVID-19, he says it has "done itself proud" in re-establishing the importance of expertise.
"It was very obvious that when it came to the bushfire crisis, when it's come to this COVID-19 crisis, that political leaders see there is a value and the public want to hear from public sector experts in the area. So that's I think extraordinarily positive," he says.
However Professor Shergold, who wrote a report in 2015 on the lessons of failures in government programs, says he is still concerned about project management in public services.
Both the disembarkation of Ruby Princess passengers in Sydney and failures in Victoria's hotel quarantine program showed a lack of coordination, effective communication and attention to detail, he says.
On the problems with Victoria's quarantine program, Professor Shergold says: "It's no use having the decision on a policy if you don't give equal attention to the detail of its implementation.
"I fully understand that things had to be done very quickly but I don't think we can use that as an excuse.
"We've still got to learn much better to be able to implement very quickly major projects effectively.
"The difficulty is, if you don't, you destroy the public trust and what we don't want is the increase in trust for public service expertise to be undermined by a distrust of their ability to implement public policy."
In his 2015 report Learning from Failure, written after the home insulation scheme failures, Professor Shergold called for the Australian Public Service to build a stronger cohort of skilled and experienced program and project managers.
Speaking in September, he made a similar point about the lessons of public service failures during COVID-19.
"I am sure we will now do quarantine better. We will learn that," he said.
"But we've got to learn the more general lessons that when a major public program is to be introduced, you need to have people skilled in managing that project and being on top of the detail.
"I don't know what the next crisis is going to be. We've had the home insulation program, we've had robo-debt, we've now had hotel quarantine, we've had others.
"We've got to learn the lessons from one of these public programs and realise they are general lessons that we have to learn for Commonwealth and state governments."
Professor Shergold says the federal bureaucracy's experiences of large scale working from home give it the chance to assemble teams of experts separated by distance to work together designing public policy.
He hopes the federal public service will keep pursuing reforms and warns against making these secondary to the health and economic responses to COVID-19.
"I'm hopeful that people will see that the ability to respond more effectively to economic and health crises will depend on implementing some of those public service reforms."