Many Australians who have found themselves caught up in a terrible situation overseas don't realise Andrew Todd is one of the people they have to thank for getting them back on home soil.
Until his retirement in August last year, Mr Todd was first assistant secretary responsible for the Consular and Crisis Management Division - the section of the department responsible for assisting Aussies in strife overseas and bringing them home, sometimes in extremely challenging circumstances.
Lurching from crisis to crisis, he might have been sitting in his office in Barton on a Saturday night convening a meeting with top people at Defence, the Australian Federal Police and intelligence after being informed an Australian overeas had been taken against their will, or calling senior people at Qantas from the footpath in Bronte on the Australia Day long weekend to ask to charter a flight for Australians stuck in the Chinese city of Wuhan.
Starting his career in the non-government welfare sector in Canberra, Mr Todd joined the then Department of Social Security in 1985, before moving to DFAT in 1991. After a career that included postings in the United Kingdom and Washington DC, the last few years have been lived finding the solutions behind the headlines.
It is this work that is this Australia Day being recognised with a Public Service Medal.
Despite growing up in Canberra's inner north, attending schools in Turner and Lyneham, Mr Todd said he didn't automatically choose the public service as a career, but that serving others had been a value instilled in him by his parents.
In the last six months of his career alone, Mr Todd was responsible for coordinating international offers of assistance for Australia's Black Summer bushfires, chartering flights from Wuhan to Australia as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold, and getting Australians back from the dozens of ships stuck around the world at the start of the pandemic, like the Diamond Princess in Japan.
But before that, the department tackled a disaster on another scale - getting Australians home after being caught in the White Island volcano eruption in New Zealand in December 2019. Bodies needed to be repatriated, and severely-injured Australians needed to be brought home for treatment.
"What was unique about that operation was that was first time we really combined, seamlessly, military assets, and civilian air assets to bring back really traumatically injured people. The injuries were frightening, just just what acid burns do to people is just extraordinary," he said.
Even in the period before COVID-19, the consular team in Canberra would have 1400 active cases open each day of Australians overseas who needed their help. It's not all lost passports either - they would also be assisting in cases of severe injury or forced marriages.
The team was also responsible for rescuing unaccompanied minors in war zones in Syria, and Australians detained, like Alek Sigley in North Korea and Timothy Weekes in Afghanistan.
"What I find inspiring is the immense capacity of colleagues in DFAT - often junior and middle-ranking public servants, APS6s and EL1s, who go to the border of Syria, with private security arrangements, to retrieve unaccompanied minors and orphans from Syria, and did an extraordinary job," he said.
It was those staff he praised when describing the early response to the pandemic in chartering flights out of Wuhan.
"The degree of difficulty was pretty close to being off the scale," Mr Todd said.
Volunteers had to be found within the existing team to go into Wuhan, volunteers from Qantas to be cabin crew, volunteers within Home Affairs and quarantine staff - and people put their hands up for those roles.
Many of the systems set up for those repatriation flights have continued to be used in the flights bringing Australians home from all corners of the globe later in 2020, work that started as Mr Todd called time on his career.
It's a theme that runs through many of Mr Todd's stories about the work of the department.
"Every time the degree of complexity surpasses what we thought was really complex before," he said.
"It's the same people in Canberra that step up to 24 hour operations, put their hand up to go and do things, these are quite extraordinary, untold stories."