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Gauging the mind and mood of the APS

9 April 2019

As part of the Australian Public Service Commission’s state of the service roadshow, members of our secretariat joined colleagues from the Commission and the Department of Finance to talk about what’s being done to steer the future of the service.

Leading on governance and operating model for the review, we asked Callie Zorzi from our secretariat to tell us more about the roadshow. Callie joined the events in Perth and Darwin.

“We’ve really appreciated the chance to talk with more than 1,000 public servants over February and March. The interest and enthusiasm was wonderful with more than 1,400 people waitlisted to join in.

With the release of the panel’s Priorities for Change, it’s been a busy time for the review but these conversations and the chance to hear and answer questions is more than worthwhile.

Public service is personal for all of us in some way. For me, I grew up in Darwin with public service parents. They showed me serving people is something to be very proud of.

My first profession was as a social worker, working with vulnerable families in remote areas nearby. This is not a common background for a Canberra-based professional so it was good to get back to where it all began.

My very first job was in remote Indigenous communities on the West Australian and Northern Territory border working with young people, their families and the broader community.

It was incredibly hard and rewarding work. I often wonder what they would make of the work I do today.

The Chair of the review, David Thodey, has asked the team and I about our purpose and what drives us. For me, the answer today is the same as it was back then. I want to make things better – for the people and the country.

Across the February and March roadshows we wanted to reinforce how visible this spirit of service has been in the review.

We also covered the work we’ve done to gather lots of different views and ideas, to layout a vision and develop draft recommendations. And ran people through how daily frustrations and big challenges make a case for doing things differently.

If you’d like to watch some of the events back, you can see video of the presentations in Canberra, Melbourne and Sydney on the Commission’s website. And download copies of the slides at each event.

We appreciate every bit of feedback you have given so far – at the events themselves and through the evaluations provided to the organisers at the Commission.

Like these impressions from a Darwin participant –

‘It was encouraging to hear about the innovations the APS review is looking to implement. Ideas such as more even pay rates across departments, opportunities to work in different agencies and stronger IT which should allow work to be more de-centralised are essential.’ It was also a great experience to have the information delivered by someone who grew up in Darwin, understands the challenges and opportunities in the Top End and genuinely cares about positive outcomes for the region.’

Some of you have given us things to think about – how to give you more of a sense of the detail and show the diverse inputs to this review. We worked really hard to improve both in our release of priorities for change on 19 March.

Perhaps our happiest moment was this comment from a Sydney participant – ‘today makes me even prouder to be part of the APS’.

Thank you for having us.”

With 62% of the Australian public service based outside Canberra, our thanks go to the Australian Public Service Commission for this chance to learn more about the mind, mood and make up of the APS. Download the 'APS at a glance graphic' for more facts.

This is not the first effort we’ve made to meet and learn from public servants around Australia. In 2018, we joined the Commission’s APS-wide conference series and held 16 half-day workshops. What we heard at each shaped the Panel’s Priorities for Change now open for comment.

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The APS’s work has a fundamental impact on individuals, families and businesses. There are many touchpoints where citizens expect access to quality, reliable services delivered in a way that meets their needs. In 2017-18, the APS: delivered $112.4 billion in social security and welfare payments; enabled over 736 million digital and online transactions for Medicare, Centrelink and child support services; registered 3.8 million small businesses with the tax system; granted 22,742 patents; inspected 54.6 million international mail items; seized over 17 tonnes of illicit drugs and precursors; enabled over 160 million passenger and over 4 million aircraft movements; issued 2,082,127 passports; conducted 12,982 successful electoral events since 2006, including, federal elections, be-elections, and referendums, and industrial and commercial elections.

The following statistics help illustrate what the APS looks like. There are over 150,000 employees, of whom: 70% work on policy implementation or service delivery; 20% develop public policy; 7% deliver specialist support; 3% develop or enforce regulation. They work in: 18 departments and more than 100 agencies and authorities.

The APS is located throughout Australia. 57,100 are in ACT (making up 37.93% of the total APS); 27,900 in NSW; 25,500 in VIC; 17,000 in QLD; 9,000 in SA; 7,000 in WA; 3,700 in TAS; and 2,000 in NT. There are 1,500 APS staff located overseas.  SOURCE: Source: Australian Public Service Commission’s 2017-18 State of the Service Report and departmental annual reports.