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Let's talk about change

17 April 2019

As we finalise recommendations under this review, our panel is not only considering the shape of individual initiatives, they are also thinking about ongoing change.

There’s good reason for that. Around the world, only 20% of public sector efforts to transform are successful.

In Australia, 18 reviews and 15 years of work on the Australian public service have helped us evolve. They’ve also left plenty of recommendations worth repeating. And some frustrated participants who feel solutions weren’t delivered fully or as intended.

That’s why we asked public servants to put themselves forward for an intensive workshop to help this review design transformations that last.

We were overwhelmed by the passion and enthusiasm we got in return. In a short period of time, we received more than 380 applications from public servants with a background in transformation.

From those, we picked a small group of 60 people from more than 20 government organisations including graduates, deputy secretaries and every level in between.

Over a full day together, we talked, explored and shared insights on:

  • The need for commitment and effort across the service
  • Being clear about exactly what changes involve
  • Delivering for the people we serve
  • And how change is communicated

We’ve spoken many times before about the deep spirit of service in the APS. To that important quality, we’d add real expertise and enthusiasm for change.

Below you’ll see a video with some insights to the day. You can also download a sketch summary of the conversation. 

Our thanks to the Department of Human Services who hosted and ran a great conversation in their design hub. And to the passionate public servants who contributed.

We’ll be in touch.

This is an embedded YouTube video. For agencies that can't see it, we've included a transcript. Contact us with details for your internal communications person and we can share the full file for upload to your internal environment.


The people gathered here are part of an APS Review workshop, to help bring about lasting change in the Australian Public Service.

Will Story, APS Review: The bottom line is, change doesn’t happen because it’s in a recommendation, or a great, beautiful glossy. It doesn’t happen because the Secretary says so and it doesn’t happen because the Prime Minister says so. It happens because we the APS want to make ourselves a service that delivers for the people. 

These people are from more than 20 different Federal Departments and Agencies. 380 public servants applied to attend and have their say. Only 60 got in.

Andrew Long, Department of Social Services: There’s Deputy Secretaries in the room, there’s graduates, everyone’s being treated equally and everyone’s contributing ideas and it’s a very comfortable environment to contribute ideas.  I think that is the strength, the different perspectives and points of view.

The APS review has travelled across the country, listening both inside the APS and externally. There’ve been more than 700 submissions.

This meeting was an opportunity to look closely at priorities for change in the service, as well as how they are driven and maintained.

Hannah Venn-Brown, Department of Human Services: To have the people we have in the room, there’s so many passionate people, so many passionate public servants. To hear the sorts of things coming out and such differing views, but all of us have the same vision is that we just want to make what we do better.

The day was about fostering creative thinking and possibilities. The public servants involved were there because they have a background in change and a passion for its potential.

Their enthusiasm wasn’t echoed by everyone in the room ... but he’s been leading the way for a long time.

Traci-Ann Byrnes, Department of Defence: We’re a vertical slice of the APS, we’ve got such diverse experience and we’ve got people who have been in and out of the APS.  The different levels of experience and age within the group brings a really great perspective to what is needed and what people think is needed.

People at this workshop were excited about making changes to the service so it can deliver for the country well into the future.

They explored reasons that attracted people like themselves into the Public Service, and they prioritised the proposals for action based on their impact and challenges.

And despite the focus, they also had fun.

Verity Duffield, Department of Human Services: I think it’s good to remain always critical of where you are at no matter even if it improves, that it is a continual processing you need to stay on top of.

The workshop vividly highlighted that these people weren’t just from a specific department but were all Australian Public Servants with a common goal.

Ian Campbell, National Museum of Australia: The public service is quite diverse, doing many things and many activities. And it’s getting an appreciation of those activities that happen in different areas where different agencies face different issues and different challenges from what we do.

It was a dynamic day, providing ideas from on-the-ground public servants as to how change in the APS can be made to last.

Duncan Young, Australian Bureau of Statistics: I think there’s no doubt people are really passionate about their work for the public service.  They really want to be, they’re committed to the public service and so they want to be part of shaping the future of the service.  

The APS Review will hand down it’s report and recommendations by the middle of the year.

Will Story, APS Review: But it’s not the report that really matters, it’s the movement, it’s the change program, it’s the collective impact that we can make across the service to improve us; not for our sake but so we can deliver better services to people, we can help solve the problems Australia needs solving and we can deliver the better service to governments, today, tomorrow and after that.