Home > News > Open letter to the public service

Open letter to the public service

20 December 2018

Thank you

Over the last 6 months, our panel and secretariat have spoken with and heard from literally thousands of people.

A consistent and gratifying message has been that people value your work and want you to succeed. We need a strong and vibrant public service for the good of our nation.

Through this process we have drawn on a number of sources for information and insights including:

  • Public input through submissions and workshops.
  • National and international experience.
  • The lessons of the past.
  • Existing and new research.
  • The public service itself.
  • The expertise of this panel and its advisers.

Thank you for your input.

We are drawing this information together in different ways:

  • Cataloguing and exploring challenges for the service
  • Setting out a vision for your future and asking you how to get there
  • Publishing research on what the future could look like, to give a sense of what worlds you might be operating in
  • Shaping our own thinking, research and questions

We’ve also used our online forum to seek your thoughts on specific ideas including:

It is very important this is an iterative process. For example, we’ve heard our vision for the service was too complex and sounds bureaucratic, so we’ll make it clearer and simpler.

Please do keep sending us your feedback. We want this to be an engaged process and believe we will develop a better set of recommendations by testing our thinking.

The purpose of this review is to make sure you and the wider public service are enabled to deliver for Australia well into the future. That means understanding how things are for you now and preparing for what may happen in the future.

We can make this easier

We have been enormously impressed by the deep spirit of service that runs right across your people and organisations, whether you’re working in Canberra or the bush, state capitals or country towns.

We have also heard of the frustrations. The sense your work is not reaching its potential, meeting expectations or doing as much as you would like. As well as loss of confidence, fragile relationships and too much change at times.

This review is reaffirming how important the Australian public service is as an enduring institution of our system of democracy, especially in our changing world.

We can’t predict the future but we can plan for it. We commissioned research on what 2030 might be like which gives you 4 major things to prepare for:

  • Changing public expectations
  • The development and take up of new technologies
  • Shifts in societies and international relationships
  • New kinds of workplaces and jobs

As these changes develop, we need to give you the authority to:

  • Better serve the long term interests of this country and its people
  • Excel at what you do
  • Build trust and respect with partners
  • Be flexible and nimble
  • Attract and keep great skills and expertise

While this happens already, it should be easier, visible across the service, and able to endure no matter the changes ahead.

What’s happening next year

We are trying a new approach in this review. Change is made by people, not by recommendations that are too easily left on the bookshelf.

We’re distilling what we’ve learned and will share our priorities for change with you in March next year. We will be asking again for feedback on these priorities.

In winter, we will finalise our work. Our terms of reference ask us to report to the Prime Minister through the Head of the Service, who will be supported by the Public Service Commissioner.

How you can influence our thinking?

  • Subscribe to the newsletter to keep informed on progress
  • Share or react to ideas on our online discussion
  • Ask the people you serve, the organisations you work with and the experts you admire to drop us a line or make a case for why we should talk to them
  • Make a note in your diary for March to give feedback on our priorities and specific suggestions for change

We are grateful for the work you do in transforming the service and the examples you’ve shown us of what’s working well.

We remain committed to strengthening the service you work for. And we strongly believe we must push the boundaries to keep you fit for purpose in the decades ahead.

I do hope you have an opportunity for a break over the next few weeks. We look forward to talking to you in the New Year.

David Thodey

Chair of the independent review of the Australian public service

You can follow David on Twitter and LinkedIn