26 September 2023

Rapid change still a challenge for APS

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The Australian Public Service Commissioner says the Australian Public Service (APS) needs to continue to reform and adapt to ensure it is in a position to meet Government and public expectations.

Releasing the Australian Public Service Commission (APSC) annual State of the Service report, Commissioner Peter Woolcott (pictured) said as of 30 June, the serving responsibilities of 147,237 APS employees were spread across 18 Departments and 80 Agencies and Authorities located across Australia.

“Each day, Public Servants deliver services and programs, provide policy advice, regulate legislation, and manage resources that touch upon every aspect of the lives of the people of Australia,” Mr Woolcott said.

“The APS has a rich history shaped by many thousands of talented and committed individuals who wanted to make a difference for their country.”

He said this dedication to service lived on in today’s APS, which was full of high-calibre employees with a commitment to good Government and the wellbeing of all Australians.

“This is borne out by the 2019 APS Employee Census, which indicates that APS employees are more engaged than ever in the work they undertake,” Mr Woolcott said.

However, he said the APS was challenged by rapid developments on various fronts, driven by advances in technology along with societal change and geopolitical volatility.

As a result, he said public trust in established institutions appeared to be in short supply.

“To retain influence and credibility, APS employees need to be flexible and able to share ideas, resources and accountability,” Mr Woolcott said.

“The APS needs to attract, develop and leverage the skills, knowledge, experiences and networks that individual employees bring to their work, while strengthening relationships and engagement with those outside the service to shape outcomes.”

He said the APS was not sitting idle in the face of change and that hard work on public sector reform was already taking place.

“Through the APS Reform Committee, the Secretaries Board has already been overseeing short and medium-term reform projects designed to build a public sector equipped to meet current and future needs of Government,” Mr Woolcott said.

Meanwhile, the Independent Review of the APS, led by David Thodey, had presented its final report to the Government with an explicit focus on ensuring that the APS remained effective in the longer term.

“It is not yet known which recommendations the Government will accept, however, what is known is that the Public Service and its leadership are already working towards the change that the current and future operating context requires,” Mr Woolcott said.

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