12 November 2023

Epitomes of engagement: The spirit of public service recognised at IPAA awards

| Chris Johnson
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IPAA ACT president Katherine Jones presents the Spirit of Service Awards. Photo: IPAA.

Groundbreaking public sector initiatives with a focus on service delivery have been recognised in this year’s Spirit of Service Awards from the Institute of Public Administration Australia.

The Australian Electoral Commission, Services Australia, the Department of Defence, the National Indigenous Australians Agency, the Australian Public Service Commission, and the ACT Public Service were all recognised for outstanding projects during a gala dinner ceremony at the National Arboretum on Wednesday (8 November).

IPAA ACT president Katherine Jones, Secretary of the Attorney-General’s Department, presented the winners with trophies across four categories: Collaboration, Community Engagement, Breakthrough and Learning.

The categories and awards highlighted outstanding public service initiatives that had made a positive difference for Australia’s communities.

“This year’s winners – and finalists more broadly – represent some of the most notable public service initiatives making a difference for Australia’s communities,” Ms Jones said.

“As public servants, we need to remember to celebrate and be proud of the important work that we do.

“The Spirit of Service Awards are a unique opportunity to do so, and to support and connect with your colleagues.”

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The Collaboration award, celebrating cross-agency and/or cross-jurisdiction initiatives, went to the 2022 federal election secure telephone voting service by the AEC.

Following legislative change to allow people who had become infected with COVID-19 in the final days before the 2022 election, the AEC significantly expanded the capacity of its existing telephone voting service, which was previously limited to voters who are blind or have low vision and to those in Antarctica.

Services Australia won the Community Engagement award for its Fitzroy Crossing Service Centre.

The award recognises initiatives where communities have been engaged in novel ways.

Services Australia staff visited Fitzroy Crossing, in the Kimberley region, in July 2022 to meet stakeholders and customers to discuss the design and development of a new service experience.

The agency incorporated a respectful engagement approach, a key component to develop a culturally sensitive, face-to-face customer experience.

In the Breakthrough category, recognising ingenious approaches to service delivery, it was E-wasp Control by the ACT Public Service to get the gong.

Responding to the high level of wasp incursions in the ACT, the team used data to identify hot spots to bait and trap e-wasps before incursions arise.

Together with CoreEnviro Solutions, they have trapped 1551 e-wasp queens, preventing an estimated 6.2 million wasps from impacting the community in 2022.

The Learning award, which celebrates initiatives that deliberately engage with risk, went to Compassionate Foundations, spearheaded by the Australian Public Service Commission and the Department of Defence.

This program is the first-of-its-kind public sector suicide prevention eLearning suite that teaches staff about suicide and suicide prevention skills framed around relationships and connection, not risk assessment.

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And the Kerry Kennedy Award, honouring Kerry’s commitment to celebrating agencies that exceed expectations through the creative use of resources and collaboration with others, went to the Indigenous Development and Employment Program (IDEP) by the National Indigenous Australians Agency.

The IDEP is a three-year scheme for future First Nations leaders in the APS, tailor-made to the individual needs of participants based on their experience and capability.

Kerry Kennedy was an assessor of the inaugural Prime Minister’s Awards before becoming involved in the running of the awards as the volunteer award coordinator and chair of the awards steering committee for 17 years.

The award in his name was first introduced to the Prime Minister’s Awards in 2019, in honour of Kerry, who passed away earlier that year.

IPAA ACT acting chief executive officer Wendy Cohen said recognising the spirit of service in the public service was important, and IPAA would continue to do so for years to come.

“For IPAA ACT, the Spirit of Service is a program that runs throughout the whole year,” she said.

“More than just managing the awards process, we work to highlight the great work of public servants all across Australia through our program.”

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