Rebecca Skinner, the chief executive officer of Services Australia, has announced she will retire from the role and the Australian Public Service effective 29 September.
Ms Skinner informed Services Australia staff in an email on Tuesday (12 September). It was followed by an announcement from Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme and Minister for Government Services Bill Shorten.
Ms Skinner joined Services Australia in March 2020 in the immediate wake of the Robodebt scandal and set about trying to restore faith in staff and customers in the agency. She told staff she had loved being CEO and said the highlight of her career was being of service to Australians during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The announcement of her retirement comes just days after Ms Skinner delivered a heartfelt video apology message to Services Australia staff for their treatment during Robodebt and for the “heavy burden” they have been forced to carry during the subsequent Royal Commission.
“I am sincerely sorry for the position this placed you in, and extend this apology to former colleagues who have since left,” she said.
“From the distressing conversations had at the time with vulnerable customers, to the way it has coloured many customer interactions since then, resulting in frustration and a loss of trust.”
That burden and the agency’s turnaround since then, led by Ms Skinner, was recognised by Mr Shorten in his statement.
“She took on the role as the pandemic took hold of our country,” he said.
“Under her leadership, the agency provided Australians with record support – financially, and by keeping their doors open throughout for those who needed help in person.
“Since my time in this ministry, Ms Skinner has led the transition to the new myGov platform and development of the myGov app – important steps forward in the transformation of Australian Government digital services,” he added.
“She also led a record emergency response for the agency following the devastating flooding across Eastern Australia, including my electorate.
“Her agency’s support has also been critical in our government’s ability to deliver important cost of living measures, including increases to income support payments and pensions and expanded eligibility for family payments.
“Under her leadership, Services Australia is becoming the customer-centred agency Australians need.”
Mr Shorten said Services Australia’s 28,500 staff had handled 1.1 billion transactions, 55 million customer calls and had processed $219.5 billion in support payments in 2023 alone.
Before her Services Australia role, Ms Skinner held the position of Associate Secretary in the Department of Defence and served in the departments of Prime Minister and Cabinet, and Attorney-General’s.
“For her contribution to national security policy, intelligence, business transformation and service delivery, she was awarded a well-deserved Public Service Medal in 2021,” Mr Shorten said. “I sincerely thank Ms Skinner for her service and wish her well in her next endeavours.”
Mr Shorten said an acting CEO will be appointed in lieu of a permanent appointment to the position.