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Working together to create services fit for the future

Ursula Brennan's Keynote Speech at the AFR Government Services Summit 2022

"I’d like to start by acknowledging the traditional custodians of the land we are meeting on today, the Ngunnawal people. I’d like to pay my respects to their continuing culture and the contribution they make to the life of this city and this region.  

At this event last year, we focused on an unprecedented number of external forces, including the bushfires and COVID-19. Our crash course in navigating these unique challenges proved government can adapt – and at speed! But citizen expectations continue to change, and governments must respond.

It’s time to stop playing catch up and instead work together to create services fit for the future. Not just remain resilient and responsive to ongoing external pressures – but to lean into a new world, and a new economy that will require a different approach for the services that governments provide to citizens.  

In this new economy, the global environment is also heavily influencing our Australian priorities: the need to take climate action and steps towards net zero; the changing nature of work; the importance of digitisation of services; the need for supply chain transparency and resilience, the importance of equity, … and all this in the context of rising inflation, stagnant productivity and ongoing health and security challenges, which are putting additional pressure on governments and budgets.  

Government leadership models are also being tested as Australia has moved from ‘reset and recovery’ to shaping personalised, robust and resilient government services that meet rising expectations in the new economy.  Every investment decision is under the spotlight. Media scrutiny is intense. Maintaining trust, managing expectations and reputations is time consuming and requires close attention.

All these factors are influencing three transformative themes across governments globally and in Australia:  the importance of Building resilience, connecting better for greater value, and delivering for all the people.

We welcome today’s opportunity to reflect on what’s working well, and what can be done better, faster and more efficiently. We can find ways of delivering the same services differently, for better experiences and more inclusive outcomes.

But how can we go beyond just narrowing the gap between service delivery and user expectations to create truly relevant, connected and secure services appropriate for this new economy?

I believe this is where ecosystems and partnerships come into play. Government does not have to solve for these issues all by itself. Academics, NFPs and industry experts can play a bigger role in delivering services where it makes sense to do so. These different perspectives also challenge the way things have been done historically to drive better results for all stakeholders.

A great example of partnerships is the Cyber Academy, recently launched to help close the nation’s widening cyber-security skills gap. Government and Deloitte have co-designed a unique ‘earn-as-you-learn’ degree with TAFE NSW, the University of Wollongong and Swinburne University of Technology and with industry partners. The new program combines blended study with guaranteed employment.

What I love most about Cyber Academy is every partner plays to their strengths in a new education model.  This benefits the student experience, and it benefits the economy when they’re able to immediately contribute with newly acquired – and highly industry relevant – cyber skills. It required all partners to think differently and openly about the education need, and the best way to deliver it.

This also links to the nature of work, which underpins every government service.  Finding the right people to deliver in an environment of very low unemployment is a challenge; one way to tackle this is not by trying to fill an ever increasing number of roles but rather by redesigning the actual work that needs to get done; thinking about who is best placed to do it, and what modern technology solutions can be deployed to fuel efficiencies.  

Let’s use our time together today to identify opportunities for Government at all levels to lead from the front in this new economy."

If you would like to learn more about digital transformation in government, visit our AFR Government Services Summit 2022 page.