Learning in the West: commissioner on a culture of excellence

An on-the-job approach to learning and a collaborative hub for innovation is driving renewed reform in Western Australia’s bureaucracy, the commissioner tells The Mandarin.

The Western Australian government is in the process of cutting another 1500 workers from its ranks to plug a budget hole leaking minerals receipts. But the state’s public service chief is still talking about investing in the workforce — at least in a smarter way.

After a long career in the senior ranks of the public sector (in both Treasury and the Department of the Premier and Cabinet, where he was director-general), Mal Wauchope became public sector commissioner in 2008. The Barnett government gave him an independent statutory office in 2010.

That status has allowed Wauchope (pictured) to drive significant reform. But speaking to the Institute of Public Administration Australia national conference in Perth last month, he called for a more strategic approach. Training and staff development has been “ad hoc”, he told delegates, without enough thought on future needs. Sitting down with The Mandarin later for an interview, Wauchope said:

“The sector as a whole just needs to be more strategic around where do we think the sector’s going to have to be in five, 10, 15 years. I’ve been part of a stewardship role for the public sector. We have a responsibility to hand it on, shove to the next generation in the shape that it needs to be.”

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