Departments celebrated for ‘thinking differently’ at 2020 Public Sector Innovation Awards

By Shannon Jenkins

Friday July 31, 2020

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Services Australia’s streamlined system for JobSeeker payments has been recognised at this year’s Public Sector Innovation Awards after it allowed hundreds of thousands of Australians impacted by COVID-19 to submit claims from the safety of their homes.

Announced by the Institute of Public Administration Australia (ACT) and the Public Sector Innovation Network at a ceremony on Friday morning, the awards celebrate and encourage innovative work in the Australian Public Service.

“A successful public service is one that can find new and better ways of doing things by collaborating, thinking differently, and experimenting to create better citizen solutions,” IPAA said.

See the full list of 2020 winners below.

The Department of Education, Skills and Employment has taken home the award for “citizen-centred innovation” for its Regional University Centres program.

The program provides students with the option to remain in their regional or remote community while undertaking their study online in a fully supported campus-like environment, which the judges believed was “a unique and creative approach to higher education”.

“There was significant research, planning and community collaboration involved,” they said.

The Australian Taxation Office has won the “culture and capability” award for its Single Touch Payroll system.

The program makes it easier for businesses to report employees’ payroll information to the ATO, and offers an “enduring, real-time flow of pay and super information” to increase transparency, compliance and “social benefit” for the public.

The judges said they were impressed with the business process integration and the way the system spurred a broader cultural change for the ATO and businesses.

“This excellent nomination highlighted the impact, innovation and scale of the Single Touch Payroll program. The judges noted the program is also being used to deliver JobKeeper assistance in response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” they said.


Read more: Michele Bruniges and David Fredericks on fostering innovation in the APS


The winner of the “digital and data” award has gone to the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment for its innovations with 3D X-ray technology.

The department used the technology and created auto-detection algorithms to identify biosecurity risks at the Australian border, which the judges noted was beneficial to Australia.

“The judges felt this was an interesting and unique project that was extremely important for Australia as a country,” they said.

“It was evident this was addressing a significant challenge in protecting Australia’s borders and security and had a clear and measurable impact.”

The Department of Parliamentary Services took home the “judges’ award” for its innovative cyber security awareness program, ‘Classified’.

The program was nominated in the “culture and capability” category. It uses public-private partnerships and storytelling methods to promote cyber security awareness among users, which the judges noted could be adapted for use by other organisations.

“The judges enjoyed the innovative and collaborative approach in this public and private partnership. It was evident that this initiative was responding to a critical and urgent need and was a non-standard response from government to use entertainment to educate and effect cultural change,” they said.

Services Australia also won a “judges’ award” for its streamlined digital JobSeeker claim experience, which was entered in the “citizen-centred innovation” category.

The streamlined delivery of JobSeeker has reduced the need for staff intervention and removed steps where people need to call or visit the agency in person. This has proven to be a crucial innovation during the coronavirus pandemic, particularly when the agency faced unprecedented demand.

“The judges noted that this was an excellent achievement for Services Australia, demonstrating agility to implement the changes in a short period of time,” they said.

“The agency responded to a significant challenge, while under severe pressure during the COVID-19 pandemic. This project had a clear effect on the citizen with over 250k JobSeeker applications moved online in a matter of weeks.”


Read more: Stuart Robert reflects on one year of Services Australia


This year the awards received 44 nominations from across the APS, resulting in 12 finalists. The Education Department and Services Australia took two finalist spots each.

The presentation of the awards marks the end of Public Sector Innovation Month.

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