In a year of unprecedented calamity and tumult, it has been gratifying to see the Commonwealth public service deliver first class service to so many Australians through the coronavirus pandemic.
COVID-19 has tested our resolve like few other crises, with the Commonwealth leading the way in ensuring the public has been fully informed about the pandemic’s deadly reach.
The pandemic has also underscored the importance of public servants being nimble on their feet and able to translate complex issues and messages into clear, straightforward language that all Australians can access and understand.
The Department of Health’s team of health and medical experts has been superb, operating as a vital – indeed indispensable – part of the Government’s efforts to keep the public informed of the pandemic’s developments.
The then Chief Medical Officer (and now Department of Health Secretary) Brendan Murphy, and Deputy Chief Medical Officer (now Acting Chief Medical Officer) Paul Kelly, were outstanding during the early months of this global pandemic, when a public clamouring for information needed reassuring that all was not lost.
Their support team – including Deputy Chief Medical Officers Nick Coatsworth and Michael Kidd, and Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer, Alison McMillan – has also been extraordinary, undertaking countless media interviews and showcasing impressive communication skills in addition to their health and medical prowess.
The Department of Health’s experts have been particularly effective at communicating important information to the public in a reassuring way that has done much to allay community concerns about the unpredictable nature of COVID-19.
Newgate Communications was delighted to be asked to assist these extremely capable public servants with specialised media training that enhanced their already well advanced communication skills.
It was obvious from the start they were already very well supported by the Department of Health’s media unit, particularly in relation to being prepared for their almost-daily COVID-19 press conferences.
We were working with some pretty skilled naturals when it came to fronting the media. It’s not easy standing in front of a press conference with seasoned reporters – many of them used to sparring on a daily basis with senior federal MPs – asking the tough questions and demanding instant and comprehensive answers.
By any measure, they have performed brilliantly. Their capacity to stay focused, to not get rattled when faced with searching questions from hungry journalists, and to condense often hard-to-understand concepts into bite size chunks for broadcast purposes, has been commendable.
We received positive feedback from each of the participants, as reflected in the following testimonial from the Department of Health:
‘The hands-on practical media training provided by Newgate to the Department of Health’s experts in 2020 was of a high standard. The training combined practical tips and valuable insights from experienced media professionals.’
Hopefully we can all get through this pandemic before too long. A perfect Christmas present would be a firm announcement on a timetable to roll out a proven vaccine to defeat the pandemic.
But in the meantime, the Commonwealth public service should be very proud of the work carried out by the Department of Health’s team of health and medical experts and take some solace in knowing they have contributed towards boosting public trust in the public service, arguably to new levels of satisfaction.