Celebrating the 20th anniversary of the creation of the ACT government public service, the National Archives of Australia and the Territory Records Office hosted an event with the ACT’s first chief minister, Rosemary Follett, on Sunday.
Follett was bookending an address she gave 20 years earlier to the 1994 graduate intake to the then ACT Government Service. Graduate administrative assistants were told the GS would one day be at the forefront of public administration in Australia:
“Over the next few years I expect there will be substantial progress in public administration, for example in equal employment opportunity, behaviours in the workplace and an increased level of innovation in management improvement,” Follett said, according to the documents released by the National Archives last month.
“It took nearly five years after independence was created for a public service to be established to administer the new territory. There appears to have been considerable movement of personnel between the Commonwealth and ACT GS, during this separation. A Separate Service Taskforce was established two years prior, amidst the protracted development of a Public Sector Management Bill, taking the best practice offered by the states and adding in a few tweaks such as whistle-blowers protection.
The ACT Public Service commenced as a legal entity on July 1, 1994 under mirroring legislation in the Commonwealth and ACT parliaments. The National Archives has kept commemorative spoons, tie-clips, pens and mugs from the event. Follett said:
“Without competent and dedicated public servants, I believe the place would then have been, and may still be, ungovernable.
“One of the difficulties, of course, is not just the breadth of the administration but also the breadth of ministers’ portfolios. And I think for public servants, trying to attract their ministers’ attention when they need to, that could be a challenge.”