BiiG 2022: Innovate or die, says Queensland DPC’s Rachel Hunter

By Chris Johnson

Wednesday April 27, 2022

Rachel Hunter
Rachel Hunter. (Joseph Byford/TheMandarin)

Public servants must allow themselves to innovate. 

So said Rachel Hunter PSM, director-general of Queensland’s Department of Premier and Cabinet, in her opening address to the BiiG Network Public Sector Innovation Conference, at Brisbane on Wednesday morning.

To 800 in-person attendees and hundreds more watching the conference online, Hunter delivered a strong message of innovation being the key to a successful public sector.

“We all need to give ourselves permission, in a sense, to look for new ways to innovate and thrive,” she said.

“That is our business – innovation.”

Hunter is the first female director-general of the Department of the Premier and Cabinet in Queensland since its inception in 1859. Her inspiring address was well-received by the audience.

While she acknowledged that public servants must act within government-set structures and boundaries, she added that it does not mean creativity and innovation could not – and should not – thrive in the public sector environment.

“There is no greater contribution we can make than the contribution of ideas that translate into positive action,” she said.

“Policy-making itself is a process of innovation… but it has to translate into action.”

Hunter said a healthy public sector environment was one in which employees understood the boundaries, were allowed the freedom to act innovatively within them and did so.

“People don’t take risks if they don’t feel safe,” she said.

But, she said, the idea of faceless bureaucrats was not one that engendered innovation.

 “I think bureaucrats should have faces. It’s scary to put your head up,” she said.

“We have to stand up for what we believe and we have to articulate what we stand for… we have to speak with passion and conviction… values matter.

“This notion of ‘keep your head down, stay low, don’t create waves’ is antithetical to innovation.”

She said success for public servants was to be found in innovation and it is only through harvesting collective wisdom that the public service can solve many problems.

“The status quo translates into redundancy,” Hunter said.


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