Framing ethics from good principles: Graeme Head’s new guide

NSW is taking a fresh approach to ethics in the public service. Commissioner Graeme Head explains to The Mandarin a new guide that frames situations for bureaucrats.

A fresh approach to promoting ethical behaviour in the public sector is underway in New South Wales. If ICAC, the state’s fearsome Independent Commission Against Corruption, is the end of the line, then the Public Service Commission has gone right back to the beginning.

They’ve produced a new guide — Behaving Ethically — helpful to any Australian public sector jurisdiction. The material is being introduced to departments and agencies through a roadshow as well as being put into induction programs internally and through leadership schools.

picThere’s reason to be excited about the impact this material could bring — it’s based on a foundation of good research about how public servants actually approach the situations they face. Other jurisdictions are being invited to learn more at a conference in May.

There is a lot of interest in these issues at the moment, says public service commissioner Graeme Head. But until a few years ago, before his commission was created, there was nobody in NSW with the responsibility to challenge and educate the sector on ethics and values. “Of course, the events over the last couple of years have simply served to underscore just how important it is that we’re having that dialogue,” he told The Mandarin.

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