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Best in the West: recognition at annual public service accolades

Some of the best public servants in Western Australia received well deserved praise and recognition last Friday alongside a few top guns from the charitable sector at their state’s Institute for Public Administration Australia achievement awards, hosted by IPAA WA president Sven Bluemmel.

Bluemmel said there was an overwhelming response to the two collaboration awards, “indicative of the successful collaborations between government and non-government agencies in WA to provide better outcomes for the community.”

Cheryl Gwilliam and Sean L’Estrange MLA.
Cheryl Gwilliam and Sean L’Estrange MLA.

Top of the list was Cheryl Gwilliam, who has led the Department of the Attorney-General since 2007 and won the Patrons Award, WA’s highest public sector accolade. She sits on the WA Public Sector Commission’s Centre for Public Sector Excellence advisory board and has overseen the introduction of employment targets in her department for indigenous people and people with disabilities, as well as traineeships to bring in younger people.

According to the judges comments, Gwilliam has left her mark on the sector through strong contributions in various senior positions that will stand the test of time. “Her extensive experience in senior management positions throughout the public sector has enabled Cheryl to make significant contributions in the areas of management, employment, public sector efficiency, public administration, and organisational development and governance,” the judges added.

Four leadership awards were given out for various fields. WA’s Fire and Emergency Services Commissioner Wayne Gregson was named “Murdoch University Leader of the Year Working in State or Federal Government” for transforming his department through a period of tough reform presaged by the Perth Hills Bushfire Inquiry. According to IPAA WA:

“Mr Gregson’s tenure at DFES has been characterised by his ability to garner support for his vision, secure critical mass for change and drive the execution of planned strategies. People are inspired to follow him. There is no sign within the DFES workforce of the ‘air of animosity’ that often exists when change agents go about reform. There is a strong argument that this is evidence not only to the skill that has been applied by Mr Gregson but also of his innate ability to gain followers.”

Wayne Gregson receives his award.
Wayne Gregson receives his award.

In local government, it was Shire of Denmark chief executive Dale Stewart who took home the “Corruption and Crime Commission Award Leader of the Year Working in Local Government”. In his 7 years at the helm, he has introduced a list of successful new processes and we’re told he “excels at achieving the seemingly un-achievable and has a strong focus on transparency and fairness both in and out of the organisation”.

The youthful CEO of the Youth Affairs Council of WA, Craig Comrie, was called up to collect the “Hyatt Regency Perth Award Leader of the Year Working in the Not for Profit Sector”, and Pilbara Ports Authority head honcho Roger Johnston got “Leader of the Year Working within a Division / Team / Organisation”.

In a previous job, Johnston turned Port Hedland’s export terminal into a world leader and saw through its amalgamation with Dampier Port. He was praised for “resilient leadership [and] empathetic and tireless coaching and mentoring of a team of high-performing and talented individuals”.

The choir A Capella West provided entertainment.
The choir A Capella West provided entertainment.

The “Public Sector Commission Young Leader of the Year” was Alyssa Serafim, a senior investment advisor with the Department of Transport, who in 2014 managed the successful business case for the $1.6 billion Perth Freight Link during a secondment with Main Roads. She’s worked on over 20 other business cases for transport infrastructure and recently developed Transport’s new investment decision framework.

IPAA WA also awarded the best practitioners in particular professional streams. This year’s “Department of Fisheries Award Policy Practitioner of the Year” was the Housing Authority’s general manager of strategy and policy, Tania Loosely-Smith, the brains behind WA’s new approach to affordable housing, which won the department a 2014 Premier’s Award. According to her blurb:

“Not afraid to push both the government and the authority beyond its current and historic limits, Tania’s unwavering commitment to produce better outcomes for those most in need in the community sees Tania consistently engaging in robust but considered debate to find the best outcomes.”

Human Resource Management Practitioner of the Year went to the Department of Education’s Cliff Gilliam, who turned “a highly centralised system that assumed responsibility for the career management of teachers and school leaders” into “a devolved system of autonomous schools and distributed leadership” featuring greater career support and consultancy.

Information Technology Practitioner of the Year was awarded to Landgate’s director of information management David Dans, described as “an outstanding leader both within Landgate and across the public sector” and achieved strong results while saving money, while the “Department of Finance Award Finance Practitioner of the Year” went to Transport CFO Graeme Doyle.

IPAA WA also bestows its awards upon organisations, both from the public and not-for-profit sectors:

Business News Award Innovation in the Not-for-Profit Sector: Brightwater Care Group, for the Culture, Communication and Relationships at Work program.

Best Practice in Collaboration Between Government and Non Government Organisations: Department of Housing & The Royal Life Saving Society WA Inc. for the Remote Community Focused Swimming Pool Program.

Best Practice in Collaboration Across Government Agencies in the Same Jurisdiction: The City of Cockburn’s implementation of the Your Move program, developed jointly by the Department of Sport and Recreation and Department of Transport.

Best Practice in Corporate Social Values: Pilbara Ports Authority for the Mangrove Rehabilitation Program.

Department of Health Award Best Practice in Health and Wellbeing: Chronic Disease Prevention Directorate for the Healthy Workers Initiative.

Author Bio

Stephen Easton

Stephen Easton is a journalist at The Mandarin based in Canberra. He's previously reported for Canberra CityNews and worked on industry titles for The Intermedia Group.