Meet the federal Public Service Medal awardees — Australia Day 2016

By David Donaldson

January 26, 2016

Ten federal bureaucrats were awarded Public Service Medals this Australia Day.

Below are the full official biographies for the awardees working for the Commonwealth, which accompanies the full national list of PSM winners.

The Public Service Medal recognises outstanding service by employees of the Australian government and state, territory and local government employees. ‘Outstanding service’ could be shown through:

  • service excellence to the public, or to external or internal clients;
  • innovation in programme, project or policy development;
  • leadership, including as a member of a team; or
  • the achievement of more efficient processes, improved productivity or better service delivery.

Mr David Allan DUNHAM CSM
Sorrento WA 6020
For outstanding public service in contributing to the aviation operations, aviation safety and airspace management of RAAF Base Pearce and Gingin airfield flying operations.

Mr Dunham, as Air Operations Coordinator for the Department of Defence, played a pivotal role in the coordination of airbase support to the international search effort for Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 and to the Department of Fire and Emergency Services Australia in their response to bushfire emergencies in Western Australia. As Air Operations Coordinator, he is responsible for the planning and coordination of the safe, efficient and effective use of Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Base Pearce and Gingin restricted military airspace, and selected airfield support services. In addition to managing the day-to-day air operations, he led the development of a long-term, strategic plan for restricted military airspace management, and for emergency and crisis management. As a result, RAAF Base Pearce has been consistently well placed to respond to contingencies. A major element of the search for Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 was staged out of RAAF Base Pearce. The presence of visiting international aircraft, and an increase in supporting operational planning staff, saw the base operating well beyond normal capacity, and stretched the base enabling functions beyond sustainable limits. He was tireless in his efforts as Air Operations Coordinator during this period. On a regular basis the RAAF contributes significantly to the emergency response efforts of local and state government agencies in Western Australia through the Defence Assistance to Civil Community program. This includes support to water-bomber aircraft from the Department of Fire and Emergency Services Australia based at RAAF Base Pearce and/or Gingin airfield. During the 2014/15 fire season, one of the worst on record for Western Australia, Mr Dunham coordinated the airfield support to enable continuous and often concurrent water-bomber activities from December 2014 through to March 2015, including support to heavy-lift aerial firefighting equipment deployed from the eastern states for the first time in history.

Mr Guy Maxwell EASTWOOD
Gymea Bay NSW 2227
For outstanding public service in the development and implementation of financial sector policy.

Mr Eastwood, as Senior Manager, Head Credit Risk Analysis in the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA), has played a pivotal role, both in Australia and globally, in a highly technical and critical area of financial sector policy making. He is recognised as the pre-eminent expert in Australia and one of a small group of global experts. He was a significant contributor to the resilience of the Australian banking system during the Global Financial Crisis (GFC). His service, since the formation of APRA in 1998, has positively influenced global standards. His work developing APRA’s policy framework, which has been recognised internationally as being amongst the world’s best, was pivotal. Additionally, his leadership of APRA’s implementation of its policy framework has been both rigorous and innovative, which played a significant role in the resilience of the Australian banking system during the GFC. He is recognised as the pre-eminent expert in his field in Australia, and as one of a small group of global experts. APRA’s implementation of the Basel framework has been recognised internationally as being amongst the world’s best. The supervisory implementation of APRA’s capital adequacy framework was subjected to, and passed, a real life stress test during the GFC. An important characteristic of APRA’s approach in this area is the requirement for it to formally approve bank models before they can be used. Mr Eastwood is a thought leader, driving industry to improve their modelling largely without resort to the enforcement of rules through formal powers. His international work has both improved the global framework and enhanced Australia’s reputation. APRA’s strong international reputation is especially important during this period of intense international rule-making following the GFC, as it helps to maximise our influence in this process and drive appropriate outcomes for Australia.

Ms Veronique Anne INGRAM
Barton ACT 2600
For outstanding public service to the financial sector in Australia, and internationally, in the areas of public policy, administrative initiatives and service delivery.

During her time as agency head of the Australian Financial Security Authority (AFSA), Ms Ingram has reshaped the agency, from one that focused primarily on day to day application of the Bankruptcy Act, to a truly national agency that supports economic outcomes through delivery of a broad range of services to clients and stakeholders. She has also led the transition to AFSA becoming a fully cost recovered agency that has strong links to industry and the business community. Her achievements include the implementation of the Personal Property Securities Register (PPSR), which underpins the personal property securities system in Australia, the public release of the Bankruptcy Register Search (BRS), which provides wider access to the National Personal Insolvency Index (NPII), and modernising AFSA’s internal structures and governance to ensure it achieves its stated vision of being a dynamic organisation that facilitates improved and equitable financial outcomes for consumers, business and the community through excellence in service delivery. She has also made an important contribution to public policy, governance and administration at the international level. She was the inaugural Chair of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Committee on Corporate Governance which developed and revised the OECD Principles of Corporate Governance. In 2005 she was appointed as the Australian Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the OECD, and while in that role she chaired the OECD’s Audit Committee. She continues to be a member of the Executive Committee of the International Association of Insolvency Regulators. Ms Ingram’s work illustrates her dedication to serving the Australian community – here and abroad – through public policy, administrative initiatives and service delivery in relation to the financial sector.

Mr Matthew Paul JAMES
Aranda ACT 2614
For outstanding public service to social policy to improve the lives of Indigenous Australians.

Over the past seven years in his role as Branch Manager, Information and Evaluation Branch in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Mr James has provided unparalleled intellectual leadership to the effort to close the gap in life outcomes for Indigenous Australians. His personal commitment to improve the quality and analysis of data has resulted in a transformational improvement in the collection and analysis of data on Indigenous Australians. He and his team are responsible for analysing all the data underpinning the Prime Minister’s annual Closing the Gap reports to Parliament. His work has shifted national policy debate by highlighting where policies are gaining results, and where they are proving ineffective. Earlier in his career he was selected to represent the Australian Government at the OECD for two and a half years as the country representative on employment, education and science. Throughout his career he has reached across jurisdictions to analyse the social service systems of health, education, employment, justice, and income support payments to better understand how to close the gap in life outcomes for Indigenous Australians, and other disadvantaged Australians. He is highly regarded by his colleagues in the Australian Bureau of Statistics, and in multiple disciplines of academic research. He is recognised throughout the Indigenous and broader policy worlds as one of the best practitioners in Australia at translating data and evidence into policy development. The kind of leadership he has demonstrated in pursing high standards of analysis and evidence is one of the key foundation stones of the system which supports good quality policy development and decision making. This leadership motivates staff, setting an example for others to follow. It gives program areas and policy-makers confidence and enhances the credibility of government. He has consistently demonstrated the highest standards in his work and in his expectations of others. This attention to quality evidence ultimately supports the improvement of outcomes for Indigenous people and communities. This supports ongoing program improvement and learning about what drives disadvantage or what can support progress in reducing disadvantage. Better data about what works is needed if we are to inform decisions about the cost-effectiveness of interventions. Ultimately Mr James’s contribution to building a stronger evidence base leaves a lasting legacy, contributing to knowledge which informs social betterment and improves the circumstances of Indigenous people.

Ms Margaret Anne KIDD
Torrens ACT 2607
For outstanding public service in policy development to boost female participation rates and improve quality of employment and gender equity.

Ms Kidd’s work was pivotal to achieving the landmark commitment by G20 Leaders in Brisbane to reduce the gap in participation rates between men and women by 25 per cent by 2025. Under her leadership, including as co-chair of the G20 Taskforce on Employment, Australia’s hosting of the G20 Labour and Employment Ministers’ meeting was well received for its professionalism, commitment to outcomes and organisational know how. This has enhanced the reputation of Australia, and these efforts were recognised in the recommendation by Employment Ministers for the Taskforce to become an ongoing G20 Working Group, charged with the responsibility of developing and delivering a multiyear agenda on employment that will ultimately improve the lives of workers and the unemployed across G20 nations. The work on gender issues which she led has the potential to make a significant difference to the lives of women and their families. The underutilisation of women not only perpetuates gender inequality but can be a significant drag on global growth. Delivering on the commitment to close the labour force participation gap between men and women will, by 2025, bring more than 100 million women into the labour force across G20 nations and increase global growth and reduce poverty and inequality. For Australia, this will reduce the gender gap in participation by three percentage points and bring an extra 200,000 women into the labour force. It is estimated by the OECD that the boost to female participation under the commitment would increase G20 GDP by between 1.2 and 1.6 per cent, adding more than $1 trillion to the global economy. Delivering on the commitment and raising the labour force participation of women will also help those G20 countries that are facing the challenges of an ageing population and shrinking labour force. Making better use of the workplace capacity of women will mitigate the impact of ageing populations and support growth and productivity.

Mrs Sharon McCLUSKEY
Kaleen ACT 2617
For outstanding public service through contributions to public administration in the area of executive support.

Ms McCluskey is a consummate professional with personal integrity, drive and commitment of the highest standards. Her extensive experience working to the most senior executives has resulted in her developing a unique set of skills which enables her to understand the needs and pressures of her executive, and to respond and represent their interests. Her excellent judgement and analytical skills enable her to readily identify potential issues, and to develop solutions which are both practical and effective. She has the ability to readily identify key stakeholders and to utilise her highly developed interpersonal and communication skills to ensure that the right information is shared by the right people at the right time. In her position in the Office of the Secretary at The Treasury she managed, coached and mentored staff across the organisation and has been instrumental in the establishment of a formal mentoring scheme for divisional support officers. She has also played an active role in inspiring and developing public sector Executive Assistants and Personal Assistants through her involvement with the EXPAND network and APSC-related training activities. Ms McCluskey is a strong advocate of the importance of the Executive Assistant and Personal Assistant in the Australian Public Service.

Ms Felicity Caroline McNEILL
Deakin ACT 2600
For outstanding public service in modernising and reforming the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

Ms McNeill’s leadership, policy creativity and skills in negotiating with politicians and interest groups to reform the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), in her role with the Pharmaceutical Benefits Division of the Department of Health, reflect the highest standards of public service excellence. The core of PBS reform over the past five years comprised two outstanding policies relating to pricing of, and access to, medicines. Specifically, the development and implementation of both the Price Disclosure reforms and the PBS Accessibility and Sustainability Package of measures. Both of these reforms relied heavily on Ms McNeill’s intellectual strength and ability to find innovative solutions to complex problems, as well as her persistence, negotiating skills and hard work. The savings generated by these two reforms have made it possible for new, very high cost drugs to be PBS listed, treating conditions such as diabetes, HIV, rare forms of cancer and cystic fibrosis without the total cost of the PBS becoming unsustainable. Without the PBS subsidy, these drugs would cost a patient up to $300,000 a year.

Ms Bridget Maria MATHER
Mount Pleasant Qld 4740
For outstanding public service in the area of aged care reform.

Ms Mather is the ultimate professional with a passion for public service, and the welfare and social inclusion aims of government within rural and remote Queensland communities. Her commitment to service delivery has grown from her early days working for Centrelink within her local community, through to her current role as Program Director within the Older Australians, Disability and Carers Branch of the Department of Human Services. She has been instrumental in delivering a range of government service delivery initiatives within her community, and played a significant role during the introduction of Income Management in the Northern Territory. During this time she developed a strong understanding of the issues rural and remote communities face. In August 2011 she led significant reform within the Smart Centre Division, through her project lead role on Location Based Governance and the Smart Centre Operating Model. This project delivered significant transformation of the Department’s Smart Centres from offering channel and program specific services, to customer focussed services via blended channels and programs for first contact service resolution. Most recently she has played a critical and leading role in the Department’s response in relation to Aged Care Reform. As the Smart Centre Director for Aged Care, Ms Mather has led the Department’s service delivery teams in implementing the Aged Care Reforms. This has included managing the challenges associated with new policy and procedures, a new customer base, a new service delivery system, and new ICT systems.

Ms Jennifer Elizabeth RAWSON
Ainslie ACT 2602
For outstanding public service in advancing Australia’s international interests.

Ms Rawson has made an outstanding contribution to pursuing Australia’s international interests for more than 40 years in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C), and the former AusAID. She has excelled in providing high- quality advice and advocacy across Australia’s foreign policy, trade and development interests for successive Governments in two particular areas. She has provided consistently outstanding service and excellent leadership in advancing Australia’s interests – particularly in the Pacific. She has done so during turbulent times, including as High Commissioner to Fiji during the military coup of 2006. During this period of open hostility towards Australia, the post in Suva was placed under considerable stress. She successfully protected Australia’s interests while clearly articulating Australia’s strong position on the need for Fiji to return to democracy. As High Commissioner she implemented decisions that were deeply unpopular with the Fijian Government – travel restrictions against senior Fijian figures and the suspension of defence cooperation parts of the aid program – while continuing to work to maintain positive public perceptions of Australia as a friend of Fiji and its people. In parallel she worked hard to keep up positive staff morale, proving herself sensitive towards, and understanding of, the challenges faced by staff and their families in this strained, at times threatening, atmosphere. Her efforts as a leader in the Australian Public Service have led to tangible outcomes that have benefited Australia’s national interests across a broad sweep of our international engagement, including the Pacific, the Middle East and South Asia, international security, and our aid program. Ms Rawson is highly respected by Australian colleagues across DFAT, PM&C, Defence, Department of Immigration and Border Protection, and the Australian Federal Police, among others, and by counterparts in other governments.

Mr Mark Denis WITHNELL
Australian Capital Territory
For outstanding public service in leading significant reform to improve the strategic approach to fraud and compliance in social security programs.

Mr Withnell’s passion for quality service and improving performance has enabled the Department of Human Services (DHS) to earn a reputation for world class business integrity and fraud detection capability. His contribution to ensuring the integrity of social security payments is critical to upholding public and Government confidence. Since 2008 he has led significant reform to improve the strategic approach to fraud and compliance in social security programs and, in turn, this contribution has had a significant impact upon national security. His work has been ultimately focused on ensuring the integrity of more than $159.2 billion in Government outlays in social security payments each year. This activity is critical in building public and Government confidence in the social welfare system, and in DHS’s management of its activities. He has been instrumental in ensuring the Department responds to emerging fraud and compliance risks. He has also led significant reform to the management of people resources internally within the Business Integrity Division. This has included improved attendance by forming a team to implement an attendance strategy, more effective recruitment to address skill gaps, performance management, and a focus on leadership and management at all levels. He has achieved this across a large number of staff (at times more than 3,000) and within a highly geographically dispersed workforce. Mr Withnell’s commitment and leadership in providing exceptional policy advice to Government, and in service delivery, has seen the Department achieve a range of enhanced intelligence gathering capabilities designed to detect and deter fraud and non-compliance. These capabilities are not only shared across the broader Australian Public Service but also internationally.

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