Chris Eccles: what will the public sector look like in ten years?

SPEECH: Victoria’s top public servant finds lessons for the future in one of our greatest public policy achievements. Success starts with a moral purpose and realistic goal-setting, latest technology, diverse teams and engagement.

The rough and tumble of daily – or weekly – cycles often focuses our attention on the immediate, but we must always make space to discuss the long-term and the big picture so we continue to serve the people of Victoria as best we can.

There is always room for improvement in the performance of the Victorian public service. We know that. And the organisational changes happening in my own Department of Premier and Cabinet are going to provide an example of that improvement. I’ll come to those changes a little later, but I thought I’d start with a good story about what the public service can achieve for our community, and one of the greatest public service achievements of modern times.

It starts back in the 1940s, and concerns one of the big fears of our parents’ and grandparents’ generations.

It was a disease. A cruel and painful disease that stigmatised its victims, separated husbands from wives, parents from children, and was an endless source of nightmares and fear. There was no reliable cure. What treatments did exist were Dickensian, frightening and usually ineffective. As those of you who studied literature will know, this disease haunted almost every novel of the Nineteenth Century. It killed the poet John Keats, and the novelists Jane Austen, Franz Kafka and George Orwell and almost killed Albert Camus. It was defeated, though, in one of the greatest public policy successes of all time.

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