Adam Fennessy to leave public service

By David Donaldson

Friday May 26, 2017

Adam Fennessy
Adam Fennessy

DELWP secretary Adam Fennessy will head to the private sector next month. Deputy secretary Christine Wyatt will act in the role until a replacement is found.

Adam Fennessy, secretary of Victoria’s Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, has announced he is leaving the public service to take up a position at consulting firm EY.

The move follows “a wonderful 20-year career in the public sector”, including as boss of DELWP and its predecessor, the Department of Environment and Primary Industries, he wrote to staff on Thursday.

He will take on a partner role in the firm’s advisory business.

“My time at DELWP and within the Victorian government has been immensely rewarding and enjoyable. Together, we have worked to support liveable and inclusive communities and sustainable natural environments,” he said in the staff email.

DELWP deputy secretary planning Christine Wyatt will act in the role until a replacement is found. Department of Premier and Cabinet secretary Chris Eccles will “shortly” commence the recruitment process.

Fennessy’s new job in the private sector will focus on similar problems to his current position.

“For me it’s an opportunity to broaden my skills in the private sector, and continue to work with EY and their clients on public purpose projects in a national and global context,” Fennessy told The Mandarin.

“I’m sad to leave DELWP — I love my role and our organisation — and at the same time I’m very excited to be joining EY to build a better working world, with a potential focus on cities, infrastructure, energy and general government.”

His final day at DELWP will be Friday, June 23.

Strong record on gender

Fennessy represents a notably open and progressive strain of public sector thinking.

He believes senior bureaucrats can do more to work with the media and explain to citizens what government does, and has personally embraced this ethos, speaking often at conferences about the work of the department. Fennessy’s is one of the names gracing the pages of The Mandarin most regularly.

But he is perhaps best known and respected for his advocacy around workplace culture, embracing gender equality and flexible work practices.

“My proudest achievement at DELWP is our positive, inclusive and flexible culture,” he wrote in his resignation announcement.

“We have achieved a gender balanced executive team, made all roles flexible and are closing the gender pay gap. We have invested significant energy into our Aboriginal inclusion framework, Munganin Gadhaba, to achieve together with Aboriginal Victorians on our path to treaty.”

Fennessy has been an active male champion of change, working hard with the government to increase the number of women in influential positions within his field of remit, such as water boards, where he has described having to cut through established practice and received wisdom about the number of suitable female candidates.

He has encouraged more men to embrace flexible working, pointing to his own experience of being able to reach deputy secretary level while working part time so he could look after his children.

His email to staff mentioned a range of other environment and planning achievements completed during his tenure.

“We have worked with our Ministers to deliver Water for Victoria, Plan Melbourne 2017-2050, Biodiversity 2037, the Climate Change framework, our ambitious renewable energy target, our Smart Cities hackathons, a new Suburban Development framework and the Local Government reform agenda.

“I am proud of our work managing emergencies and keeping our communities and landscapes safe. Across Victoria, we are building on our reputation for getting things done in partnership with others as we put the community at the centre of everything we do.”

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