Public Service Medal list swells by 35, shining a light on our best bureaucrats


This year’s Queen’s Birthday honours list includes at least 10 new Order of Australia inductees who made their mark somewhere in public administration, and 35 Public Service Medals that shine a light on the work that goes on behind the scenes in government and why it is important.

The PSM is about recognising the diligence and dedication of public servants who make significant but generally quiet contributions to society across a huge range of fields, including in low-profile jobs where most of the public rarely sees or hears of their efforts. This year’s list of 35 medals recognise the value of having high-achievers working on everything from infrastructure, governance, communications and general administration to child protection, education, health, public safety and environmental protection.

Tasmanian Lynne McDougall, for example, has been working away for years to improve special education and general support for students with disabilities, both at state level and nationally through contributions to an inclusive Australian curriculum.  “Her endeavours have led to significant changes in approaches, understanding and culture,” according to her PSM citation in this year’s list. “Her work has been exceptional and she has been a trailblazer in her own right.”

Her fellow Tasmanian Karen Gee also earned a PSM for her work in special education, particularly for children with autism, and as a leading school psychologist over a career spanning nearly 50 years. “She has gone above and beyond the call of duty in every aspect of her work,” the entry reads. “Her contributions have resulted in significant outcomes of empowerment for young people to support each other and to positively contribute to their mental, social and emotional well-being.”

Similarly the work of psychiatrist Dr Prudence Stone has improved the health and well-being of countless Western Australians over a career spanning five decades, focused on the mental health of children and adolescents. Her medal recognises a “remarkable contribution” to improving WA’s mental health services through “visionary thinking and leadership” — including pioneering use of video conferencing to overcome the tyranny of distance.

In the federal division, there’s the director of the Australian National Maritime Museum, Kevin Sumption, with a PSM for “outstanding reforms” over the past five years and Australian Federal Police chief operating officer Andrew Wood, who earned his medal through “dynamic and inspirational leadership in all areas of corporate governance” over the past decade.

Gail Johnson from the Department of Defence has worked hard to promote employment opportunities for people with disabilities in the department and the Australian Public Service more generally. And if not for a PSM, Teena Blewitt’s efforts in the Department of Finance towards “budget sustainability, budget development, and financial management” might have been unnoticed.

New South Wales public servant Stephen Beaman received a PSM for his work on waste reduction and recycling programs, while Zoe de Saram from the NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet was recognised with a PSM this year for her excellence in support for ministerial offices, a role that can be difficult at the best of times, as the citation notes:

“Such was the quality of service, that her Branch received an average satisfaction rating of 92%, an extraordinary result given the client base, and the frequent need to make difficult choices in relation to resourcing.”

There’s also people like Margaret Prendergast, whose “outstanding service to the integrated transport system in Sydney” has been acknowledged with her PSM. The Governor-General’s list now records that her “focus on customer service, quality of work, leadership and passion for transport and road safety makes her a true asset to the community of New South Wales”.

Property NSW chief Brett Newmann earned his PSM for services to “public sector property and asset management” on behalf of the state’s residents, while Gregory Evans was awarded his medal for strong contributions to improving the safety of road and maritime workers.

Local government administrator Bernard McCarthy has been getting things done for councils across Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and the Northern Territory for 47 years and his PSM recognises that he’s consistently been a safe pair of hands. Currently McCarthy is CEO for Torres Shire Council and always promotes a positive work ethic, according to his entry in the honours list:

“The most recent critical projects he has delivered include the reconstruction of the airport in the Torres Shire, the re-establishment of a Training Centre facility, refurbishment of the Indigenous Knowledge Centre, Road Network Strategy, and assessment of business opportunities for accommodation and acquisition of an office building in Cairns for the Finance Department.”

Queenslander Peter Franks was also awarded a PSM for his work enabling several local governments to effectively represent their communities, particularly after big changes like mergers or de-mergers and where “financially distressed organisations, inefficient processes, staff cultural barriers, and poor community awareness” need to be turned around. The listing outlines his approach:

“He develops a strategic direction unique to the organisation, shares his vision with elected members, management, staff; and the community, introduces innovative programs and thorough reviews to improve efficiencies and bottom line financial results, and always places staff and the community first.”

Of course, these are just a few examples from this year’s list of the nation’s most meritorious public servants.

Order of Australia

A public service career can also be a pathway to the general Order of Australia honour rolls, and three of this year’s new Officers of the Order of Australia (AO) have services to public administration listed beside their names.

The head of the Victorian public service, Chris Eccles, became an AO over the weekend for “distinguished service to public administration, to innovative policy development and sound governance, and to the delivery of reform in the areas of training, education and disability”.

Western Australia’s public service commissioner Malcolm Wauchope also earned an AO for his contributions to public administration “through leadership and advisory roles, to improved governance, public sector management and policy reform, and to the community”.

Victoria University vice-chancellor Peter Dawkins earned his AO through his academic work but also as a senior executive in the Victorian public service, including stints as secretary of the state’s Education department and as a deputy secretary in Treasury and Finance.

Chief defence scientist Alex Zelinsky was awarded an AO over the weekend as well.

The list of Members of the Order of Australia (AM) has also swelled with several outstanding public servants, including: Linda Fazldeen from the NT, Vincent Graham from NSW, Michael O’Connell from South Australia, and Queenslanders Lawrence Pointing and Terence Slater.

Western Australian Richard Oates and the CEO of NSW Professional Standards Councils, Deen Sanders, were both awarded the Order of Australia Medal (OAM) for their various efforts in public administration.

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