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Features

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Mary Ann O’Loughlin: how I fell in love with policy-making, and figured out what works and the evil problems that don’t

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Mary Ann O’Loughlin landed in one of Australia’s most purple phases of creative policy-making and promptly fell in love with it. Young, curious, engaged and smart, she arrived in Canberra for what was meant to be a short break from an early academic career, as the newly elected Hawke government set about crafting a policy agenda of considerable ambition — Medicare, indexing pensions and benefits, tax reform, the prices and incomes accords, a remarkable national response to the AIDS epidemic, and the creation of the Office for the Status of Women.

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Time to flip our thinking on mental health reform — or are we too jaded for that? Angus Clelland on the progress of mental health services

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If you have spent the past decade or two living or working in the mental health sector, you could be forgiven for being a little jaded and cynical about the prospects for reform. But what is happening in Victoria will have a ripple effect across the country, and all state and territory health departments need to be watching how it plays out, writes Angus Clelland.

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The mega department is back, and with it age-forgotten challenges. Executives must learn to manage division synergies, multiple ministers and diverging agendas

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Coordinating a coherent seamless departmental response in a mega organisation means getting people out of their silos and thinking beyond their usual remit. It can’t just happen around the table at departmental executive meetings — senior people with flexible policy brains, diplomatic skills and a capacity to walk effortlessly on eggshells are needed to make the process organic at lower levels.

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Federal public servants will soon have a ‘responsibility to share’ data for public benefit, but they need to lean on the experts and be careful not to overreach

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After a long period of consultation around upcoming federal data-sharing and release reforms, questions about consent and commercial use remain the most controversial. While a lot of researchers and policy-makers are keen to unlock latent value in the data held by the Australian Public Service, the need to maintain social license looms large.

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Cross-government collaboration by civil servants, for civil servants. Tips and tricks from collaborators that will help you turn visions into reality

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Attempts to support more effective coordination across government departments is not a new concept, and stories of failed attempts or at least only partial success tend to dominate. One of the key reasons for this appears to be the fact that government bureaucracies lack the “supporting architecture” needed to support joined-up-working. Thea Snow examines the success stories and sincere attempts of cross-government collaboration around the world.

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‘Magic’ policy transformation happens at the intersection of traditional sectors and digitalisation, and is why on-the-ground procurement behaviours differ between Australia and the UK

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Both the Australian and the UK governments have institutionalised limitations that mean policy and procurement simply do not join up, and there are currently no structural or process bridges in place to even look at how that can be made to happen. That's why any digital-transformational strategy needs a broad range of enablers that should come together in a cohesive industrial strategy, says Elizabeth Vega.