Recognising the everyday leadership of 2020

15 Apr 2021
The Victorian Public Sector Commission has partnered with IPAA Victoria to recognise leadership in our public purpose sector.

The Victorian Public Sector Commission has partnered with IPAA Victoria to recognise leadership in our public purpose sector.

Adam Fennessy PSM, Victorian Public Sector Commissioner and IPAA National Fellow, reflects on recognising the everyday leadership of 2020.

IPAA’s Leadership in the Public Sector Awards give us an opportunity each year to acknowledge service to the community across all three levels of government. After an exceptionally challenging 12 months, we will recognise the efforts of the public purpose sector in working tirelessly and collaboratively to support our community in times of crisis.

As I reflect on the theme of this year’s awards, ‘The Everyday. The Extraordinary’, I am reminded of the importance of everyday leadership in our sector. Everyday leadership is demonstrated by our frontline health and emergency services workers, and those who have used their ingenuity to find new ways of connecting and delivering services, as well as the many colleagues offering to be redeployed to key COVID-19 pandemic response areas to use their skills in the ways Victorians need them right now.Throughout my career, I have had the privilege of witnessing extraordinary examples of leadership, both big and small, that have made a positive impact in people’s lives. But recent events have emphasised how impactful leadership can come from surprising places, including in the everyday services we may have once taken for granted.2020 brought into sharp focus the importance of a strong, resilient and agile public purpose sector and called for new capabilities, ideas and flexibility. As we tackle the ongoing devastation wrought by bushfires over the 2019-20 summer period, some of the worst we’ve ever seen, and a once in a generation global pandemic, we continue to respond, recover, and rebuild our community and economy.This year for the first time, a dedicated bushfire recovery program for Aboriginal Culture and Healing was established in response the 2019-2020 fires. Led by Aboriginal and Traditional Owner groups alongside Bushfire Recovery Victoria, the initiative is designed to embed Aboriginal self-determination into service design and delivery, ensuring that Aboriginal Victorians inform culturally appropriate and targeted bushfire recovery responses.Ambulance Victoria launched a new service, TelePROMPT, a pre-hospital response service which partners paramedics on-scene with a mental health clinician through telehealth and access to state-wide mental health records for rapid assessment and triage of patients. TelePROMPT sought to improve the experience and outcomes for people experiencing mental health emergencies in Victoria, delivering care that is high quality, patient-centred and safe, while reducing the pressure on hospital emergency departments during the pandemic. TelePROMPT was co-designed in Ambulance Victoria’s Patient Care Academy by taking in consumer, clinician, and system perspectives into account.The coronavirus pandemic has touched every Victorian. It is rare to have a crisis so encompassing that all levels of government must – at once – come together to meet the needs of every individual in our community. We have seen first-hand how integral the efforts of our everyday service providers are and how quickly we can respond to change through innovative solutions, human-centred design and communications initiatives.When our early childhood education and care centres closed due to public health restrictions, the lives of young children and their families were severely disrupted. Young children were at risk of experiencing stressors that could have a lasting and detrimental impact. To help counter this, the Department of Education and Training quickly developed Play, Learn, Grow, a virtual advice service to support parents of two and three-year-old children. The program offers practical advice and activities to support their child’s learning, development, health and wellbeing at home, sought to prompt parenting behaviours shown to support children’s cognitive and social development, and help support parents through a unique and stressful period.Likewise, the Commission for Children and Young People led a COVID-19 engagement project to understand how the pandemic was affecting the lives of Victoria’s children and young people. They consulted with 644 children and young people and 172 workers from 70 organisations to develop snapshots on safetymental health and education. These were shared online and with the Victorian Government departments and agencies working with children, young people and their families to inform the pandemic response to the needs of children and young people.Alongside the new initiatives and interventions of the past year, we found ourselves updating our ways of doing everyday things too, so that we could continue uninterrupted important services citizens rely upon. We’ve seen a rise in digital service delivery for example in health through telehealth calls, and in our justice system using virtual courts.Our local governments operated business as usual with council elections in October 2020 conducted efficiently by mail. The Victorian Electoral Commission ran a sustained campaign to ensure eligible voters were informed and prepared to take part and, despite Victoria’s public health restrictions, achieved the highest participation rate at local council elections ever recorded.At the Victorian Public Sector Commission we have sought to keep the public sector operating in a sustainable and safe way as we deliver for Victorians.  We supported the workforce with integrity guidance for remote work settings, wellbeing tools for managers and teams and recently revised the Flexible working policy for the Victorian Public Service (VPS), designed to ensure we have a high-performing workforce that is just as diverse as our community. This will assist us to continue to improve our service delivery as we learn from events in 2020 and support Victorians in the ‘new normal’.Initiatives and programs like those nominated in the IPAA Leadership in the Public Sector Awards continue to shape our definition of leadership, and I hope that in reflecting on the sector’s response in the past year you’re inspired to recognise the leadership moments in your everyday working life – and create your own.I am looking forward to the IPAA Leadership in the Public Sector Awards and I hope you will join us on 20 April 2021 to recognise the extraordinary efforts of 2020.The Victorian Public Sector Commission has partnered with IPAA Victoria to recognise leadership in our public purpose sector.


Adam Fennessy PSM FIPAA

Adam Fennessy PSM is Victorian Public Sector Commissioner and an IPAA National Fellow.