Professor Ken Smith, ANZSOG’s new CEO and Dean, says that expanding the organisation’s international focus in the Indo-Pacific region, ensuring ANZSOG continues to provide relevant, high-quality education and research to the public sector, and better connecting with alumni will be his key priorities.
Mr Smith is a highly experienced public servant who began his career in NSW. He moved to Queensland in the early 1990s, where he led five different agencies over the course of his career. Mr Smith also worked in the UK, continental Europe and sub-Saharan Africa.
He has seen major changes in the demands made on the Australian and New Zealand public services over that time, and says the challenges for public service leaders will only increase.
“Across Australia and New Zealand, the pressures on the public service are growing. There is a greater contestability of policy advice, and a far greater 24/7 media focus and pressure from the news cycle. This creates a challenge for public servants to meet the needs of the governments they serve, who are often working within very tight timeframes to deliver on community expectations,” Mr Smith says.
“There is a lot of pressure on those involved in public administration and policy advice to respond in a timely and quality way.”
Mr Smith believes that the growing challenges for public services make ANZSOG’s work more relevant than ever.
“I think ANZSOG’s unique role of offering significant executive education for those who aspire to, and are capable of, holding senior executive positions in the public sector will become increasingly important.
“Making sure that we invest in public sector leaders, and future leaders, is vital as the complexity of issues and expectations of the public service increase.
“Another area where we can really add value to government is our research program. We need to continue to ensure that it is relevant to our government partners.
“Public administration challenges change over time. Even over the past 15 years, issues like innovation and big data have entered into public debate.”
Mr Smith is a former chair of ANZSOG’s board and said he is proud of its many achievements. He regards it as a great opportunity to become its CEO.
“It is a very professional organisation and it is great to see how it has matured over 15 years. But, like most organisations, we need to build on our achievements. We need to ensure that what we do is still appropriate for our government and university partners as we move into our next decade and beyond.”
“There is a broad advisory role that we can play in ensuring better public administration, not only across the Tasman, but also within our region and internationally. ANZSOG is developing a more international focus and becoming a genuinely global school of government – with programs in PNG and the South Pacific, China, India, Malaysia and Singapore.
“We have a very strong network of senior government officials and academics we can work with globally, and that is only going to get stronger. We are meeting our objective to become a truly global school of government,” Mr Smith says.
He says ANZSOG’s alumni are one of its greatest assets, and he will make connecting better with them a priority.
“We’ve got a very valuable group of 1500 people who have been involved directly in our major programs, like the EMPA and the EFP. We see the alumni as a group of people we can work with and advocate for, and also engage in some of the big issues we need to deal with.”
Mr Smith and other ANZSOG staff are currently involved in a listening tour, talking to alumni in Australia and New Zealand about their experiences at ANZSOG and getting their views on how ANZSOG can better work with alumni and with the public service in general.
He says expanding ANZSOG’s educational activities with the not-for-profit sector (NFP) and local governments will also be important, given their increasing role in delivering public value.
“One of our challenges is to ensure our relevance to those NFP executives who are effectively delivering public services, but from a different auspice or authorising agency.
“Many of the challenges they face are the same, and so are the skills and capabilities they need to deliver improved and responsive services.”
Mr Smith says the public service is still working on the challenge of increasing diversity and making sure the next generation of leaders is drawn from as wide a pool as possible.
“There are issues around staff turnover and retirements across the public service, and as part of that change process we need to look at what diverse range of skills and backgrounds we need to attract into the public service.
“For example, in Australia we are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the 1967 referendum and the resulting increase in the Commonwealth’s role in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander affairs. We need to ensure all our public services in Australia have appropriate Indigenous representation, not just at the base but through to the senior executive service. In this area we can learn from the Maori experience in New Zealand.
“We also need representation that’s appropriate for gender and cultural diversity across New Zealand and Australia. I think it is obvious that a ‘bubble up’ strategy is not going to work. We need to identify talent that can go on to lead mainstream service delivery.”
Mr Smith began as ANZSOG CEO and Dean in May 2017. He holds an Enterprise Professorship appointment at the University of Melbourne and has previously held adjunct professorships with the University of Queensland and the University of Sydney. He has a masters degree in social work, majoring in social policy, and is a Fellow of the Australian College of Educators as well as the Australian College of Educational Leadership.
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