30 August 2023


30 AUGUST, 2023

Thank you Patrick and thank you Aunty Jude for that beautiful welcome to country. 

I’d like to begin by paying respect to the ancient Ngunnawal people, upon whose land we gather this afternoon and pay my respects to their elders past, present and emerging, on this historic day – on the pathway to Referendum Day on October 14, in 6 weeks.

And I genuinely look forward to the opportunity to enshrine constitutional recognition for Australia’s first people at a referendum that will bring our country together later this year.

I’d also like to acknowledge all special guests here today including:

  • Alicia Payne, Member for Canberra
  • the Director of Museum of Australian Democracy, Stephanie Bull
  • APSC Commissioner, Gordon de Brouwer
  • secretaries and heads of agencies– I can see a few familiar faces in the crowd.

And a very warm welcome to the members of the APS who are here today; including those who have helped bring this exhibition to life and those who have shared their stories.

It is my pleasure, as Minister for the Public Service, to officially open the Spirit of Service exhibition in the Museum of Australian Democracy.

And what a fitting venue this is to host this important exhibition.

The Australian Public Service is central to our democratic system – and to the lives of all Australians.

Australians interact with the APS at all points:

  • whether it be to register a birth,
  • receive a tax file number for your first job,
  • get help with times are tough – via payments from Centrelink
  • when you leave and return to our country, or when you need help overseas
  • and in the many, less visible but no less meaningful ways that policymakers and regulators touch the lives of Australians.

Time and time again – public servants across all departments and agencies, and in all roles, have worked to respond to the challenges that come our way, some known, many unknown.

The APS is there in times of national crisis – whether it be a bushfire or flood emergency – or helping keep the country running during the pandemic.

I’m sure all in this room will remember the footage of huge queues outside Centrelink offices, in the early days of the pandemic – when so many people were unable to work – and the public servants who turned up for duty around the country.

It was the public servants and essential workers who kept services going – and ensured that Australians had the support they needed.

The public service is our social safety net.  And I am so proud to be the Minister leading the work to reform and strengthen this enduring institution.

As a government, we are committed to reinvesting in the public service.

Restoring capability, investing in people, modernising systems so that public servants can continue to provide the services Australians expect and deserve.

We have embarked on an exciting and ambitious reform plan that will ensure that the APS can take on the challenges of the coming decades, including a pro-integrity agenda, harnessing advances in technology – such as AI, and responding to increasing natural disasters.

These reforms honour your profession and the work you do for all Australians – through legislation, through industrial agreements, through transparency, through long-term insights, through capability reviews.

Public service is an honourable profession – a service for Australians, by Australians.

And that calling is celebrated today in this fantastic exhibition.

The Spirit of Service exhibition challenges the perception of a public servant.

I urge you to take a look at the photo collage of 200 public servants – an inspiring sample of incredibly talented, committed and spirited people, and a diversity of experiences and roles that make up the APS.

From Antarctica, to the Pilbara, from our pacific neighbours to space, the APS is there, working to deliver for the communities it serves.

Spirit of Service has, until now, been an untold story.

It’s a story about the important roles and incredible stories that don’t make it to the front pages of newspapers.

Stories like the public servant who tinkered and experimented over many weekends in their home garage to create an x-ray machine for airports and sea docks.

Or the tradies who work in one of the most remote places on the planet guiding expeditioners, studying the ecosystem and climate in Antarctica.

Or the people who represent us on the world stage, strengthening our relationships with foreign partners for future innovation, prosperity and security.

These are the stories of stewardship in action – of people making a difference and leaving the APS in a better place than they found it.

Can I thank Lina and her team, Stephanie and her team at MOAD for all the work that has gone into this – and in particular – Jennifer and her curatorial team.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak today and I’m delighted to announce the Spirit of Service exhibition is now open!