Secretary Series - Peter Varghese AO - Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

In a valedictory speech to IPAA on 9 June 2016, Peter Varghese outgoing Secretary of DFAT shared his reflections on more than 38 years as a public servant and offered advice to the next generation of public service leaders. He also spoke about the institutions which make our democracy and the challenges facing the Australian Public Service.  

‘One of the points I wish to emphasise is the need to move away from the tyranny of the current’, he said. Achieving lasting change can only come if it is embedded in an organisation’s culture, through persuasion and vision, and the hard yards of incremental improvements in pursuit of a bigger agenda. ‘I am a convert to radical incrementalism. It is radical in that it sets out a clear vision, clear principles and clear values, and recognises that translating vision into reality requires a series of smaller steps,’ Mr Varghese said.

IPAA invited Mr Varghese to speak in the tradition of asking departing departmental Secretaries to reflect on issues in public administration. His speech made clear that the remarks should not been seen as a comment on the present Federal election nor on the position of any individual or political party.


  • Video (below)
  • Speech (link to DFAT website)

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IPAA wishes to acknowledge contentgroup for their support in producing this video.


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IPAA ACT acknowledges the Traditional Owners and Custodians of country throughout Australia, and their continuing connection to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to their Elders past, present and emerging.

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