What it means to be a frank and fearless public servant

(L-R): Cath Ingram FIPAA, Deanne Allan, Penny McKay, Andrew Metcalfe AO, Kylie Crane

On 3 November, we held a panel discussion about what it means to be a frank and fearless public servant. Cath Ingram FIPAA, IPAA ACT board and council member, and chair of the Finance, Risk, and Audit subcommittee, led the discussion with Andrew Metcalfe AO, former secretary of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and IPAA National President; Kylie Crane PSM, deputy secretary at the Department of Education; Penny McKay, Deputy Commonwealth Ombudsman; and Deanne Allan, director at the Attorney-General's Department. 

Here are some of the key points from today's event:

  • There is little point in frank and fearless advice if it’s not received or understood
  • The environment that is created sets the scene
  • Be candid and choose your moment
  • When delivering bad news, have a plan on how to tackle the issue
  • Tact and bravery can be done by anyone
  • Challenge yourself with small goals and build on it
  • Ethical and moral dilemmas come in shades of grey, you need to take a breath and work through them
  • Declare conflicts of interest
  • Have a relationship of trust with a person
  • Don’t shoot the messenger
  • Written advice is far more readily available
  • Ministers’ offices are aware that advice that is being sent to them might become public
  • Complaints should filter through to the business areas so they can learn
  • The world has become more intolerant of things going wrong
  • You can’t eliminate risk
  • There should be formal training for public servants on how to be frank and fearless

Transcript – download a copy of the transcript here.
Video – a video of the event is below or can be viewed on the IPAA ACT Vimeo channel.




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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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