Williams Oration

(above L-R: Ann Sherry AO, Helen Williams AO and Frances Adamson)

Each IPAA division hosts an Oration as part of their annual calendar, to honour an individual and their contribution to the field of public administration. In 2018, IPAA ACT established the Williams Oration in honour of Helen Williams AO, the first female to be appointed Secretary of a Federal Government department. The inaugral oration was delivered by Ann Sherry AO, Executive Chairman of Carnival Australia on 23 August 2018.

The event was held as the launch of the 'Women in Leadership Series', a collection of four events delivered in 2018, discussing the opportunities that exist and the challenges that are faced by women in public sector leadership roles. In April 2018, the Australian Government achieved gender parity at the most senior level of the public service with nine of the 18 departmental secretary roles occupied by women.

The 2019 Williams Oration will be delivered by Dr Megan Clark AC, Head of the Australian Space Agency on 4 November 2019. More information about the upcoming event can be found here.


Helen was appointmented Secretary of the Department of Education in 1985, she went on to be the Secretary of several other porfolio departments: the Department of Tourism, Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, and the Department of Human Services. She was also the Australian Public Service Commissioner between her time at Immigration and Communications.

Helen was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia in June 1993 for service to public administration, particularly in the areas of education and social welfare. Helen retired from the public service in 2009 but remains passionate about public administration and those that work in our great profession.


Ann Sherry AO
Executive Chairman
Carnival Australia

View the 2018 Oration here.


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Kingston ACT 2604

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