Work With Purpose

Sunday August 27, 2023

Connect, care, contribute: Public service for public good

As the Australian Public Service (APS) continues to drive its reform agenda, the importance of community engagement in addressing complex issues becomes increasingly evident. Recent challenges, such as robodebt and the relationship between the public sector and consultants, highlight the intricate balance between public good and how it connects to public service practice. But what exactly does ‘public good’ entail? And how can public servants ensure it remains at the forefront of their work?

In this episode, we are joined by Dr Millie Rooney, social scientist and co-director of Australia reMADE, and Dr Russell Ayres, associate professor with the Centre for Environmental Governance at the University of Canberra. Together, they delve into the complexities of public service and the essence of the public good. Drawing lessons from the unprecedented challenges of the 2019/2020 bushfires and the COVID-19 pandemic, our guests explore collective decision-making and question what truly shapes it. Tune in as they highlight the sometimes-overlooked successes of the public service, the essential need for genuine community connections, and the nuanced relationship between public servants and politicians.

Discussed in this episode:

  • The concept of ‘public good’ and its role in the public service.
  • The relationship between civil society organisations, communities, and public service perceptions.
  • Balancing responsiveness to government with community expectations and the current APS reform agenda.
  • Envisioning a future where the public good is central to public sector policies and programs.


Dr Millie Rooney

Millie is a social scientist, researcher and champion of participatory democracy and politics, based in nipaluna/Hobart, Tasmania. She co-directs the strategic and daily operations work of Australia reMADE, writes regularly and is sought after on panels, podcasts and forums for her work on the public good and more. Her social science expertise centres around community building and social capital. As a carer for her family, as well as others in her community facing chronic illness and disability, Millie is passionate about care, inclusion and meeting the needs we all have to lead lives of connection, care and contribution. Find her on LinkedIn or Twitter.

Dr Russell Ayres

Dr Russell Ayres is an associate professor with the Centre for Environmental Governance at the University of Canberra. He joined UC after a 30-year career in public policy and program management, mainly in the education and social services portfolios. His career included periods as an independent consultant, advising government agencies on their policy development processes and issues.


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