Learner Success

Former Australian Prime Minister inspires PSMP participants

Jennifer Koulis in front of Melbourne city skyline

The Public Sector Management Program (PSMP) is a national management development program for middle managers across the Federal, state, and local governments, along with their counterparts in not-for-profit organisations delivering services on behalf of government. It began 28 years ago and has enhanced the professional and personal skills of thousands of public officials across Australia in that time.

As part of the PSMP students regularly learn from talks given by senior leaders in government, influential community members, and former students. The COVID 19 crisis has brought considerable challenges that have been met in maintaining student learning in this unique national program.

Along with the challenges it also brought an unexpected opportunity – the chance to take part in an online lockdown conversation with former Prime Minister, the Honourable Kevin Rudd. Kevin Rudd generously accepted the invitation to speak with PSMP students across Australia in a Q&A style conversation. QUT’s Tony Peloso and Catherine Batch deftly and enthusiastically facilitated this conversation.

To hear of the experiences and the insights of a former PM, who earlier in his career was also the head of a state Cabinet Office, was a rare and special opportunity and PSMP ‘gold’.

My Victorian-based cohort are coming to the end of their PSMP journey. The conversation with Kevin Rudd was eagerly anticipated and greatly appreciated by all.

One of the students, Jennifer Koulis from Services Australia, found the experience so valuable that she wrote a piece for her agency newsletter. Her colleagues both at work and in the PSMP warmly received her commentary on the Kevin Rudd conversation and it is printed here for you. Jen’s humble and passionate review of the conversation is indicative of the attitude that she and her colleagues in the PSMP MEL 1901 cohort have brought to their learning and now to their work-based projects that they have just completed.

It has been my great pleasure and privilege to work with them during these highly unusual times.

Jennifer kindly allowed us to republish her article here:

In conversation with The Honourable Kevin Rudd on Public Value and the Future of Public Policy for Australia – Hosted by QUT – the Public Sector Management Program – Thursday 14th May 2020.

As part of the Public Sector Management Program (PSMP) studies, and along with my Uni group – Melbourne Cohort-1901, I was fortunate to attend a webinar with the Honourable Kevin Rudd (Mr Rudd).  Along with Facilitators, there were approximately 120 students from across the country sitting in on this webinar.  This was a first for PSMP and highly relevant to all students who are currently undertaking the final unit of the PSMP – Post Graduate Certificate in Business (Public Sector Management).

Dr Tony Peloso (QUT Corporate Educator) introduced Mr Rudd sharing a synopsis of Mr Rudd’s career achievements and journey to present day.  Dr Peloso asked Mr Rudd a series of questions before handing over to Catherine Batch (QUT Corporate Educator) who then asked some further questions from the webinar chat.

Mr Rudd shared his thoughts on public value, public policy as well as his personal reflections and stories of his time as Prime Minister.  When asked what the one achievement he was most proud of, Mr Rudd explained this was difficult for him to answer and gave the two which came to mind.  The first was “securing Australia at the top global table (G20) and the second “The national apology and reconciliation of indigenous and non-indigenous Australians – closing the gap strategy”.

Mr Rudd shared his reflections on his relationship with Barrack Obama.  With a bit of dry humour and the “Australian Way”, Mr Rudd recalled the note he wrote to the then newly elected President Obama offering his congratulations.  “Dear Barrack, you poor bastard, welcome to Messiah syndrome, infinite expectations, finite resources – others call it public policy”.  Mr Rudd recalled Mr Obama telling him, “this was the most amusing letter he has received from a head of Parliament”.

Mr Rudd gave insights into his views on federalism and how Australia can develop and sustain public policy.  When asked if Mr Rudd had his time over again would he enter politics, Mr Rudd explained he “could not or would not have done anything else”.

Throughout the conversation, Mr Rudd shared his passions and the journey of reconciliation.  Mr Rudd noted that “it always looks harder in anticipation than it does in execution” and provided the example of when he delivered the national apology.  Mr Rudd recalled after expecting a strong reaction, he “was stunned when having delivered the apology, the nation came along”.  Reflecting on this experience and considering the next step of constitutional recognition, Mr Rudd’s shared his words of encouragement.  “Getting people up to the mark to take the next step can be phenomenally difficult, but once you’ve taken the step, you’ll be surprised at how much the nation then comes with us”.

Having successfully led Australia’s response to the Global Financial Crisis (GFC), Mr Rudd spoke about the stimulus packages and what considerations were made to ensure the decisions were appropriate and responsible.  Mr Rudd clearly has an analytical mind and it was truly fascinating to listen to how he compartmentalised his responses and provided such insight.

In closing, Mr Rudd addressed the students, “Go well in your public service careers.  It’s really important for our country, go well”.

In commemoration of this webinar, there will be a donation to the QUT ‘Learning Potential Fund’ which tackles student poverty providing students with opportunities they may not otherwise have.

The Honourable Kevin Rudd was articulate insightful, frank, and open.  It was a privilege to attend and be a part of this webinar.

Jennifer Koulis
Services Australia

To see more about this event click here.

The Public Sector Management Program (PSMP) is a nationally recognised and dynamic study option catering specifically for mid-level managers in the Australian public service and non-Government organisations.

Learn more: https://www.qut.edu.au/study/professional-and-executive-education/upskill-and-help-your-career-take-off

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John Currie has been facilitating into the Public Sector Management Program for more than 25 years.

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