Public sector risk management - not walking too early to the winner’s circle

Risk Public sector Federal government Australia

This speech discusses the critical role risk management plays in decision-making for the Australian Government public sector.


It is a fairly natural desire on the part of any member of any organisation to want that organisation to be successful in pursuing its mission. As individuals progress within an organisation there comes a dawning, sooner or later, that they have a role, a voice, and a part to play in determining the success and future of the organisation.

Effective organisations leverage this buy-in to advance their mission, to build resilience and to mitigate risk. This does not come about by chance, but by organisations harnessing measures that reinforce their values and increase staff engagement to enhance organisational performance and reputation. It is very much a journey that has been fostered by inclusive reform and continuous improvement agendas across the years.

The focus of my presentation today is the Australian Government public sector, and the critical role risk management plays in decision-making. It is important for any nation for the public sector to provide sound policy options to government and deliver on government policies and programs, efficiently and effectively. This is especially the case when government is seeking to restore the health of public finances, at a time when OECD statistics for 2012 show that confidence in national governments generally and in Australia has been on the wane.

Sound policies and performance matter in building confidence in government, and public sector entities have an important role to play here in terms of the quality and cohesion of the advice they provide, and in delivering programs effectively. To perform this role effectively, public sector entities need the capability to match those expectations; and a positive risk culture is a key ingredient in this context.

Against this background, I plan to refer to the experience of the Australian Government public sector in increasing the focus on risk management to achieve better outcomes, some of the experience to date and messages for managers – particularly in not walking too early to the winner’s circle.

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