Secretary's Speech: APS Centenary

Canberra, 19 June 2001

Following is the text of a speech by the Secretary at a ceremony to launch the DFAT centenary display and to present, on behalf of the Institute of Public Administration, APS Centenary medals to ten DFAT recipients.  The Secretary delivered the speech on 19 June 2001 in the atrium of the R G Casey Building, Canberra.


Colleagues will know that this year marks the centenary of our Federation.  Less well-known is that it also marks the 100th anniversary of the Australian Public Service.  In fact the key antecedents of our department - the Department of Trade and Customs and the Department of External Affairs - were two of the seven original Commonwealth departments created at Federation in 1901.  So this year is also our centenary.

As part of the departmentís contribution to the week of celebrations marking the centenary of the Australian Public Service, I have great pleasure in launching a display on the department's first hundred years.  While we have also presented here a selection of photographs covering some of the more traditional images associated with foreign and trade diplomacy, the focus of the display is more on our people and less on our role in the great events of Australian foreign and trade policy over the last century.

A number of themes emerge from the display.  First is the importance of the Department of Trade in shaping our emerging presence in the world in the first decades after Federation.  At a time prior to the Second World War when our foreign policy was still closely tied to that of Great Britain, the trade department promoted vigorously our separate commercial interests and our national identity through participation in trade exhibitions and, from 1934, through the establishment of a trade commissioner service.

The second theme is the breadth of areas handled by the agencies that preceded this department: from the obvious - foreign relations, trade negotiation and promotion, cultural and public diplomacy and consular affairs; to areas as diverse as promoting immigration, overseeing foreign aid, managing off-shore fisheries, customs and quarantine, administering Papua New Guinea and other external territories, and exploring Antarctica.

Third, the display provides a corrective to the stereotypes about our work that are too readily portrayed in the media.  It reveals a picture that is in some ways closer to the reality of overseas service than any number of cocktail parties.  The fact is overseas service is often personally and professionally demanding on our people and sometimes places them in harm's way.  For example, covered here is the tragic death of our trade representative in Singapore - Vivian Bowden - at the hands of the Japanese in 1942, reporting from our mission in Nanking of bombing attacks on the city by Nationalist forces during the Chinese civil war in 1949 and the expulsion of our embassy from Cairo during the Suez Crisis in 1956.  The display also draws attention to the DFAT tradition of volunteering for election monitoring and peacekeeping roles in Africa, South-East Asia and the Pacific.  For example, since 1998, over 100 DFAT officers have served alongside their defence force colleagues in the Peace Monitoring Group in Bougainville.  And since late last year, we have led an international peace monitoring group in the Solomons.

The fourth theme of the display draws attention to what is, in my view, the acid test for the department.  That is, the work that we do providing passports for Australians to travel overseas and helping Australians who run into problems abroad.  To put this in perspective, in 1999-2000 3.3 million Australians travelled abroad.  Over the same period, we issued almost 1.15 million passports.  Thatís one every 27 seconds.  Each year DFAT assists more than 20,000 Australians in serious difficulty through our consular network of more than 150 points of service throughout the world.  And over the past three years alone, DFAT staff in Canberra and on the ground have coordinated major efforts to ensure the safety of Australians affected by civil unrest in Indonesia and East Timor, Fiji, the Solomons and Papua New Guinea.

Medal Presentation

The ten colleagues that I have selected for the Institute of Public Administration's APS centenary medals are all examples of this great tradition of service in this department over the past hundred years.  In keeping with the Institute's intention, the recipients represent a range of current and retired colleagues who have performed a variety of roles in an exemplary fashion.

Susan Begley: for over 20 years, Susan has been at the heart of our statistical services area.  Her client focus is a model of public service.  Few colleagues who have written a brief have not at some time relied on Susan to get a key trade or GDP growth rate figure at short notice.  Invariably they have been struck by her calmness, grace and competence under pressure.  By example she encourages high levels of professionalism among her colleagues.

Billie Burke: through over 25 years and nine postings with the department prior to her retirement in 1987, Billie showed great dedication as a personal assistant in a series of very demanding positions.  Billie was not only good at what she did, she was quick to share her experience with junior staff.  This, together with her enthusiasm and positive attitude, helped set the tone for the posts she served in.  Retirement has not slowed Billie down: we had to tear her away from the golf course to come here today.

Ken Devlin: Ken has been at the forefront of the introduction of secure information technology to this department.  In 1987, he established the fledgling PC unit and by 1991 had managed to place a PC on every desk and introduce the first cable dispatch facility at the desktop.  He had a leading role in the introduction of the ADCNET system and is currently playing a management role in the migration to the new SATIN platform.  Throughout his career, Ken has been a model of cheerful, responsive service.

Jim Dollimore: For much of his time between joining in 1975 and retiring in 1998, Jim was the unflappable, genial and ever-reliable public face of the department.  His integrity, helpfulness and unfailing courtesy earned him the trust of the Canberra press gallery and other journalists here and overseas.  He was also generous in passing on his experience to others.  While Jim could not be here today he has asked that his son, James, accept the medal on his behalf.

Peter Field: Peter had a long and distinguished career in the Department of Trade and was a founding Deputy Secretary of DFAT.  Peter served in both Washington and Geneva and was Australia's lead negotiator throughout the formative stages of the Uruguay Round.  He also played a prominent role in the development of the Cairns Group.

Gloria Hughes: while Gloriaís formal position prior to her retirement in 1994 was that of filing clerk in South and South-East Asia Division, her personality and longevity made her a key player in the department.  For example, she was on first name terms with a series of secretaries whom she knew as trainees.  Gloria was one of those key people who gives life and spirit to an institution.

John McAnulty: John has shown exceptional courage and resilience on at least two notable occasions.  The first was when he evacuated the Beirut embassy during the crisis there in 1984.  His second contribution has been as Senior Administrative Officer in Jakarta during the recent turbulent times.  For example, he was responsible for the security of the embassy during the East Timor crisis in late 1999 when it was subject to some fifty demonstrations, some very violent.  As Consul, he was charged with the safety of over 9,000 Australians in Indonesia.  He performed these duties in a fashion which brought credit to the department and the government.

Dawn Poke: For the past nine years in staffing, Dawn has been the first point of contact for many junior new starters, helping them find their feet and setting the tone for a positive experience in the department.  She also played a hidden but pivotal role in steering us through a period of rapid reform, particularly as we faced the challenge of our first certified agreement.  Her dedication and steady professionalism make her a valued colleague and unique asset.

Richard Rowe: Over a career spanning 30 years, Richard has made a major contribution to the departmentís work on international legal issues.  He has served in a number of overseas posts and was a key player in the development of the international law of the sea which protects our maritime interests.  More recently he played an instrumental role in negotiations leading to the establishment of the International Criminal Court and has been heavily involved in negotiations on the Timor Gap Treaty.

and finally, Doug Woodhouse: Throughout his career, Doug has brought energy and dynamism to the jobs he has done.  In New Delhi in the late 1980s, he made big improvements to the missionís property, administration and consular services; a decade later he implemented major cultural change reorienting and improving our information management area; and as head of our Sydney office during the Olympic Games, Doug played a key role in delivering the departmentís successful contribution to the Games.

That ends proceedings.  I encourage colleagues to take a look at the display.