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5 August 2020

If you want people to do things differently, show them that doing things differently is important and valued.

It’s been a tough year but the 2020 Public Sector Innovation Awards provided a moment to celebrate and share novel approaches to challenges. The winning entries are shining, clever, practical examples of creativity and hard work to help Australians.

We’re about to share overviews of the winners and how they innovated, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t recognise the strength of the field of 44 nominations in 2020. Congratulations everyone!

Key innovation principles

  • Think from a user’s perspective.
  • Look beyond your own context.
  • Tell a compelling story to get your message across.

Citizen-centred innovation

Department Of Education, Skills and Employment

Regional university centres program

The ‘Tyranny of Distance’ wasn’t coined to talk about the distances inside Australia, but those distances can still be tyrants.

If you live in a regional part of Australia, one tyrant-of-distance can be your ability to access university education.

The team from the Department of Education, Skills and Employment worked with local communities to create the Regional University Centres.

The centres give regional and remote students the option to stay at home in their community, while getting their tertiary education. Students study online in a fully supported ‘campus-like’ environment.

The judges were impressed with the unique and creative approach this project took to higher education. By working with the communities, by putting citizen experience at the centre of what they did, the department was created something truly helpful and different.

Culture and capability

Australian Taxation Office

Single touch payroll

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) wanted there to be a simpler way for businesses to report their payroll. Information about pay and super coming in real-time would lead to better levels of transparency, compliance and benefits for Australians.

But instead of creating something in a vacuum and getting business owners to jump through a series of new and confusing hoops, the ATO went to businesses and asked ‘How do you work?’

The ATO found out what businesses and their support people (like, for example, accountants) were already doing. They then fitted in what they needed with these existing processes.

Businesses were able to provide the ATO with this payroll information at a single touchpoint (hence the name). The judges were impressed at the impact, innovation and scale this project showcased.

There’s also a timely footnote: As the pandemic progressed and the JobKeeper assistance was needed, the single touch payroll system was able to deliver assistance.

Digital and data category

Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment

Innovations with 3D x-ray technology

Some of the best innovations come about because you take something used in one context and bring it to a different context.

The Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (DAWE) did exactly this. The DAWE team looked into medical 3D x-ray technology and thought, y’know, this could be useful for some of our problems.

With increasing trade and tourism comes an increased risk of unwanted plant and animal products entering Australia.

Detecting such biosecurity material at the border is a challenge for DAWE. But the creative team developed a 3D x-ray machine and some special algorithms to help. They’re trialling the technology in Melbourne, and the judges noted the measurable impact it’s already having.

Judges award

Department of Parliamentary Services

Classified: innovative cyber security awareness program (Culture and Capability Category)

Binge-watching has been a feature of recent life, but when you ask public servants what they’ve been hanging out to watch, you wouldn’t expect the answer to be: training about the importance of cyber security. That is, unless they’re at the Department of Parliamentary Services (DPS).

Working in partnership with private providers, the DPS cyber team used storytelling and entertainment to teach. They created a cool Netflix-style series to raise awareness of cyber security among staff.

The judges were happy to hear that while the project was commissioned and put together to address a need at DPS, it was made in a way that could be used across the APS.

Judges award

Services Australia

Jobseeker streamlined claim (Citizen-Centred Category)

Services Australia knew there was a big problem; long queues of people looking for help was dangerous in a pandemic. So they got to work.

The team streamlined the experience of claiming the JobSeeker support. They made it much easier for people to claim online, worked to reduce the need for staff to intervene and removed steps where people needed to call or come in to an office.

The judges noted just how agile and quick the response was, with over 250,000 Jobseeker applications moved online in a matter of weeks.

About the awards

The Public Sector Innovation Awards recognise and celebrate public servants making a difference. Our Public Sector Innovation Network has run the awards in partnership with the Institute of Public Administration Australia since 2016. This year they were part of a ‘delivering differently’ themed Innovation Month.

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