Being deployed as part of the APS Surge Reserve
Mark Tibbits usually works in the travel and credit cards team for the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. But in the middle of 2021 he became part of the growing ranks of Australian Public Servants who have stepped up to help Australians affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mark nominated to be part of the APS Surge Reserve in late 2020, following a Department-wide push from the Secretary down for staff to put their names forward. Following an outbreak of the Delta-strain in the middle of 2021, he got the call up to help Services Australia process millions of disaster payments.
He found himself on the floor of a Services Australia processing centre alongside accountants, communications experts, procurement specialists and more.
“There was a really wide variety of people,” he said. “It was interesting to chat to them about what they do.”
Mark was in one of the first groups to move out to Services Australia and undergo training to use the processing systems. Before long he and his cohort became trainers themselves, getting newer colleagues up to speed as they came on board. He said the camaraderie developed over the nine week deployment was strong, and has endured.
“It was a great crew to be there with,” he said. “We have all kept in contact since.”
He is grateful to the team hosting his cohort at the Services Australia end. He says they never left him in any doubt about the contribution he was making.
“If there was anything we needed they were straight there, getting it for us.
“Having someone go out of their way to say hello every morning and come across to check how we were, it made us feel like we were doing a really good thing,” he said.
“The overall experience is something I won’t forget”.
Mark was eventually called back to PM&C but said he returned to his usual work with a fresh feeling and some new skills.
“When I came back I felt like I had missed the work and the time away kind of rejuvenated me.”
“I have more confidence navigating new IT systems now. We have new systems being introduced into the Department so I have put my hand up to help out with that,” he said.
Word of mouth is what originally prompted Mark to join the Surge Reserve. So he has taken up the opportunity to share his experiences with his own team, to help his colleagues better understand how the surges work.
“People tend to be more interested after I tell my story,” he said.