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Part 5: The department's response

Every public service agency needs to ensure that it is both delivering for the government today and well-placed to serve the governments of the future. The Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA) welcomes this capability review as an important contribution to ensuring we are positioned well for the future.
 
At a personal level, I would like to thank the senior review team—Robyn Kruk, Brendan Sargeant and Geoff Applebee – for their time and the excellent advice they have provided. I would also like to thank the APSC secretariat for their support.
 
The capability review confirms that FaHCSIA is a good department that is performing well for government. It acknowledges that the department has successfully delivered a complex and ambitious reform agenda. This is a welcome finding that reflects appropriately on the hard work and dedication of FaHCSIA staff.
 
But the review has also clearly found that we need to do more to be ready for the future. It reminds us that success today does not guarantee success into the future. This is a message we understand and agree with. We agree that the department needs to do more to ensure we have the right capabilities to support government into the future. We agree that we must do more to ensure that our business is sustainable in a world of shrinking resources. We agree also that we must work harder to speak with one voice, and become a more decisive organisation.
 
Importantly, the review recognises that the department is aware of its strengths and the areas needing development, and there is an alignment between the judgements of the department and those of the review.
 
The review recognises that the department has undertaken the groundwork that addresses many of the issues identified in the report and has reinforced that we are on a good path. The review has acknowledged the department has commenced a large internal reform program. It recognises, in particular, that Delivery Reform and Horizon Project will bring needed rigour, system and consistency to our business. The department remains committed to driving this reform agenda and we will use the findings from the review to enhance our approach.
 
The review questions whether we are hardwiring our reform and whether the current reform program addresses all of the change needed. It makes a range of suggestions around risk, resource prioritisation and allocation, long-term workforce planning, capability development and performance management. We agree with the areas identified, and will move quickly to lift capability in key areas.
 
The review’s work with stakeholders has identified some uncertainty about the department’s strategic focus. Stakeholders have questioned whether we are a policy agency or a delivery agency. We are emphatically both. We strive to ensure that our delivery effort contributes strongly to our policy outcomes, and our overarching policy framework. I look forward to ensuring our dual strategic focus is better articulated and communicated in future.
 
The review has challenged us to position the department more assertively as the government’s pre-eminent source of social policy advice and thinking. I welcome this challenge. A number of the review’s core findings about improving integration, establishing clear whole-of-department positions internally and externally, and enhancing stakeholder engagement, will strengthen our ability to perform this leadership role. This is something we will pursue strongly as part of our overall reform program.
 
Fully addressing the review’s detailed findings will require significant effort. I am committed to achieving this by developing a strong action plan that fully integrates with our existing internal reform agenda. Our action plan will recognise the department’s strengths and reinforce the importance of delivering for government, but it will also pick up the challenge of ensuring we are improving capability for the future.
 
Finally, the review recognises that FaHCSIA has a highly motivated and dedicated workforce, and that we are well regarded by stakeholders both internal and external to government. These are great strengths of the department. I look forward to building on and supporting these great strengths as we move forward.
 
Finn Pratt PSM
Secretary
Department of Families, Housing, Community Services
and Indigenous Affairs