By Tony Shepherd AO
Tony Shepherd AO is the Australian Business Representative on the Executive Advisory Board of the Pacific Leadership and Governance Precinct. Mr Shepherd’s distinguished career includes 15 years in the Australian Public Service, then pioneering infrastructure development in an executive career with Transfield, and more recently was the Chairman of the National Commission of Audit 2013-2014. Tony currently holds a number of advisory and director positions across a range of business sectors.
In the 1960s young Papua New Guineans training for positions as senior public servants at the Administrative College talked about the future of an independent country. The informal discussion group, known as the ‘Bully Beef Club’, comprised an exceptional group of Papua New Guinea’s future independence leaders, including the first Prime Minister, Sir Michael Somare.
Fast-forward fifty years and Papua New Guinea is a country of growth and opportunity. My experience with the private sector in PNG has highlighted to me that this is a country ‘on the move’, with economic aspirations to build on its wealth of natural resources and a young, ambitious population. It has significant challenges, but it also has a new generation coming through who have the same aspirations for their country as those early leaders.
To help address these challenges the Pacific Leadership and Governance Precinct was launched in late 2015. The Precinct is a partnership between the Governments of PNG and Australia, which brings together the PNG Institute of Public Administration (PNGIPA) – the modern incarnation of the Administrative College – and the University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG) as core partners.
As the Australian Business Representative on the Precinct’s Executive Advisory Board, I have had the privilege of seeing firsthand the progress, aspirations and dedication of the Precinct’s people. Although it has been operating for just two years, already more than 2,000 public servants have participated in training programs and activities, which can only increase in coming years. The enthusiasm for the Precinct is palpable across the political, public service and business leadership.
This important PNG-led initiative focuses on leadership, ethics and values.
The Precinct supports the development of strong, capable and ethical leaders in the public sector and industry, consistent with both the vision of the independence-era cohort and the contemporary policies of the Government of Papua New Guinea.
In a country with significant challenges, public servants and industry leaders need to demonstrate more than competency in their work – as the PNG’s Secretary of the Department of Personnel Management says in this video, they must embody values of integrity, accountability, respect, wisdom, honesty and responsibility with a focus on the nation as a whole.
The Precinct also sees close collaboration between UPNG’s School of Business and Public Policy and the Crawford School of Public Policy at Australia’s top ranked university, the Australian National University (ANU). The Crawford School is named after Sir John Crawford who influenced Australia’s economic policy, was a great civil servant and distinguished leader at ANU. He was also committed to Papua New Guinea, establishing the PNG Research Unit at ANU and was the UPNG Chancellor in the period just before independence. The UPNG-ANU Precinct Partnership continues this historic connection, with academics from Australia working alongside local staff, and teaching economics and public policy subjects as part of undergraduate and postgraduate programs.
The academics from ANU have delivered 23 courses for 1,200 students to date and high-performing students from the Precinct have travelled to Canberra to extend their economics and public policy studies at ANU. I was excited to talk to some of these young leaders who told me how the Precinct programs had an immediate impact on their work.
I, and the rest of the Precinct Board will soon visit Madang, one of Papua New Guinea’s major regional centres, to see the impact the Precinct is having beyond Port Moresby. I am also looking forward to visiting the newly completed PNGIPA administration building, which includes a main boardroom that is appropriately named in honour of the Bully Beef Club.
The Pacific Leadership and Governance Precinct is a partnership between the Governments of Papua New Guinea and Australia supported by DFAT through the PNG Governance Facility. More information on the Precinct can be found here, including the history of the Bully Beef Club.