IGPA Insights

Getting Evidence into Policy-making
Professor Meredith Edwards and Professor Mark Evans

This article examines the case for getting more evidence into policy-making. It begins by evaluating the national and international contexts that have given rise to the latest renaissance in thinking on evidence and policy. It then draws on contributions to the ANZSIG Parliamentary Triangle Seminar and companion papers, to identify four critical obstacles to the achievement of evidence-based policy making in government. The article outlines a range of strategies for getting evidence into policy. It concludes by arguing that in most part evidence-based policy-making remains demand-led, and that developing and embedding a culture of ‘strategic commissioning of evidence’ at the level of political and permanent leadership is the fastest way of getting evidence into policy-making and achieving more strategic government. Here the SES has a particularly important role to play in championing evidence-based policy-making and forging strong working relationships with knowledge institutions through action learning processes which can help mitigate risk in public sector innovation, facilitate solutions to public policy problems and incubate ideas to support future decision-making.

LEADING WOMEN
Interviews with Women Leaders in the Australian Public Sector
Professorial FellowBill Burmester

“People will always ascribe greater authority to your words that you intend”. . . “you need to play it (power) down”. This lesson in leadership from Lisa Paul, Secretary to the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations underscores a common theme that emerged from the series of interviews conducted by Virginia Haussegger with women in leadership positions in the Australian public sector, namely the personal perceptions of authority and power that those leadership positions bestowed on the incumbents, and how, often, women leaders, were far more aware of and mindful of this than many of their male peers appear to be.

THE DOMINANT CULTURE
Professorial Fellow Bill Burmester

The dominant culture in areas of public administration remains “male” – this is the defining observation from four leading women interviewed by Virginia Haussegger at the National Press Club in August 2011.

This is despite that fact the Governor General her Excellency Quentin Bryce, Australia’s first female head of state, opened the event (see transcript), and the panel of discussants was comprised of the Chief Minister of the ACT, Katy Gallagher, former Chief Police Commissioner for Victoria Christine Nixon, former Chancellor of the University of Canberra Wendy McCarthy, and past Leader of the Australian Democrats, former Senator, Natasha Stott- Despoja, all women who have reached the highest office in their area of public administration.
All women recounted being counselled at times to be “more male” in their approach so to become more respected and effective in leadership roles. Christine Nixon was told to go on the beat with male police officers and do “blokey” things to gain the respect of the Victoria police. Katy Gallagher, after once being mistaken for the tea lady when entering a meeting of other state first Ministers, was continually questioned as to whether she had the toughness to be a chief minister (– did she have the “balls”).
 

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