Late last year, stageone of a $35m community hub and recreation precinct opened in one of Melbourne's outer suburban growth areas.
It was a joint venture between the local council and private developer on council-owned land to deliver a town centre with sequenced community, education and economic development infrastructure. Funding for the precinct came from multiple government agencies across three tiers of government, together with the private sector.
This initiative represents a significant departure from the single-use facilities that were historically funded in a relatively straightforward manner by local government, augmented occasionally by grants from state government.
The work of my department would then have involved the provision of grant funding and staff would have principally focused their efforts on the administration of grant programmes.
In recent years however, the relative importance of our grant funding has diminished, and we are increasingly re-focusing our efforts towards the rather more complex task of ensuring that in town centres retail and commercial space is effectively integrated with community centres, libraries, early childhood facilities, schools, health facilities, and sport and recreation facilities.
This involves working in partnership with local councils, private sector developers, other state government departments and not-for-profit service providers to develop innovative solutions and funding models tailored to the local community's needs. In some instances we are embedding public servants within local councils to better enable collaborative relationships.
This change is representative of a broader shift within the public sector being driven by two key trends.
The first is the need to respond to a range of increasingly complex problems, which invariably required collaborative working practices directed at innovative solutions.
Secondly, dramatic advancements in technology have radically re-shaped the way government engages with citizens, as well as the way it organises its own back-of-house functions.
Since the global financial crisis – and the associated constraint placed on government budgets – these trends have been overlaid with the additional need to focus on the efficiency and effectiveness of service delivery.
All of this means that the capabilities required of public managers in Australia – as in the United Kingdom – are changing dramatically.
Business process improvements, coupled with automation underpinned by technology, means less clerical and process work.
Andrew Wear is a senior public servant with the Victorian Department of Planning and Community Development, where he is currently working on new approaches to plan and deliver community infrastructure in Melbourne's outer suburban growth areas.
Andrew has degrees in politics, law, economics and public policy, and has published extensively on a range of policy themes including innovation, regional governance and community development.