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Future Generation: Lucy Poole

Emma Macdonald

Tackling the reform of the Australian Public Service is not for the faint-hearted.

But Lucy Poole is one of a new generation of creative thinkers considering how the APS can benefit from business opportunities and be more responsive to change, all the while maintaining high levels of efficiency and trust with the public.

Born in the United Kingdom, Lucy’s family immigrated when she was four, although she returned to London for a post in the British Civil Service and worked in a large private recruitment firm before settling in Canberra with her young family. Having recently moved to Prime Minister and Cabinet as part of the APS Talent Council program, Lucy was the former Group Manager of APS Reform at the Australian Public Service Commission and a Future of Work Champion.

She’s has led a number of firsts including a Hackathon using 500 graduates to consider real policy challenges, a new talent attraction and branding strategy using crowdsourcing ‘Brandit’, and the first APS-wide smartphone app and performance tool ‘Ripple’.

She wants the APS to confidently navigate rapid advances in technology, demographic challenges and the global marketplace to deliver strategic policy that drives more liveable cities, thriving regions and a more prosperous economy.

How important is the work of the Public Service Commission?

It sets standards and frameworks, promotes best practice, upholds values and integrity, supports diversity and inclusion and leads the way in workforce management.

You know the stereotypes. Why be passionate about a large bureaucratic monolith when there are so many flexible and innovative businesses you could work at?

There’s no reason why the APS can’t be as innovative and flexible as the private sector. We need to become more comfortable with experimentation, failing fast and pivoting, and taking controlled risks.

The thing that keeps me in the APS is the exploration of the tension between being flexible and innovative while maintaining the trust and confidence of the public we ultimately serve.


Have you ever been tempted to move to the private sector?

I spent a year working as a recruitment consultant for a private sector company in London. It was an incredibly rewarding experience both personally and professionally. In this role, I developed a nose for seeking out business opportunities and got in touch with my competitive side – it’s stronger than I realised! But what was really interesting was that I learned first hand that the private sector faces the same people challenges as the public sector.

Do you believe Canberra is essentially a public service town? Still? What is it like to live here?

Less so than it was. We have a burgeoning start-up culture, world-class universities, active science and research communities, a growing foodie culture, and we are vibrantly multicultural.

Cities take time to grow. It’s easy to forget that Canberra’s only turned 100 a few years ago. Melbourne has almost 80 years on us, and Sydney has 125 years. Who can say what Canberra will be like in 20 years time!

Read the entire Future Generation series here

Photography by Martin Ollman

This article originally appeared as part of our Future Generation editorial in Magazine: Future for Winter 2017, available for free while stocks last. Find out more about Magazine here



Emma Macdonald

Emma Macdonald has been writing about Canberra and its people for more than 20 years, winning numerous awards for her journalism - including a Walkley or two - along the way. Canberra born and bred, she’s fiercely loyal to the city, tribally inner-north, and relieved the rest of the country is finally recognising Canberra’s cool and creative credentials. More about the Author