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Sue Bird (pictured left) would admit she is an over-achiever. This year she overhauled the Australian Government Department of Human Services’ (AGDHS) legal services division, which is no mean feat. This chief counsel redesigned the way the legal division works with the AGDHS, making her a worthy winner of this year’s ACLA Public Service Award.
It was Bird’s out-of-box thinking and hard work that led to the achievement of a more responsive department. She introduced quality assurance and risk management processes, overhauled training regimes and introduced a collaborative approach to management. The benefits were immediate, with engagement levels of team members improving considerably.
An achievement that Bird is particularly proud of is a development program for graduates and government lawyers that she introduced this year. The program ensures the department’s lawyers are trained in necessary skill sets and competencies early on in their career. This has ensured the AGDHS has a steady flow of “highly-quality, resilient and broadly-skilled lawyers” for growth into the future, she said in her submission.
At the awards ceremony, Bird said she had the best job in the Commonwealth.
“We’ve got a great legal team in 29 different locations; over 200 people ... which provide really important services for the most vulnerable in society when they most need it, so [reciveing this award] is a real privilege,” she said.
An integral member of the AGDHS management team, Bird has handled a number of sensitive matters, including providing advice on employment matters, managing challenging customers, and compliance with work health and safety obligations.
More recently, she brought together all interaction with the department by the Commonwealth Ombudsman’s office to ensure more comprehensive responses to inquiries from that office and greater oversight of Ombudsman investigations.
“I think the most important thing is recogniton of this new, really important department for the Commonwealth ... which really touches the lives of all Australians from birth to death," said Bird.
She received her trophy from ACLA CEO Trish Hyde (pictured right)