Home' Defence Magazine : Issue 1, 2017 Contents 24 Defence Issue 1 2017
Roxanne Kelley was awarded a Public Service Medal for her efforts
in leading the team implementing the First Principles Review
Corporal Max Bree
SWEEPING view of Canberra’s
Blamey Square emerges as you
enter the office of Roxanne Kelley,
who was appointed Deputy
Secretary Defence People Group in
Even more impressive are the changes
brought about by Roxanne’s previous work on
the First Principles Review.
Her efforts in leading the team implementing
the 75 recommendations the Government
agreed to have led to a Public Service Medal in
this year’s Australia Day honours. The citation
states that Roxanne has made a “substantial
contribution to the reform efforts under way to
improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the
Department of Defence”.
Roxanne is pleased at the positive feedback
about the reforms.
“A lot of people are saying Defence
is an easier and friendlier place to work.
People are saying the committees are much
more collegiate, with more honest and open
discussion,” she says.
“There’s a lot more focus on what’s in the
interests of the organisation and what we can do
for government. A mindset change is happening
and we’ve made good progress only 18 months
after the report was released.”
Roxanne regards her Public Service Medal as
a team effort.
“I look at myself as being the conductor
of the orchestra. I had a small, smart, skilled
team that worked with me. My role was to
make sure we were focused on the strategy, the
performance and the people,” she says.
She was shocked when a special letter
arrived in her letterbox.
“I got a letter that had the Governor-
General’s insignia. When I read it, I was a bit
emotional. It was just such an honour, it was a
real surprise,” she says.
“My whole family – my husband, sons,
parents and siblings were very excited and
proud. I was very touched by the number of
congratulatory messages I received.”
Roxanne began her Public Service career
with the Queensland Government and then
moved on to Centrelink, Customs and Border
Protection, and Defence.
She was fairly new to Defence when the
First Principles Review was announced and
was excited about the opportunity to lead the
departmental secretariat working with the
external review team.
The review team featured five eminent
people including senior people from the private
sector, two former Ministers and a former
Service Chief. They were reporting directly to
government on their findings and it was here
Roxanne needed to walk a fine line between the
ideas being presented to ensure both the review
team and Defence’s interests were looked after.
“There were particular things that external
people would say about Defence and people on
my team were saying ‘do they really think that
about us?’ ” she says. “You needed to maintain
the integrity of what the review team was
hearing from a range of people and make sure
their findings were accurate, but not too harsh.”
Roxanne made sure relationships were
managed while being open to conflicting points
“It helps if you like engaging with people.
Lots of it was making sure you were connecting
with the right people and keeping in contact,”
she says. “The review was very honest and hard
hitting, with the Secretary and the Chief of the
Defence Force agreeing with all but one of the
review team’s recommendations and saying to the
organisation ‘we now need to get on and do this’.”
With the review report complete, Roxanne
noted that it was really the end of the
beginning. The hard work really started with
implementation. With enough rapport built
up, Roxanne says it is possible to make things
happen when outcomes need to override
“Sometimes we had to say ‘no, this has to
happen’ or what you are doing is not meeting
the intent of the review,” she says. “If you’ve
established those relationships and people know
you’re an authentic operator who is trying
to be helpful, then generally people are very
“LEADERS HAVE GOT
TO BE COURAGEOUS
BUT IT’S IN THE
CONTEXT OF BEING
AND WANTING A GOOD
DEFENCE PEOPLE GROUP
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