Lessons from long service: IPAA SA members share their passion for purpose

Renee Leon

Image from IPAA SA

For this special series, IPAA SA sat down with some of their longest-serving personal members to hear their reflections on what they have learnt during their public service careers spanning over 20 years. This time, they talk about what brought them to the public sector and what has kept them there.

Ruth Ambler, Executive Director, Community Investment and Support, Department of Human Services, South Australian Government

For Ruth, it’s about two things – the astounding variety of the work and the great people she has the opportunity to work with. In her experience, she has yet to meet a public servant who isn’t working hard at what they do and trying to do the right thing for the community. This sense of common purpose and value is a strong point of the sector that is unique, given the scale and scope of the work involved. As Ruth explained, she has been part of many reforms and can see her work’s tangible positive effects.

Ruth highlights that it’s a “pretty good feeling when you can go home at night and feel like you’ve improved an outcome for your citizens.” In the South Australian public service, we are particularly privileged as a smaller state, with a so-called “two degrees of separation,” that chances are the work you do in the sector today will impact somebody you know in the future.

Kym Bills, Visiting Research Fellow, University of Adelaide

Kym shares that the variety of roles, opportunities for learning and development, networking and making connections, and contributing to the public good have all helped him maintain his passion for public service over the years.

“You just shouldn’t underestimate the values in the service and the importance of Public Service – I mean it’s incredibly important, it’s a huge bedrock for everyone.  And, secondly, whatever role you’re in, I think it’s really important to try and make the most of it.”

Anne Bosio, Senior Program Officer, Planning and Evaluation at Department for Child Protection, South Australian Government

 “I still remain very committed to making a difference, and so I suppose I look to support and be a catalyst for change,” Anne explains.

Through her experiences, she felt that she has had the privileged opportunity to really make an impact, particularly in social justice. Being able to work on policy and projects concerning our social systems, such as the traineeship system, the innovation system and major reviews, such as the Justice of the Peace system, meant she was able to get involved in roles that spoke to her values and helped her keep a sense of purpose in her everyday work. Having some excellent managers committed to building effective teams and workplace culture supported her passion and commitment to change.

Tanya Di Lorenzo, Director, People, Culture & Capability, Department for Infrastructure and Transport, South Australian Government

Tanya reflects that what brought her to the sector all those years ago is still what keeps her here today, and it comes down to two factors:

  • The diversity of the work and roles you can get involved with
  • Knowing that your work directly makes a positive impact on the South Australian community.

When Tanya started at the ASO2 graduate level, she was equipped with her degree but felt untested in the workplace. She found herself trying to navigate the intricacies of cabinet ministers and complex stakeholder relationships. Being “thrown into the deep end” was an exciting and challenging time from Tanya’s perspective and promised an exciting future career path.

Being involved in industrial relations for many years in the sector, she eventually came to a crossroads in her career where she realised that she wanted to extend herself into operational human resources. Making a career pivot is never easy, but as Tanya shared, the sector’s diversity was invaluable in making a change that kept her passionate and engaged with her work.

Catherine Turnbull, Chief Child Protection Officer at South Australia Health

When Catherine finished her studies, she was faced with a choice – whether to go into the private sector or explore the opportunities in the public sector. After her exposure to work in the public sector through several placements during university, her choice was obvious.

“I really enjoyed the passion, the enthusiasm, and the commitment of those working in the public sector. They just were so focused on helping others and improving situations, health, whatever it might be, for other people – it’s such a wonderful kind of sentiment.”

Read the full interviews with IPAA SA’s personal members below: