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“A truly fantastic couple of days”

2 October 2023

News and media


Image of NRCOP Conference Closing Ceremony

This guest editorial was written for the ANZSOG/National Regulators Community of practice monthly newsletter, highlighting new additions to the Regulation Policy and Practice collection on APO. The RP&P collection brings together a range of practical resources from national, local and state/territory governments, regulatory agencies and external institutions conducting monitoring, inquiries and reviews. You can receive this newsletter by  joining the ANZSOG/National Regulators Community of Practice (membership is free) or subscribe to the newsletter directly.


This guest editorial for the ANZSOG-auspiced National Regulators Community of Practice (NRCoP) has been written by Rose Webb, Chair of NRCoP.

Being a regulator is a “tough, tough job”. Regulators need resilience and courage. Regulatory problems are complex and challenging. These were some of the recurring themes at the 2023 ANZSOG National Regulators Community of Practice (NRCoP) conference.

However, despite this, the buzz around the conference venue showed that regulators love their work!

They are keen to learn how to do their jobs better, they want to compare notes about the issues they face and they understand that they need to consider how current social, political and technological developments impact their regulatory roles.

And they particularly want to meet other regulators who share their enthusiasm for regulation.

The conference was held on 21 and 22 September in Melbourne with the theme “Regulatory Hindsight, Foresight and Insight”. Almost 500 delegates from around Australia and New Zealand attended and they were joined by another 150 online. Facilitated with flair by ANZSOG’s Maria Katsonis, keynote panels and presentations in the mornings were complemented by armchair conversations and workshops in the afternoon. There were also plenty of networking opportunities, with formal meet-ups for different jurisdictions and lots of informal contacts being made.

Speakers included renowned regulatory academics Professor Malcolm Sparrow, Professor John Braithwaite and Professor Valerie Braithwaite; journalist Adele Ferguson discussing the relationship of media and regulators; and senior regulators past and present from a range of regulatory agencies. Participants also heard from representatives of industry, NGO’s and others for the outsiders’ view.

A session on regulatory failure focussed on how regulators could learn from these situations and explored the tricky issue of remediation while another panel identified how paying attention to “near misses” could help prevent failure.

Malcolm Sparrow talked about barriers to regulatory problem solving, reminding participants that it wasn’t sufficient to identify problem solving projects but also that the projects actually needed to be started, and importantly, finished. His session was livestreamed to groups of regulators in 13 Australian and three New Zealand venues. Later in the day Professor Sparrow also provided an analysis of the causes of the Robodebt issue and the lessons it raised for regulators.

There were discussions about putting the “public value” back into regulation and consideration of what exactly “social licence” is and whether regulators need to have it.

First nations representatives provided some frank and fearless advice for regulators wishing to work with indigenous communities. A session on regulating behind closed doors challenged regulators to engage with “invisible” communities well before designing their regulatory interventions.

The conference was a great success and demonstrated the importance of bringing regulators together through a community of practice such as NRCoP. Many participants commented on the new connections they had made, echoing a consistent theme of the importance of seeking help from peers and looking for opportunities for collaboration when dealing with complex issues.

A massive thank you to the team at the NRCoP Secretariat – Marion Frere, Lorraine Cheney, Rosemary Vo and Shannon Tucker – who put in months of hard work to make it such a great event. Thanks also to the wider team at ANZSOG, particularly those who helped out during the conference.

A significant contribution to developing the conference program came from the members of the Theory Practice Working Group, a subcommittee of the National Committee of the NRCoP, who worked together planning the conference topics and identifying speakers. Thanks also to all members of the National Committee and the jurisdictional chapters of NRCoP for all their support.

The time and effort taken by all our speakers to prepare for their sessions is much appreciated. And the conference wouldn’t have worked if it wasn’t for the engagement and participation of all the delegates.

Congratulations to all those agencies who provided posters for display at the conference venue, particularly to the winners of the poster competition, ACCESS Canberra and QLD Fair Trading.

Videos, and other related conference materials, will be available on the NRCoP website soon.

As one of the many posts to LinkedIn about the conference noted, it was “a truly fantastic couple of days”