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Emergency Services leaders benefiting from new skills, ideas in ANZSOG’s Executive Master of Public Administration

20 March 2024

News and media


Leaders in the Emergency Services – police, ambulance and fire services – may not be the first that come to mind when you think of public servants, but these organisations face the same uncertain environment and pressures for change as the rest of the public sector. ANZSOG’s Executive Master of Public Administration (EMPA) program is attracting a growing number of leaders from the emergency services who want to take a broader view of their work, understand public value, and learn alongside a broad cross section of public sector leaders from across Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand.

Ten per cent of the 2024 EMPA cohort, which began their face-to-face teaching in Melbourne this month, are drawn from leaders in the Emergency Services.

Andrea McBeth, Hamilton Area Commander for the New Zealand Police, began her EMPA in 2023 and says that the course has already changed how she approaches her work.

“It’s shown me how to think strategically about how to use our resources and come up with outside-the-square responses that address the broader social issues that end up involving the police,” she said.

“You start to realise very early on in policing that you’re often called to these emergency situations but the reason that you got called is for a really complex matter,” she said.

“There’s a whole lot of causes for, or reasons why, people need help from police and often it is part of a much bigger issue that started a lot earlier.

“Having been in police since I was 19, I wasn’t aware of all of the things I needed to know to try and address some of those harms.”

“I decided to do the EMPA because I could see what was going on in the community and the increased calls for service that our organisation was experiencing around family harm, mental health and a number of other areas.”

Ms McBeth is just one of many emergency services workers who have chosen the EMPA as a way to broaden their skills and change the way they think, be innovative and respond to contemporary service demands like capacity to surge during a crisis. The EMPA program has a 20-year history of providing participants with public sector specific training, delivered in partnership with leading universities.

EMPA students get to build an invaluable toolkit encompassing public financial and economic management, public policy design and delivery, evidence-based decision-making, effective ways to organise and deliver public value, lead change management and more.

Ms McBeth is not the only police officer to benefit from the EMPA. The program’s alumni include former Queensland Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll, and current NSW Police Commissioner Karen Webb who says that the EMPA has given her a broader understanding of government, and an ability to think strategically about her role and its importance in delivering public value to the people of NSW.

Another high ranking EMPA graduate is Queensland Deputy Police Commissioner Tracy Linford who said that her EMPA training helped her keep a cool head as she dealt with the changing role of police during the COVID-19 outbreak.

“My ANZSOG experience taught me that while my role is to maintain law and order, other agencies have other key imperatives to deliver on. The public value to be delivered is different for different organisations, so it is important we all work together.

“Sure, you can sometimes get a bit overwhelmed when you get a complex urgent issue that you’ve got to lead through, but when you do something like an EMPA or the Executive Fellows Program (EFP), you very quickly realise that issues of complexity and uncertainty can regularly pop up across all areas of government. You are not on your own.

“There is a wealth of experience and knowledge that can be draw from across government colleagues to get advice or seek input. The EMPA and the EFP help build that network for you and help you to embrace these challenges and work through them.”

Learning how to address big challenges in the public sector

ANZSOG’s programs also attract students from the Ambulance and Fire services who want to broaden their horizons and get a new perspective on challenges common to all public sector organisations.

Terry Marshall is a Manager at Ambulance Victoria and has worked at the organisation for over 35 years in roles from frontline paramedic to the rostering, communication, education and management areas.

With the support of Ambulance Victoria, he was given the opportunity to undertake the ANZSOG’s EMPA course which he started in 2019.

“Doing the EMPA was great for my confidence, it made me think on a different level, especially about the environment that I operate in, and also meeting some fantastic people along the way,” he said.

“The best thing was working as a team, and the importance of this. It highlighted to me that when you build a team and operate effectively the team is so much more than its individual parts.

Adam Gwin, Chief Superintendent of Queensland Fire and Emergency Services in Far North Queensland, completed the two-week ANZSOG Towards Strategic Leadership (TSL) program in 2019, designed to provide participants with a defined sense of purpose, a stronger sense of self and the ability to recognise and manage urgent and important tasks within their department and the larger public administration setting.

“I spent a week doing the program in Brisbane and a week in Melbourne and the work done outside the room was valuable – the conversations with other participants are still ongoing now and it is incredibly valuable to be able to tap into other people’s experiences and viewpoints,” Mr Gwin said.

“It’s important to question why we are doing something and to question our own thought patterns. The TSL program encourages you to go in with an open mind and embrace it. You need to absorb it all then and think about what the discussions mean to you and what you can take away from each of those. I will certainly look for another opportunity to study with ANZSOG in the future.”

Ms McBeth said the opportunity to go on the EMPA program was a real privilege that allowed her to work with a wide group of public sector leaders from across Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand and get their perspectives on difficult policy issues.

“We don’t know what we don’t know. In the emergency services you are often recruited into the organisation quite young and stay there. We learn a lot on our journey but there’s a real risk of becoming isolated in your environment and not looking wider,” she said.

“The thinking and the learning from the EMPA program has enabled me to think strategically about where we can best invest our resources. I’m able to think outside the square by looking at place-based responses to try and do something different that has a more positive outcome.”

“I would suggest to anyone who’s looking at doing the EMPA program that this is an ideal opportunity to gain some knowledge that perhaps you don’t even know exists. It gives you an opportunity to go forward and do better in your organisation and make changes that transform your community.”