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EMPA 2021 cohort graduates in Wellington

7 December 2022

News and media


Image of ANZSOG Dean and CEO Adam Fennessy giving a speech at the EMPA awards ceremony in Wellington

ANZSOG’s flagship Executive Master of Public Administration program has held its first in-person graduation for almost two years, congratulating the 2021 cohort of 96 graduates on their achievements at a ceremony in Wellington. 

The cohort began their EMPA program online, due to COVID restrictions in Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand, but finished 2022 with a return to in-person learning. 

Christy Law, from the New Zealand Abuse in Care Royal Commission of Inquiry, delivered the valedictory address and thanked her cohort for a wonderful last two years and the bond they had formed under difficult circumstances. 

In her valedictory speech, Ms Law likened the process of the EMPA to learning a dance routine – moving from the orientation right through to the challenging process of the Work-Based Project (WBP), a major part of the EMPA experience 

“Yet, as we got more into the rhythm and into the section, our capacity increased. We drew on concepts from past papers and felt bolder about sharing our experiences from our own workplaces and roles. We felt that strong sense of belonging and a newfound comfort with the unknown, with ambiguity, and with raising our hands and saying ‘I don’t know this… but I want to’,” she said. 

“Zina shared with us at the start of our WBP experience to think about the total years of our collective lives that have gone into our research. On a team of five, that’s five years’ of life. And in listening to the different presentations – and walking the stands – there’s a sense of enormity in what we’ve delivered together, and the value that this programme gives back to the service. Not just in what we ourselves take back to our agencies, but in the taonga that we’re able to gift to those we’ve partnered with on research projects. 

Ms Law said that the EMPA had  

  • strengthened my ability to think, act and deliver at pace – both individually and in a group setting. Being thrown into the spotlight to answer a previously unasked question, or leading out on a group presentation, are now much more comfortable propositions thanks to this programme.   
  • lifted my thinking out of the operational and tactical, and taught me how to pivot into the strategic. ANZSOG alumni speaker Dave Samuels touched on Mark Moore’s Strategic Triangle from our DPV days. Having these sorts of tools at our disposal will enable us to approach conversations very differently as we progress further throughout the service. We also heard about the importance of the public service as the enduring relationship, rather than the Crown. We have a duty of care to ensure that our thinking and decision making ensures that endurance. 
  • strengthened my resilience. Covid has continued to increase both the workload and pressure we face as public servants, and balancing study on top has demonstrated how far we can push ourselves in the name of delivery. But equally, it has taught us the importance of taking care of ourselves to maintain that resilience, and practicing what we preach to our people. 

“Thank you to Dr Chris Walker, the ANZSOG team, and each of the subject leaders and guest speakers across the programme – thank you for leading us through the dance and for your continual encouragement for us to raise our hands and ask big bold questions. And on behalf of the Kiwi cohort, a special thanks to Sally Washington for her continued support of the ANZSOG programme here in Aotearoa.” 

“To finish, I’d like to share this whakataukī, or proverb, with you: He manako te kōura i kore ai. Wishing for the crayfish won’t bring it,” she said. 

We’ve been blessed and privileged to have this opportunity, and throughout the programme we’ve debated the issues and spoken of the opportunities for us, as public servants to do more, and for the service to do better – especially by our most vulnerable citizens. It is now up to us to act on those conversations. Act on those ideas. Act on the ambition we have for a better Australia and a better Aotearoa New Zealand.  

The graduation was also addressed by ANZSOG’s new Dean and CEO Adam Fennessy PSM and EMPA alum Dave Samuels who is currently Chief Executive Officer of Te Puni Kōkiri (TPK)/ theMinistry of Māori Development. 

The Dean’s Prize for the best overall students and prizes for the Work Based Project are yet to be awarded, however awards have been made to the student (Valedictorian) who achieved the highest mark in all other EMPA subjects. The full prize list is below: 


Subject  Student  Jurisdiction and Agency 
Delivering Public Value (DPV)  Angela Skandarajah  VIC – Development Victoria 
Government in a Market Economy (GME)  Rebecca Pianta  WA – Department of Fire and Emergency Services 
Designing Public Policies and Programs (DPPP)  Jonathan Shield  QLD – Office of Industrial Relations 
Decision Marking Under Uncertainty (DMUU)  Anthony Bradstreet  NSW – Rural Fire Service 
Managing Public Sector Organisations (MPSO)  Carolyn Paterson  CTH – Department of Health 
Governing by the Rules (GBR)  Charlotte Young  QLD – Department of Seniors, Disability Services and Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Partnerships 
Leading Public Sector Change (LPSC)  Rachel Tindall  VIC – Barwon Health 
Public Financial Management (PFM)  Rachel Tindall  VIC – Barwon Health 
Valedictorian  Christy Law  NZ – Abuse in Care Royal Commission of Inquiry