EMPA alumni Penny Rounthwaite awarded New Zealand Public Service Medal
16 November 2023● News and media
Main image: (From left) Ministry of Social Development Chief Executive Debbie Power with her fellow ANZSOG alumni Penny Rounthwaite who was awarded a New Zealand Public Service Medal alongside MSD colleagues Diane Anderson and Cath Thompson.
ANZSOG Executive Master of Public Administration (EMPA) alum, and former Ministry of Social Development/ Te Manatū Whakahiato Ora Group General Manager People, Penny Rounthwaite has had her commitment to public service recognised by a New Zealand Public Service Medal awarded earlier this month.
Ms Rounthwaite was one of 24 public servants awarded for demonstrating exceptional commitment, being an exemplary model for others, and bringing significant benefit to Aotearoa New Zealand through their careers in the public service.
ANZSOG alumni Penny Rounthwaite (centre) receiving her New Zealand Public Service Medal from the country’s Governor-General Cindy Kiro and Te Kawa Mataaho Public Service Commission Head of Service Peter Hughes.
She started her public service career as a 17-year old working on the frontline of social services, and says that she had loved helping people who were in difficult circumstances in their lives.
That passion carried through her career, and her citation for the award praised her ‘openness and genuine care’ and said ‘her deep understanding of the frontline and her ethos of service inform everything she does’.
Ms Rounthwaite has been a driving force behind Ministry of Social Development work including regional social sector trials, service improvements and more recently the implementation of the Ministry of Social Development’s Pay and Progression framework.
She said it was humbling to receive the award, ‘particularly because you know that people you’ve worked with have nominated you’.
“It’s recognition for all public servants who have tried to make a difference and those people who I’ve worked with who’ve had drive and purpose,” she said.
She said that public servants needed to ‘find their why’ and determine why they were attracted to their role or job.
“If you can find that then you can hang on during the hard times and find those genuine ways to make a difference.”
She said that the hardest, and most rewarding, challenges she had worked on were the ‘wicked problems’ in social policy.
“Those issues of people with long-term or intergenerational dependency on welfare, who are not studying or in employment, which have been there for a long time and are not easily fixed.”
“I’m proud of the work we’ve done at MSD in partnership with local government, health and education services, employers and community groups. We’ve been part of some really great local projects in areas like helping young people transition from school to further education or work.”
Ms Rounthwaite was part of ANZSOG’s EMPA 2010 cohort, and says the course was vital preparation for the work she did later in her career.
“I came into the EMPA as a manager whose career had been in delivery, not policy. It really helped me by expanding my understanding of systems thinking, and what the role is of governments and the public service. Learning about the Public Value Strategic Triangle, and understanding your authorising environment, is really important for focusing where you put your effort.
“When you have a delivery focus there’s always a temptation to ‘just do something’ to solve a problem. The EMPA changed my thinking to help me focus on what we do for the long-term, not just the short-term, and consider a broader range of options before taking action.”
“The EMPA was a game changer, and something that took me out of my own paradigm and got me thinking differently. It was also a great chance to meet people from other jurisdictions and talk to Australians about how things are done there.”
For more details of the 2023 Public Service Medals, including all winners visit the Public Service Day Awards webpage. Find out more about ANZSOG’s Executive Master of Public Administration (EMPA) here.