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How ANZSOG’s EMPA helped Paul Linossier shift to the public sector

27 October 2020

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By the time he joined the Department of Education & Early Childhood Development in Victoria in 2009, Paul Linossier had extensive leadership experience in the not-for-profit sector. But he thought there was much he could learn from, and contribute to, the public service.

“By that time, I had more than 30 years in the non-government sector and I was looking for new challenges, but I wondered if I had the skillset and knowledge to move across,” says Paul.

He gained confidence to make the move as he had spent the previous two years completing the Executive Master of Public Administration program through ANZSOG and the University of Melbourne.

“At the end of 2006 I received a scholarship from the Victorian government as part of a pilot program offering scholarships to not-for-profit leaders. So, I spent 2007 and 2008 in a CEO role and doing the EMPA,” he says.

“I’d always been involved in advisory panels and committees and looking at policy issues with governments, but the course increased my knowledge of how government works – and how it should work.

“Notwithstanding my professional development in the non-government sector, I was looking for a different perspective to stretch my thinking. Plus, the world of government and not-for-profits was becoming increasingly interconnected and so I knew the learnings from the course would be a bonus whatever I did career-wise afterwards.”

Not long after completing the EMPA, Paul was appointed Executive Director of the Early Childhood Development Group. He then had a series of roles within the Department, finishing in mid-2013 as Executive Director, Vulnerable Children’s Strategy, before helping to establish Our Watch, the national foundation for the prevention of violence against women and their children.

Throughout his work in government and the not-for-profit sector, the welfare and interests of children and families has been a common thread. After considering special education – a choice influenced by his younger brother’s experience of living with multiple disabilities, Paul switched to social work.

“During my studies, I was working part-time with young people in a halfway house – between institutional care and living independently in the community. It was a formative experience,” recalls Paul.

“That was my first connection with the Uniting Church and I was impressed with their understanding of social justice and that led me to have a number of senior roles with Uniting Church organisations during the next 40 years. I looked for opportunities that were about driving positive change and improving circumstances for communities and individuals. I worked with organisations that were delivering cutting edge services at the coalface and that were working at the boundaries of change and disadvantage – all were striving to realise social justice in our time.”

One of Paul’s longest roles was as CEO of MacKillop Family Services. MacKillop Family Services was established by three religious orders: the Josephites, Sisters of Mercy and the Christian Brothers.

“A critical part of that story was seeking to understand the experience of men and women who had lived in the homes run by the three orders and understanding how challenging that was for some and also how much interest there was from former residents who wanted to reconnect – often many years later – with fellow residents, family and with their childhood story,” says Paul.

“MacKillop Family Services was a merger of seven long-standing agencies, with the goal of not just sustaining but improving services and extending the reach of programs. Today it’s a national organisation working with vulnerable children and young people and supporting families in multiple jurisdictions.”

It was while he was at MacKillop Family Services that Paul did the EMPA program.

“It was a great opportunity to widen my networks and to see different contexts in which people lead and develop policy. Government funding of not-for-profits is significant so understanding how government works, how policy is developed and how major systemwide change programs are initiated and led was going to improve my capability,” he says.

“The subject on delivering public value gave us that overall perspective of why we do what we do, what government is trying to achieve in terms of improving the common good, and being clear about the authorising environment, the operational capability required and public value you are seeking to realise. Many parts are required to realise the value the community is seeking and the value is not just a fiscal value – it’s being able to improve lives and opportunities and strengthen community resilience.”

The diverse professional backgrounds, experiences and perspectives of his EMPA cohort also delivered insights that remain with Paul.

“I was with people from across Australia and New Zealand. They were from most jurisdictions and central and line agencies including human services, health, the Auditor-General’s Office and infrastructure departments. We formed friendships and networks. Only yesterday I was contacted by someone I studied with who wants to brainstorm some issues they are facing,” says Paul.

Now semi-retired, Paul is on a number of boards including Parramatta Mission, UnitingCare Australia, the Anglican Prevention of Violence against Women Committee and Edmund Rice Education Australia.

“The latter organisation is responsible for 54 schools across the country, including 20-plus flexible learning centres that work with young people and young adults who’ve experienced significant disadvantage. The focus is on trying to create strong, positive pathways forward,” he explains.

“Investing in supporting early childhood development and the prevention of violence against women – these are initiatives that will have long lasting next generation benefits and my board roles reflect my continuing interest in these areas. You never know what is down the track but doors seem to open and each door I have stepped through has been both a privilege and a significant learning journey.”

Find out more about ANZSOG’s Foundation Programs

Executive Master of Public Administration (EMPA)

A part-time postgraduate qualification developed and delivered by ANZSOG exclusively for high-performing public sector managers.

Executive Fellows Program (EFP)

A three-week program challenging senior public service executives working in the public domain to develop new leadership perspectives in a contemporary and highly interactive setting. 

Towards Strategic Leadership (TSL)

A unique two-week program that helps public service leaders develop the qualities needed to thrive in a senior executive role: a strategic outlook, political astuteness, personal resilience and the ability to reflect and learn continuously.