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“It’s unique, like the public sector itself”: what Libby Stratford learned from the EMPA

15 September 2022

News and media


Image of ANZOSG EMPA Alumni Libby Stratford

Libby Stratford finished her ANZSOG Executive Master of Public Administration (EMPA) with new insights and frameworks to help understand how the political zeitgeist shapes the work of senior public servants, and to work within a political environment. 

Ms Stratford, Chief Financial Officer, UNSW said that the EMPA had provided her with a chance to learn and share experience with colleagues in other jurisdictions. 

“There are very few tertiary level opportunities to do that. The EMPA is unique, like the public sector itself, and it give public sector professionals an opportunity to share and learn from their interjurisdictional peers,” she said. 

Ms Stratford was formerly employed by the NSW Department of Communities and Justice, and says that EMPA gave her a better understanding of how to manage the conflicting pressures on public servants, and still get an outcome that delivered public value. 

“Delivering in a public sector space with three tiers of government is never straightforward. The EMPA provides a space to consider that challenge more theoretically and then apply that in your practice,” she said. 

“It gives you time and space to step back and consider the zeitgeist and take that into your practice of how you present things to government, so you are trying to put the best policy forward but also trying to deliver for the government of the day, because it is the government of the day that we serve.” 

“It is about understanding how to operate in order to get the best possible outcome, whilst trying to maintain all stakeholders and what their expectations are in that delivery. That does take practice and patience, and I think that the EMPA equips you to consider those things more thoughtfully.” 

Ms Stratford said that public services were about supporting the most vulnerable, and that COVID-19 had demonstrated the value of quality public services that were able to adapt quickly and serve the community. 

“The most positive thing was how quickly the sector pivoted to fill space that it hadn’t filled before. Even today I’m surprised by how quickly we responded –  the challenge is to hold on to some of that ability to be resilient, and agile and responsive,” she said. 

She said that the EMPA helped her to consider different aspects of delivering public value  – understanding the authorising environment, who the stakeholders are, and the government of the day’s impact on how you make policy decisions. 

“The EMPA gives you a nice framework to step back and think when you are delivering public sector goods and services. A framework to ensure you are trying to get the best possible outcome by taking in all aspects of the sector you are working in, some of which you can’t impact but some you can – if you understand how to impact them – and I think that is really important.” 


The Executive Master of Public Administration (EMPA) is ANZSOG’s flagship education program and has been delivered since 2003. The EMPA is a two-year postgraduate qualification designed and delivered exclusively for high-performing public sector managers  nominated from the senior ranks of government agencies across Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand, and is delivered in partnership with 10 of ANZSOG’s 16 partner universities.  

Applications for the 2023 are now open. For more information about the EMPA click here 

Find out more about ANZSOG’s other Foundation Programs

Executive Fellows Program (EFP) 

A program that challenges 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 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. 

Deputies Leadership Program 

A program designed for new Deputies in the public sector with a focus on frank conversations with practitioners and helping participants to grow their understanding of their leadership styles, their drivers and their aspirations – and building resilience to lead with integrity.