EP#92 Part 2: Driving capability uplift in the Australian Public Service

In 2019, the Thodey Review highlighted capability challenges and untapped potential within the Australian Public Service (APS). Two years have passed, and the APS Reform Agenda is providing a once-in-a-generation opportunity to build capability and improve public service. With growing awareness of APS Reform across the service and 270 specialist capabilities within various agencies and departments, we explore the challenges and opportunities of building and sustaining capability across the APS’s large and diverse workforce.

In part two of this special episode of Work with Purpose, we continue our conversation with Dr Rachel Bacon, deputy secretary at the APS Reform Office, and Dr Subho Banerjee, head of APS Academy and Capability. We explore some of the mechanisms that are supporting capability uplift – the Capability Reinvestment Fund, new in-house consulting model, and the APS Academy. Rachel and Subho also discuss some of their top tips on how to drive capability uplift as a leader in the APS, including being prepared to have meaningful and hard conversations, approaching each task with curiosity, and being a role model that others can look up.

Discussed in this episode:

  • Initiatives driving capability uplift in public service, including the Capability Reinvestment Fund and regular capability reviews.
  • Role of APS Academy in fostering academic partnerships and skill development
  • Strategies for future-proofing public service capabilities, including in-house consulting and systems approach.


Dr Rachel Bacon

Dr. Rachel Bacon is the deputy secretary for Public Sector Reform at the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. She has previously served in key roles across various departments, including infrastructure, environment, and the Northern Territory Government. With experience leading taskforces and implementing policy in areas like environment regulation and national security, her expertise spans administrative law and organisational change, as evidenced by her PhD.

Dr Subho Banerjee

Dr Subho Banerjee is the deputy commissioner and head of the APS Academy and Capability at the Australian Public Service Commission. With a diverse background in education, industry, and climate change portfolios, he has also overseen finance, human resources, and governance in multiple departments. Prior roles include work in the private sector, not-for-profit organisations, and academia, particularly at the intersection of public sector reform. Trained initially in physics, he also holds qualifications in economic and social history, and environmental change, being a Rhodes Scholar at the University of Oxford.