Secretary's all staff update about the release of the Report into the Robodebt Scheme

7 July 2023An illustration showing two copies of the Report into the Robodebt Scheme stacked on each other

Due to media reporting on parts of the Secretary's email to staff today, regarding the Robodebt Royal Commission's report, the full text is below.

Hello everyone,

Today, the Report of the Royal Commission into the Robodebt Scheme was released.

While I have only had the report for a few hours, it makes sobering reading. It lays bare the damage the Robodebt Scheme caused.

For all of us in the Department, and the broader portfolio, the Report’s content demands both deep reflection and action. We cannot shy away from, or in any way try to diminish, the difficult truths about the Scheme’s impact on our fellow citizens and our Department’s role in its design and implementation. 

It was a significant failure of public administration. As I said in my statement to the Royal Commission, it remains distressing to me to see the damage caused to so many Australians, this is a view I know many of you share. As I said in my statement, I am personally deeply sorry for what has occurred.

We, more so than many in the APS, by the nature of our work have a particular responsibility towards the most vulnerable Australians. What we do is critical and we must continue to deliver for them and for the Government. 

As I have highlighted to previously there will be rightful criticism of the Department in both the report and in subsequent media reporting. We need to own the criticisms in the report and ensure through our actions that it becomes clear that we have learned the lessons that are outlined. I want us to be defined not by what has happened or by what people say, but by what we do now and into the future.

Some of the commentary will be upsetting to some of you, please do not allow yourself to be drawn into public debate particularly through social media. You may want to consider limiting your exposure if you think you will find it upsetting. The last thing any of us need is for anyone to breach the Code of Conduct. Please reacquaint yourself with our Social Media Policy.

We have as you know been on a journey of change for two years now. This cultural change positions us well going forward as we re-build public trust and confidence in our integrity and in what we do.

I think we are on the right track by focusing on the 4 Cs.

Curiosity must be a starting point in what we do, we have to be deeply interested in the work we do and what it means; particularly for the citizen. We must have an environment where respectful Contestability thrives and is both embraced and expected, only through that contest will the right perspectives be surfaced and ideas and proposals made better. Collaboration must be an instinctive practice as it allows the curious mind and the contested product to be worked where it needs to be so that it becomes more broadly and properly informed. And after all of that we need to have the Courage to point out things that are not right or to raise issues that might be perceived as unwelcome.

I think that when you read the report, and I encourage you to do so, you will see how important each of these elements are for us going forward.

The report has 57 recommendations which will have significant implications from both a policy and service delivery perspective. Over the coming weeks and months we will provide input into the Government’s response to the Royal Commission’s recommendations.

Support and more information

The Report’s release will be a difficult time for many in the Department and in the broader portfolio, including current and former staff who were directly involved in the Robodebt Scheme. 

I encourage you to speak to your manager if the Royal Commission raises issues for you. You can also:

  • access a range of mental health support options and resources through STAFFnet
  • access the Employee Assistance Program for phone counselling and coaching
  • visit the TELUS Health website or call 1300 361 008 to make an appointment.

I expect managers to be very conscious of the challenges some of their staff will be facing over coming weeks and months and to be very focused on individual and collective wellbeing during this time.

More information can be found at Royal Commission into the Robodebt Scheme - STAFFnet page and Royal Commission into the Robodebt Scheme website.​​

As we move forward we need to reflect deeply on the lessons from this issue, understand the hurt caused but re-commit ourselves to the changes that will flow from the recommendations and to the path of change we are already on and keep working each day on behalf of vulnerable Australians.

Ray Griggs

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