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To say 2021 was hard on public servants would be an understatement — from long hours to the collective burnout many people felt, it was a tough year on all of us. But, the sun is starting to shine again, and like the adage says — we’ve heard that diamonds are made under pressure, and over time 💎.

So we can’t think of a better way to wrap up 2021 than by highlighting the very people who have helped us get through it. People working behind the scenes, the folks that don’t get celebrated nearly enough — those working in the public sector.

We asked our community of public sector workers, and civic tech fiends who they wanted to congratulate this year (a big thank you to everyone who submitted a name!), and here are some of the folks whose names came up more than a few times.

Can we please have three cheers (and maybe a beer) for the winners of this year’s #GovWin awards, and in fact ALL public servants. Thank you all so much for the work you do.

Now, here are the winners.

📇 Most dedicated to keeping shared systems alive

Elise Chant & Dominik Wilkowski, Design System AU
Back in August, the Digital Transformation Agency announced it would no longer support the Australian Government Design System (AuDS). Cut to Elise and Dominik swiftly moving into action! These two have spearheaded Design System AU, a collective of developers, designers, accessibility experts and others who are maintaining the AuDS, and giving it a facelift. Re-naming the system back to GOLD — its original name — the collective will oversee the maintenance and improvements of the System, ensuring that folks working inside of government have access to better, faster, and more economic ways of creating websites that meet accessibility standards.

Hurrah for Design System AU! If you’re interested in getting involved and would like to have your voice heard, you can join Design System AU on Slack here, and fill in their survey here.

🤖 Going big and it paying dividends

Liam McCann, Cristina Casey, David Pryor & team, NSW Department of Planning, Industry & Environment
Rules as Code (RaC)is a reg-tech concept being experimented with by governments around the world. DPIE dived right in, partnering with one of our Fellowship teams, to take a novel approach to RaC. While focusing on complex use cases highly specific to their team, the implications and learning stemming from their work are wide reaching and are a massive contribution to the RaC landscape.

Their achievements wouldn’t have been possible without Liam, Cristina, David and the team giving our Fellows the freedom to experiment, an always open line of communication and the permission to focus on processes over outcomes. DPIE’s RaC work continues and we can’t wait to see what’s next! You can hear Liam alongside our Fellow Ram, speaking more about Rules as Code and find out more about their work below 👇

Talking About a More Digital Government: Episode 2 - Rules as Code

Levelling-up Rules as Code into the future

How we used design to understand, inform and experiment within the Rules as Code space

♻️ Closing the loop in regional areas

Scott Bryant, City of Greater Bendigo

Scott has been working hard this year to develop Circular Economy infrastructure solutions to replace the region’s soon-to-close landfill as well as implementing a Circular Economy & Zero Waste Policy across the City. He’s passionate about improving outcomes for the residents he serves, and as part of City of Greater Bendigo’s Climate Change and Environment Strategy, Scott has enlisted the help of our very own Civic Makers team to assist in building a climate calculator for staff to track their carbon emissions from their commute to work. Keep your ears open for more info on the great work they get up to together.

🧑🏽‍🤝‍🧑🏽Most likely to put people first

Jodee Anderson, City of Greater Geelong

If there was ever a time to put residents first, 2021 would be it. Jodee spearheaded City of Greater Geelong’s Customer Experience Delivery Program which included customer experience research activities wherein participants were able to directly contribute to improving how Council’s wide range of services are to be delivered. Using research approaches such as surveys, interviews, workshops and focus groups, Jodee and her team were able to better understand the experiences of residents in City of Greater Geelong. Well done Jodee!

👩🏽‍🏫 Most eager to educate others about design

Jo Szczepanska, Department of Premier and Cabinet Vic

Jo is one of those magical unicorns who wears many hats and is most comfortable working her way through the unknown. In her current role at DPC, Jo works as a Service Designer — solving problems and making waves. She’s responsible for the Human-centred Design training that the department are offering to other Government teams, as well as co-design coaching for VPS staff which you can find out more about here. Jo also provides technical design support for a number of projects.

Outside of her work at DPC, Jo also runs co-design.tools, which features practical resources for radical collaboration. You can learn more about Jo’s design philosophy and her views on facilitating design in government via the podcast episode below.

🔬Most tenacious at bringing STEM to the masses

Dr Caitlin Syme, Office of the Queensland Chief Scientist
In a year where many parents and community members realised just how vital teachers are (homeschooling was hard for so many), Caitlin was instrumental in putting together the Citizen Science resources list and toolkit on behalf of the Office of Queensland Chief Scientist. Importantly, she played a huge role in getting the resources out to the masses by leading the development of a key part of a website which is the searchable database of teacher resources. Thank you to Caitlin for all her amazing work in getting these resources out there when they’re needed the most!

✅ TEAM WIN: Improving accessibility

Australian Bureau of Statistics Online Census Delivery Team
This year was a Census year. Rarer than a leap year, and definitely more useful, the Census informs much of Government’s spending and resource allocation so it’s vital to get it right. It’s also compulsory for all residents of Australia, which means it needs to be accomodating and accessible to all. In 2021, the Census Delivery Team at the ABS broke ground with the online version not only meeting global accessibility requirements (thanks to the Australian Government Design System!), but ensuring the form worked across multiple devices and operating systems.

The ABS worked with accessibility advocates to research, design and build the Census and the level of co-design employed was evident in the final product and resulted in better, cleaner data which Governments can utilise for the betterment of our communities. While there’s still room for improvement on the design of questions pertaining to gender (and how that data is expressed), it’s clear that if community consultation and broad and reflective user-testing can improve accessibility, it can also improve representation for all people.

Bravo to the team at the ABS! We can’t wait to see how you make even more improvements in 2026.

That’s it for another year! As always, we’ll be working on celebrating more great people in 2022, so if you have ideas or suggestions for us — we’d love to hear from you.

Let’s tackle social problems, together.

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