New Crawford school director begins

Janine O'Flynn

The latest director of one of Australia's top public policy graduate schools has set her vision for students to tackle world problems with "humility and complexity". Professor Janine O'Flynn began on January 9 at The Australian National University's Crawford School of Public Policy and said it was "perfect timing" for the new year with a new government.

"I land here in Canberra at a time where there is a new government that has a strong commitment, obviously, to public administration, capability building and integrity and so on, so for me personally it's a wonderful time," she said.

"I think there's an openness, I think about the ANU broadly and the Crawford School specifically has always had very, very deep engagement into government here and in the region and certainly more globally."

When it comes to the future of the graduate school, professor O'Flynn is "very ambitious" for the organisation and students.

"Certainly our aspiration is to take it into one of the best in the world," she said.

While this will be a priority for professor O'Flynn, she said her biggest goal is for students to learn humility.

"I think there's a movement coming in a sense of how do we think about listening, learning and being open to different ways of seeing the world and I think that's sort of the next phase for us," she said.

"Being humble opens us to other perspectives, to thinking outside some of the ingrained notions of knowledge and expertise.

"In my own field, public administration is a very western dominated field where the fathers of public administration - they were all fathers - are a very small set of what happens ... that revolution is coming."

Another change professor O'Flynn was excited about was the latest government, as she said it would be an opportunity for the Crawford School to further navigate their relationship with the public service.

"Big government is back, now I don't mean that it's going to mean a bloating and massive expansion but the idea of what government does, has I think been reset," she said.

"What [government] does is valuable, it's not just there to correct and fix failures of markets and so on but is there as a sort of value creating institution in its own right." Far from the first time Professor O'Flynn worked at the ANU, she began at the university as a research fellow in 2007 and was promoted to Professor in 2012. "I really did cut my teeth here, in a very positive way, with students from all around the world. I would often say to them I have learned as much from them as I'm sure they did from me," she said.

"There's a sort of beautiful serendipity to the timing for me personally."

Before coming back to ANU, Professor O'Flynn was based at the Australia and New Zealand School of Government on secondment from the Melbourne School of Government at the University of Melbourne. "The next stage of [my career] is how do I step into a role where I can help create the conditions where other people can have amazing careers as well," she said. When it comes to getting back into the classroom, professor O'Flynn said she cannot wait.

"I love it, I love teaching ... I meet people from all over the place that gives me an absolute temperature check on what is going on in particular the public service," she said.

This article originally appeared
in The Canberra Times.
Picture by Keegan Carroll.