History of the Public Service Medal Association, South Australia (PSMA SA)
About the Award
The Public Service Medal (Australia) is a civil decoration awarded to Australian public servants for outstanding service[i]. The Public Service Medal was established on 18 October 1989 to recognise outstanding service by employees of Commonwealth, state, territory and local governments as part of the range of the Order of Australia Awards introduced in 1975 when the Imperial awards were discontinued.
Eligibility and post-nominal
The award recognises outstanding service, which can be shown through:
- service excellence to the public, or to external or internal clients
- innovation in programme, project or policy development
- leadership, including as a member of a team
- the achievement of more efficient processes, improved productivity or better service delivery
Awards of the Public Service Medal are made as part of the Australia Day and Queen’s Birthday Honours Lists each year and recipients of the Public Service Award are entitled to use the post-nominal letters ‘PSM’.
The first Public Service Medals were awarded in South Australia in 1990. Since 1990 over 150 South Australians have been recipients of this very significant medal.
History of the PSM Association – then and now
In the Queen’s Birthday awards in June 1990 seven recipients became the first group to be recognised with the PSM. These included John Flaherty, Doug Lane, James Leydon Joyce Sayer, Patricia Thompson, Michael Penny and Dene Cordes. A further seven were invested in 1991, including, Dennis Willshire and Des Hughes. After unsuccessfully attempting to join the Order of Australia Association Dene Cordes and his wife Dianne decided in 1992 to set up an independent association for the Public Service Medal recipients so that people could learn of each other’s’ work, experience the fellowship of other recipients and promote the award. This was a very successful decision and this same association is still thriving today and in 2016 remains the only association directly related to the PSM award in Australia.
In preparation for the potential establishment of the association, Dene tracked the sixteen recipients who had been awarded a PSM since the inception of the award. He wrote to each person to invite them to a meeting proposing the setting up of an association for PSM recipients. The meeting was held on 10 November 1992 at the Department of Environment and Planning head office in Grenfell Street, Adelaide. Six people attended that first meeting with apologies from two others. Thus with enthusiasm from those present it was agreed to go ahead.
At the first meeting a committee was established and Doug Lane was elected the inaugural President and Dene was appointed Secretary/Treasurer/Editor. Andrew Keeves was appointed an inaugural committee member.
The committee met regularly from the start and Des Hughes, Brian Bartlett and Gerald Edwards became stalwarts of the association. David MacGowan became the longest serving President.
Subscriptions for membership were initially set at $10 and the inaugural meeting raised $60. In 2015 the subscription rate was raised to $20 per annum. .From the outset, there has been a determination to keep both city and country members informed, so a newsletter was started and Barbara Parker served as a long-time Editor for the newsletters
The committee decided to appoint a Patron and Sue Vardon AO who at that time was heading up the Office of Public Sector Reform, was invited to take on the role. She accepted and has served the association continuously since those early days.
Objectives of the Association
The Objectives of the newly established association were:
- to meet other Public Service Medallists and maintain contact
- to learn about the activities and work being done by Public Service medallists
- to keep records of past and future medallists, their departments, Year of Award etc.
- to meet occasionally with a Guest speaker or special guest to enhance appreciation for public service
- to welcome new medallists each year
- other objectives as chosen from time to time
In 2016 the objectives of the association were formalised in a set of rules developed in order to gain incorporation for the association.
Visits and Events
The first committee decided that there should initially be one main event each year, a dinner for medallists and their partners, which would also include the Annual General Meeting (AGM). The frequency of the visits/events has continued to grow steadily so that in addition to the dinner/AGM it is now regular practice to undertake these three to four times a year. These have incorporated a wide range of venues both Government and non-government sites around South Australia. From early days the committee took the decision that partners of medallists should be welcomed to all events and site visits.
The association is formally recognised by the State government and the Governor of South Australia and the President of the Association attends Government House Award ceremonies to welcome new recipients.
On 12 October 2015, the Association celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Public Service Medal with a reception at Government House in the presence of His Excellency the Honourable Hieu Van Le AO and Mrs Lan Le. The reception was followed by a formal dinner which was addressed by the Chief Executive of the Premier and Cabinet Department. Just under 100 recipients, family and friends attend both and Val Smyth as the current President presided over the event.
The future for the association
It is the desire of the association that we not only continue to be an association whose prime focus is to its members, but to also consider how we might use and share our wealth of knowledge and experience for the good of the community and those in public service.
Note. Acknowledgments to Dene Cordes and Sue Vardon for providing this initial history of the association. Dene & until recently David MacGowan hold the original minutes and correspondence for the first meeting.
[i] Wikipedia PSM Awards