This online display has been prepared for the Institute of Public Administration Australia International Conference 2014 to share knowledge about the past actions of public administrators and to also offer conference delegates a reflective space. It is also part of a broader online exhibition about Western Australia's official 'War' file which has been digitised and made available online, revealing the reaction at home in WA to the commencement of the First World War.
As Australia commemorates the Centenary of Anzac we can learn from the past experiences of public administrators 100 years ago. By examining their efficiency and effectiveness in a time of war, we can see how this resonates with the current aims and work of public administrators today. In Western Australia the actions and work of public administrators in State and Local governments comprise a fundamental part of the State Archives collection, preserved for posterity by the State Records Office of Western Australia (SRO).
Public Administrators and the First World War
Public administration is about developing, establishing and implementing government policies, initiatives and operations. Public administrators determine government programs and projects and bring them to fruition. Ultimately they plan, organise, direct, coordinate, and control the operations of government. By acting ethically and with due process, without fear or favour, public administrators ensure government is simultaneously strong and efficient, accountable and responsive.
Record keeping and information management is a fundamental activity of public administration. Without records there can be no rule of law and no accountability. Public administrators must have authentic and valid information to carry out their work, and records represent an integral and crucial source of information. The records they create must be reliable, legally verifiable sources of evidence of decisions and actions. Later as archives, retained because of their continuing value to society, the information they hold about past activities inform our present and future.
The First World War was a global, an industrial and, for the first time, a total war, demanding participation from all aspects of Australian society. The role Western Australian public administrators had at the commencement of the war, and their continuing work throughout the conduct of the war is a little known story. From the very beginning of this conflict, government and public administrators recognised the need to galvanise and mobilise the community for the war effort. Public administrators became conduits of communication and intermediaries between government, the military and the community.
‘Looking within’ and reviewing the records created and received by public administrators 100 years ago, we can examine their day-today actions, especially through a period of heightened community concern and tension.
The following stories illustrate the work and role of Public Administrators during the First World War: