Ethics and public sector work

Crawford School of Public Policy | Executive course
Public Sector Leadership for Senior Executives
Skills for Future Leaders


In the midst of debate about corruption and misconduct in public and private sector organisations, coupled with fluctuating trust in institutions from government agencies to big businesses like the banking sector, understanding ethics and ethical codes and behaving ethically are essential skills for policy professionals. This course will provide a basis for participants to understand a range of ideas about what is ‘ethical’ and how to reason ethically. It will include both an overview of approaches to ethics as well as case study material relevant to public policy challenges to put flesh on the bones of abstract discussions.

Course overview

The ethical conduct of people in organisations is currently under suspicion in both the private and public sector. High profile failures involving sexual misconduct, nepotism and corruption seem common as well as rorts and distortions resulting from unintended consequences of policy design and implementation. For example, in the public domain each annual APS survey cycle sparks fierce debate about the levels of corruption and misconduct in the APS, including the need for a national-level anti-corruption agency to oversee integrity in the Australian Government. In the private sector, Royal Commissions have exposed lamentable failures by (among others) schools, churches, banks and health care institutions and there have been high profile scandals in large companies across the globe.

In the face of this, understanding ethical approaches and codes and behaving ethically are essential skills for people in organisations generally and public sector employees in particular.

Using a range of scenarios and interactive sessions, participants will explore their own implicit ethical views and consider a range of ways to rise to ethical challenges. The range of approaches will be linked to various existing frameworks, such as the APS’ ethical infrastructure, and assist in understanding and practising ethical behaviour across formal and informal domains.

Drawing on participants’ own experiences and policy challenges, supplemented by discussion examples and research findings, this module will provide a theoretical and experiential basis for participants to become familiar with explicitly thinking about ethics and making ethical choices, linking these to the APS’ ethical infrastructure.

Course presenter(s)

Dr Stephen Mugford

Stephen brings over 40 years’ experience as an educator, researcher, facilitator and change management consultant for government, military, private sector and non-government organisations, including: • A focus on ethics in organisations, including the Australian Defence Force (Visiting Fellow at the Centre for Defence Leadership and Ethics), and organisational culture change at senior levels • Expert advisor on major national reviews, including both major ADFA reviews on inappropriate behaviour and bullying • Stakeholder consultations for key public policy issues – such as health reform, prison policy • A successful academic career, specialising in sociology and social psychology, with an international reputation in criminology and drug policy

Updated:  25 October 2021/Responsible Officer:  Crawford Engagement/Page Contact:  CAP Web Team