Regaining the standing of the profession in an era of distrust

Matt Ryan

Almost everyone you meet can recount a negative experience in their dealings with public servants. Despite this, we shouldn’t consider an attempt to improve the community standing of the profession a futile exercise.

Two months ago I was scanning some market research about the public image of various professions when one statistic drew my eye.

Between 2007 and 2017 community regard for public servants increased.

In an era in which public trust in government has been waning it seems a remarkable finding.

Admittedly, the absolute figure for public servants is still low. The 2017 data shows 37% of the community rate the profession highly for ethics and honesty (up by 7 points since 2007) – well behind doctors and nurses who consistently top the charts with ratings near or above 90%.

However, combined with the fact that professions such as business executives and bank managers had ratings that remained static during the same period, the data suggests the community retains a fundamental belief in professions unequivocally dedicated to serving the common good.

For everyone who believes that government can be a positive force in people’s lives it’s a solid foundation to build on.

Matt Ryan is a member of the IPAA (SA) Strategic Advisory Committee and has more than 20 years’ experience working in public sector environments.

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