Fundamentals of Intergovernmental Management

Crawford School of Public Policy

How long?

  • 5 days
  • online

What are the topics?

Crawford School of Public Policy


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Who should attend

The course would be of primary benefit for middle managers (APS6 – EL2/SES1) embarking on, or already working on policy development and implementation in an interjurisdictional setting. The content is relevant to public servants in the Commonwealth, state and territory governments, and officials in statutory authorities who are developing or implementing policies that involve their counterparts in central and line departments.

About the course

Officials play a vital role in supporting the federal system and its functions. But there’s no how-to manual for this important role; the rules, whether formal or informal, have to be learned ‘on the job’.

This course, which is unique for Australia, focuses on the daily workplace challenges of interjurisdictional problem solving under conditions of high uncertainty and complexity. The course gives Commonwealth, state and territory public servants an understanding of the craft of intergovernmental management, including its formal and informal settings and routines, the interests and strategies that must be negotiated and how public servants contribute to the federal system’s stability and resilience, on the one hand, and adjustment and change on the other.

Participants will come away with an insight into their personal, characteristic approach to intergovernmental matters, how this approach is embedded in federal structures and cultures, and the opportunities, costs and benefits of alternative approaches.

Course overview

Session 1: The control dials of the federal system

The session uses an ANZSOG case study on a national occupational licensing system to open up and explore the following issues for managers. A key aim of the session is to develop participants’ understanding of the perspectives that jurisidictions other than their own bring to the table:

  • Distinguishing intergovernmental relations and intergovernmental management
  • Policy making in a federal context: balancing national interests and objectives with state, regional and local needs, approaches and preferences.
  • What kind of federation? Concurrency vs ‘sovereign spheres’
  • Executive federalism and its implications
  • Commonwealth and state govt roles, conflicts and collaboration

Session 2: formal and informal structures and routines

  • Formal institutions - ministerial councils and working groups
  • Fiscal federalism, agreements, the implications of horizontal equalisation and fiscal imbalance
  • Multilateral bargaining and negotiating
  • Informal routines

Session 3: Governance and the changing context of public administration

  • Relations with ministers and political constraints
  • Role of central and line departments and agencies
  • Establishing horizontal networks
  • Implications of the changing context: the new governance, digital governance
  • Information age federalism
  • Committees, dinners and networks

Session 4: Practice modes

This session brings all of the above together in the concept of practice modes, in which participants learn to ask questions about their role and tasks such as what kind of a situation or task is this? What ideas, perceptions, interests and cultures are at play here, including my own? How appropriate are different actions for me in this situation? What is most appropriate?

Affinity mapping is used to get participants to identify their own, and their colleagues’ characteristic practice modes. These practice modes are characteristic ways in which officials relate to and apply their ideas and values about federalism generally to their work; how they adapt to their formal and informal context; and the processes by which officials rationalise their behaviours and the outcome of their behaviours to themselves and their colleagues. Practice modes are lenses through which individuals perceive or recognise opportunities, and then ways in which such opportunities are exploited or used through the adoption of strategies and behaviours.


The recent Thodey APS Review found that the relationship between the Commonwealth public service and those in other jurisdictions was ‘typically uneasy and underachieving… Arguably it has become less effective over time, even as the importance of the relationship has increased’.

The review argued that ‘Interjurisdictional relations are characterised by a lack of mutual respect and trust. Despite the individual contributions of many senior leaders, at an institutional level the APS seems to have lost sight of the advantages of high functioning, collaborative, cross-jurisdictional interaction’. On a more practical level, the Review found that the ‘cultures, norms, conventions and routines designed to create an effective forum’ and the relevant practical skills were very underdeveloped in the intergovernmental context.

The course responds directly to these concerns. It aims to:

  • provide participants with an opportunity to consider the range of interests, strategies and views they are likely to encounter in their intergovernmental work; how and why these other perspectives have emerged
  • notably, the course can be designed to give Commonwealth participants an insight into state and territory perspectives, but also can be delivered in a way that gives the latter an understanding of how and why Commonwealth public servants tend to pursue centralising, directive approaches
  • consider a range of policy instruments and approaches.
  • cover practical matters such the best way to organise an effective interjurisdictional meeting, designing the agenda and the best mechanisms to surface complex issues, chairing arrangements, building networks, and the best way to handle more challenging issues such as when one jurisdiction is standing apart from an otherwise ‘national’ settlement

Anticipated behavioural and business impacts include:

The course is designed to give participants an overview of the intergovernmental management toolkit, including strategies and opportunities at the interpersonal, interorganisational and interjurisdictional levels.

Participants will get an understanding of the perspectives that other jurisdictions bring to the table.

They will be encouraged to think about why, when and how public servants are policy entrepreneurs and change agents; and under what circumstances they can make a difference in the intergovernmental context.

Participants will gain the requisite knowledge of the relevant structures, processes and practices of intergovernmental management, before moving on to look in detail at bargaining and negotiation, the management of informal relationships, trust building and ultimately knowledge of when and how to refer back to the political arena.


Isi Unikowski

My project explores the factors that influence the way officials at the Commonwealth and State/Territory levels of the federation carry out the functions of intergovernmental management. I have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to interview a number of senior officials in Commonwealth a...

Fundamentals of Intergovernmental Management at Crawford School of Public Policy

From  AUD 1 495$1,118

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