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Top five trends for Australian Government legal practice in 2023

09 December 2022

4 min read

#Australian Government, #Government

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Top five trends for Australian Government legal practice in 2023

As we approach the end of 2022, it is again time to reflect on the last 12 months and plan for the coming year. Last year, we focused on five emerging trends for Australian Government legal practice in 2022, which included the pace of change, doing more with less, new leadership for changed times, declining levels of trust and increased expectations of accountability. With the level of uncertainty in recent times, we may be wary of making predictions for the future, but in my view, these issues have played out in our lives.

Poet Amanda Gorman is best known for her poem ‘The Hill We Climb’, which she recited at the United States Presidential inauguration in 2021. In a recent poem, ‘New Day’s Lyric’, she captures the essence of the current times with the following words:

“This hope is our door, our portal
Even if we never get back to normal,
Someday we can venture beyond it,
To leave the known and take the first steps.
So let us not return to normal,
But reach towards what is next.”

As the new year draws closer, it is timely to identify emerging issues for 2023 to help you prepare for the challenges ahead. Below is a summary of the top five trends for Australian Government legal practice in 2023.

1. New government, new priorities

The change in government at the federal level has seen a new agenda and a fast-paced program of priority reforms. The introduction of a National Anti-Corruption Commission, an increased focus on the National Disability Insurance Scheme, industrial relations reforms and the Royal Commission into the Robodebt Scheme have wide-ranging impacts across government. Change and reform require additional support from Australian Government legal teams who have become adept at pivoting and adapting to shifting requirements with the impacts of COVID-19. These skills are being put to use again with the ability to pull together teams to support key projects and taskforces, which have now become the ‘new normal’ for legal teams.

2. Data sharing

With the Data Availability and Transparency Act 2022 (DAT Act) commencing in April 2022, efficient and effective data sharing and management is a high priority across the Australian Government. If ‘data is the new oil’, the DAT Act is the pipeline for public sector data sharing. The ongoing implementation of the DAT Act should be front of mind for legal teams in all affected departments and agencies. The protections the DAT Act offers are all the more important given increased public focus on how data is managed and ensuring appropriate safeguards are in place.

3. Privacy

With the recent data breaches affecting major companies, privacy and cybersecurity issues are high on the agenda. The amendments to the Privacy Act 1988 (Privacy Act) to expand the Australian Information Commission’s enforcement and information sharing powers and increase penalties for serious or repeated interferences with privacy have passed the Australian Parliament. The outcomes of the Review of the Privacy Act will be factors to watch moving forward.

4. Battle for talent

Labour shortages are affecting many sectors following the pandemic and Australian Government legal teams are no exception to the competitive market for talent. Supporting team members by investing in their professional development, providing mentoring and nurturing skills through training and other opportunities are all key to retaining existing staff. A positive workplace is also essential for attracting new staff. Workplaces will need to engage effectively and provide flexibility, while promoting team cohesion in remote or hybrid work environments.

5. Support for mental health

Awareness of the need for support for mental health has increased in society and within workplaces in recent times. As the ongoing effects of the pandemic run their course, some are finding that the strength they maintained through the height of its impact has now left them depleted. Many deferred taking leave due to travel restrictions and are now looking to make up for this. We all need to be mindful of the importance of taking breaks, and the availability of Employee Assistance Programs and other support mechanisms. Last year, growing covid cases affected holiday plans across the country. Fingers crossed for a better summer season, allowing genuine relaxation and restoration for the year ahead.   

If you have any questions about this article, please contact partner Elizabeth Carroll or a member of our team in the Key Contacts section below.

The information in this article is of a general nature and is not intended to address the circumstances of any particular individual or entity. Although we endeavour to provide accurate and timely information, we do not guarantee that the information in this article is accurate at the date it is received or that it will continue to be accurate in the future.

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