article cover
Article

By Alisha Welch

In the Queen’s Birthday Honours List, long-serving Defence employee
Tony Corcoran received the Public Service Medal for outstanding performance as Assistant Secretary Freedom of Information and Information Management.

Tony Corcoran has worked for Defence for more than 26 years, primarily in the ministerial and parliamentary areas, and says the past three years as Assistant Secretary Freedom of Information and Information Management have been the highlight of his career.

"Pulling a branch together that not only looks after Freedom of Information but also the Archives Act, records management policy, administrative policy, web estate governance and corporate information management generally, has been hard work but also extremely rewarding," Tony says. "People might find those areas boring, but I find them fascinating."

He says he is "very chuffed" and "humbled" to receive the award.

"I couldn’t have achieved such outstanding results without the hard work, dedication and loyalty of the Freedom of Information team members and the support of my management chain."

The Freedom of Information and Information Management Branch is part of Ministerial and Executive Coordination and Communication Division, which reports to the Chief Operating Officer, Simon Lewis.

Simon says that, since Tony took on his current role in June 2009, he has achieved outstanding results and provided excellent service to Defence, "making a unique and lasting contribution to the government’s commitment to restore trust and integrity in the use of the Australian Government information, and in promoting greater openness and transparency in Defence".

"For the first time since 1983, Defence became 100 per cent compliant with the Freedom of Information statutory 30-day deadline. This excellent result has been due to Tony’s strong leadership and the more centralised and streamlined processes he has implemented."

Tony says the biggest challenge he faces across his areas of responsibility is that of cultural change.

"Changing behaviour is usually around 75 per cent of the solution to improving any process but, sadly, it tends to be the part that gets overlooked," he says. "How do you overcome it? I think, firstly, by realising that it’s not going to happen overnight and that one has to be in there for the long haul. Secondly, by having a clear view of where one wants to end up and a practical plan of action for how to get there. And, lastly, by doing it in a collegial manner."

Although most people in Defence know why compliance with Freedom of Information legislation is important – it’s the law – Tony adds that Defence owes it to the Australian community to provide as much access as it can to government-held information, promptly and at the lowest reasonable cost.

"One of the objects of the Freedom of Information Act is to increase recognition that information held by the government is to be managed for public purposes, and is a national resource," Tony explains.

"It’s also an important reputational issue that Defence is seen as a leading agency in promoting the Government’s pro-disclosure policy while, of course, ensuring that sensitive material is safeguarded."