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Elizabeth Tydd

NSW Information Commissioner and the Chief Executive Officer of the Information and Privacy Commission NSW (IPC)

E TyddHow would you describe what you do?

In my role as Information Commissioner I have the privilege of being an independent champion and advocate of open government to the community of NSW. Open government is a tangible, consistent commitment to increase access to information, engage with citizens and be accountable. My role and that of the officers of the IPC entails independently reviewing agency decisions regarding the release of government held information and providing guidance to assist agencies in applying the legislation while also promoting open government – this extends to recommending proposals for future legislative and administrative changes to further advance the object of the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 (GIPA Act). This involves a contemporary understanding of international developments including contributing to initiatives such as the open government partnership agenda. As Chief Executive Officer of the IPC, it is my role to provide leadership for the commission and implement the values and ethics required of officers serving the NSW public.

What motivates you most in a job?

I am consistently conscious of the responsibilities I uphold and grateful that I am in a position to contribute to the enhancement and promotion of a fair and open democratic system of government. The gift of being able to function with an alignment of personal values and profession responsibilities is a constant source of inspiration.

What are the most important skills you need in your job?

Understanding and informing cultural change and the development of partnerships through support and consultation is critical. This role, like many other independent roles, demands a commitment to upholding ethical behaviours and decision-making. The capacity to exercise and demonstrate sound judgement and a deep commitment to better outcomes, a contemporary knowledge and exposure to developments in the law and administration are also essential. I am fortunate that my legal, governance and management qualifications have provided a secure foundation.

What was your most formative experience?

For me there are many formative experiences – and hopefully we all continue to develop and adapt throughout our lives as we take further steps in our careers and personal lives. However, underpinning my past experiences is a constant appreciation of what makes us unique. I was blessed to have two wonderful English teachers in secondary school, who taught me to really appreciate language in all of its forms, as well as nurturing my analytical thinking. This led to a lifelong love of literature and a structured, analytical thinking style that I believe has supported my successes and inspiration, particularly in fulfilling a number of quasi-judicial roles in commissions and tribunals.

What's the best career advice you've received?

I have been blessed to have some wonderful mentors who have guided my thinking and career development. I hope I am able to make that contribution to others professionally and through my work with the University of Technology Law faculty’s high achievers mentors program. If I could distil all of the advice I have received into a single statement it would be “Never stop learning”. Our lives and professions, particularly in the profession of the law, provide a world rich in ideas. Continuous learning ensures that we enjoy and share these riches.

What career achievement are you most proud of?

My career has enabled me to contribute to a number of enduring projects that have had a positive impact on many levels. Working on the development and implementation of the Australian Consumer Law is one achievement that was delivered through recognition of the expertise held in Australian jurisdictions, sound consultation and a commitment to a better outcome. Responsibility, over five years for major and sustained reform of the liquor, gaming and racing industries in NSW was also a memorable career highlight.

What is your biggest career mistake?

The law provides a unique training in knowing the right questions to ask and how to ask them. If I reflect on how I could have achieved better outcomes in particular situations I generally come back to a realisation that I may not have asked the right questions. The right questions will invariable provide the most valuable insights into the issue and the people involved.

How do you spend a typical Saturday morning?

Watching our sons play sport somewhere and in-between tries or baskets enjoying the company of other parents stimulated by coffee and current affairs.

What does the future hold for you?

I have enjoyed a rich and diverse career ranging from neuroscience nursing, social welfare to quasi-judicial and executive appointments. Looking back I think that my professional achievements derive from my deep commitment to improving outcomes. Looking forward my recent studies in company governance and directors responsibilities have provided even greater insights and inspiration. In the short term, I will be tabling the Information Commissioner’s Report on the operation of the GIPA Act for 2014/15 at the end of February. The outcomes of this report provide a clear picture of the state of information access in NSW and also inform legislative change. I look forward to sharing the outcomes and way forward with you in a future issue of the Law Society Journal.

Career history

I was admitted in 1994 after a career in neuroscience nursing and obtaining a Bachelor of Laws at UTS. I went on to obtain a Masters in Law from UTS. I worked as a solicitor to the NSW Medical Board before joining WorkCover. In 1997 I became Registrar, Residential Tribunal and then Deputy Chairperson Consumer Trader and Tenancy Tribunal. In 2001 I was appointed Arbitrator, Workers Compensation Tribunal and later Acting Deputy President Workers Compensation Commission. My public sector executive appointments have included Deputy Commissioner Fair Trading and Executive Director, Office of Liquor Gaming and Racing. I have contributed to a number of boards including professional, social housing, and public asset boards and occupied trustee positions.