Interview: Simon Froude, Director at State Records, Attorney-General’s Department

Tell us about the journey to your current role and what this role entails?

I have worked in the South Australian public sector for over 20 years, with most of that time spent in the information management environment. I have worked across numerous portfolios including central agencies such as premiers and treasury as well as justice and education. I am currently the Director of State Records of South Australia, the States government archive and recordkeeping authority. In this role I have responsibility across a broad range of legislation and policy relating to how the public sector manages its data, information and records, including the State Records Act, Freedom of Information Act, Information Privacy Principles and Copyright. At present much of my focus is given to trying to improve the governance of information across the public sector and in ensuring access regimes are applied more consistently and through an increasingly human or societal lens.

Can you describe a project you are working on or recently completed? What challenges did you face along the way and how were they overcome?

Less of a project and more of a theme or direction running through much of what I do at present is to focus on how my organisation can better support the most vulnerable in society, including Stolen Generation, care leavers and child migrants. Access to government information is critical for these groups but their ability to access it is stymied by layers of bureaucracy, apathy and poor practice. How government supports these people, many of whom have suffered terribly because of past government practices, is impacting much of what I do across information management and privacy. Archives, information commissioners and privacy practitioners across the world need to understand the power and value of the government record and the damage that poor recordkeeping and poor access practices can have on individuals and communities. I am therefore commencing a range of initiatives aimed at trying to better understand what we as the government archive can do and how we might approach this complex issue.

What did you learn from this project? What did it achieve?

Whilst we have a long way to go, the impact on individuals of government decisions and schemes is, in some instances, truly horrendous. This treatment is then compounded by the inability of individuals to gain access to information which may reconnect them with families, prove their identity or allow them to right past wrongs. Whilst I cant resolve these problems I, and my organisation, have a role to play in providing a better future.

What excites you most about the future?

I think society generally is at a very exciting juncture, with the spread of technology through most aspects of our lives and a renewed focus on how to improve the lives of individuals it will be interesting to see how the two intersect. We are also seeing the expectation of individualised services, being driven through the private sector experience, but now more and more being expected of government institutions. This is a key challenge for governments to tackle. If you could give one piece of advice to someone looking to further their career in government, what would it be? Whilst it is more than just one thing the following are important to anyone who wants a career that is built on a solid work ethic and reputation: Be authentic to who you are. Dont try to be someone you are not, you will be found out. Your colleagues and staff will respect you for being you. Build your networks, within and outside of your chosen profession. Work hard, be diligent and put the organisation first.

Where do you look to for further education? E.g. articles, podcasts, news sources, online courses, university etc.?

I generally look to peer-to-peer sharing for further information and education although the news and articles are also important. Attending events and utilising your networks is also another really good way to stay abreast of the changing landscape.

What are you most looking forward to at the event?

Im looking forward to the opportunity to hear from some great presenters and to be able to network with my peers on such an important topic.