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Department of Premier and Cabinet

Collaborative structures

All agencies share the obligation to adopt a whole-of-government approach where it is necessary to achieve the outcomes the government is seeking. Which structure is used will depend on the nature of the task, its urgency, priority, level of contention and difficulty as well as the available resources.[1]

The key to remember when forming a collaborative arrangement is that the structure should be matched to the task.[2] Choosing the appropriate model will reflect the timeframe over which the services are to be delivered, the policy roles of the principal partners, the scale of the task and whether it can be delivered at a marginal cost by an existing agency.[3]

There is no one size fits all approach to collaboration. There needs to be a range of organisational options available to deliver policies programs and services across organisational boundaries successfully.[4]

Table 1 summarises the available options for collaborative structures and when they might be useful.

Table 1: Matrix for matching whole-of-government structures to tasks



Useful when...

Steering Committee

High level officials

Advising on a particular project.

A group of high-level stakeholders who are responsible for providing high-level guidance on overall strategic direction.

Significant issues are elevated to the Steering Committee for decision; these are generally high risk, high profile and complex issues.

Interdepartmental Committee (IDC)

Employees meet formally as representatives of their agencies, they are expected to speak with authority and seek clearance of positions in advance.

Tasked with coming up with a result i.e. a policy or a proposal for service delivery or a new piece of legislation.

Decision making is by consensus and a record must be kept.

IDCs may also be standing committees to coordinate the execution of established policies and provide a forum for formal consultations. Alternatively they may be ad hoc committees to tackle a particular issue or manage a particular event.

Working Group

Relevant agency representatives with technical expertise - staff from policy or program areas

Collaborate with partners to implement policies and programs.

Dedicated to producing a well-defined output within specific timeframes. Working-groups tend to have no life beyond the delivery of that particular output.

These are often a sub-group of an IDC.


Members have time limits and objectives to provide a clear outcome, they bring their skills and experiences to joint problem solving – they are not there as representatives of agencies and may be drawn from outside the public service

Taskforces can be used for program development and service delivery. They are useful for policy development where the issue is a high priority for government, the problem is complex and creative solutions are required, and/or where there is contention across key stakeholders or within government.

They often engage with a consultative IDC drawn from the affected agencies and can conduct consultations with community organisations.

There are different levels of formality involved in setting up a taskforce, they may for example be used to describe the bringing of people together to work on a particular issue, involving one day a week of collaborative work offline from all other activities or short term secondments.

Workshops, Reference or Focus Groups

Relevant internal and external stakeholders

These tend to be more consultative rather than collaborative and are useful when attempting to gather stakeholder views on precise matters to feed into broader policy development processes.

Advisory Committee

Knowledgeable representative

An advisory committee is a group of volunteers that meets regularly on a long-term basis to provide advice and/or support to government directly or through another formal structure such as an IDC.

[1] Australian Public Service Commission, 2004, Connecting Government, p 425.

[2] ibid, p 412.

[3] ibid, p19.

[4] ibid, p12.

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