The Victorian public sector

The Victorian public sector is made up of:

  • the Victorian Public Service
  • special bodies
  • public entities.

What the Victorian public sector does

The departments, authorities and entities are established by the Victorian Government to administer the functions of government.

The public sector:

  • provides public services and exercises regulatory functions 
  • builds and maintains physical and social infrastructure  
  • administers state finances and assets 
  • supports Ministers to develop and implement policies and legislation. 

And helps manage and deliver services across:

  • health and community services
  • education and training
  • public safety: police, emergency services, courts, prisons and corrections
  • public finance, industry development and regulation
  • transport and transport infrastructure
  • water, land management and environment
  • arts, culture and sports.

It also includes entities that provide government oversight such as the Auditor General, Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC) and the Ombudsman.

The Victorian Public Service

The Victorian Public Service (VPS) is made up of people employed by the Crown under Part 3 of the Public Administration Act 2004.

Public service body heads and certain

This includes employees of:

  • departments
  • administrative offices
  • the Victorian Public Sector Commission.

See the list of departments, authorities and administrative offices.

The VPS:

  • delivers programs and services
  • implements legislative and regulatory agendas
  • provides impartial and objective policy advice, also known as ‘frank and fearless advice’.

VPS employees can’t provide political advice. Political advice is given by ministerial advisers, who are not VPS employees.

If you want to know more check out our guidance for ministerial advisers.

Public service body head and department secretary

A public service body head can be the head of:

  • a department
  • an administrative office
  • the Victorian Public Sector Commission.

The Premier directly employs:

  • secretaries
  • administrative office heads.

The Governor in Council appoints the Victorian Public Sector Commissioner on the Premier’s recommendation.

Public service body heads hire their own employees. All employment decisions are made independently and based on merit.

Some public officials have the same functions as a public service body head in relation to their employees.

For example:

  • the Ombudsman
  • Auditor-General
  • CEO of IBAC.

Department secretary

In a department, the public service body head is generally referred to as a department secretary.

Each secretary reports to specific ministers.

Secretaries:

  • manage their department
  • advise ministers in all matters relating to their department and administrative offices
  • advise ministers on public entities in their portfolio
  • work with public entities on their public administration and governance
  • promote the Victorian public sector values.

Read our guidance for secretaries on their responsibilities in informing and advising ministers.

Departments

Departments are the central portfolio advisers for ministers and government.

They support ministers and the government to:

  • create and implement policies
  • manage programs and services.

They’re part of the executive branch of government and don’t have a separate legal identity.

They can be created, abolished and altered by an Order in Council under the Public Administration Act 2004.

Central agencies and line departments

Central agencies are responsible for whole of government policy.

The central agencies are:

  • Department of Premier and Cabinet (DPC)
  • Department of Treasury and Finance (DTF).

Line departments are responsible for:

  • portfolio specific policy
  • planning and delivery of services.

For example, the Department of Education and Training offers learning and development support and services for Victorians.

Portfolios

A portfolio is a Minister’s area of responsibility. Each department advises and supports ministers and their portfolios.

Machinery of government

The term ‘machinery of government’ is the allocation and reallocation of functions between departments and ministers.

It’s the Premier’s responsibility to allocate functions. The number of departments reflects the strategy and priorities of the government of the day.

Find out more about our machinery of government.

Administrative Offices

Administrative offices are like departments.

They also:

  • have a public service body head who’s appointed by the Premier
  • employ people under Part 3 of the Public Administration Act 2004
  • perform activities under the direction of ministers.

Examples include:

  • Major Transport Infrastructure Authority
  • Office of the Governor
  • Office of the Chief Parliamentary Counsel
  • Public Record Office Victoria.

Victorian Public Sector Commission

The Victorian Public Sector Commission (VPSC) is not a department or an administrative office.

We report to the Minister for Government Services and the Premier.

Find out more about the Victorian Public Sector Commission. See the list of departments, authorities and administrative offices.

Victorian Secretaries’ Board

The Victorian Secretaries’ Board promotes leadership and coordinates initiatives across the public sector. It doesn’t have legal status.

Members of the board include the:

  • Secretaries of each department
  • Chief Commissioner of Police
  • Victorian Public Sector Commissioner.

The board is chaired by the Secretary of the Department of Premier and Cabinet (DPC). DPC provides secretariat support to the board. 

Public Entities

Public entities:

  • deliver government services
  • manage public assets
  • act as regulators or provide expert advice
  • promote economic development.

Victoria has over 3,000 public entities. They operate at ‘arm’s length’ from ministers.

They’re still accountable to their minister, but the functions or powers of each entity are defined by their governing legislation, constitution and activities. This is directed by the entity board or equivalent.

The 3 categories are:

  • statutory authorities – bodies established by or under legislation
  • corporations – established under the Corporations Act
  • advisory bodies – formally constituted to provide advice or report to the government.

Examples of major public entities include:

  • Ambulance Victoria
  • Melbourne Water
  • Parks Victoria
  • Transport Accident Commission
  • VicRoads.

Some public entities have employees and some don’t.

Examples of entities with employees:

  • hospitals
  • schools
  • emergency service organisations
  • water and land management bodies.

Examples of entities without employees:

  • most cemetery trusts
  • some crown land committees of management.

See a list of employer public sector bodies.

Special bodies

The Victorian public sector also includes special bodies.

These include:

  • a department of the Parliament of Victoria
  • IBAC
  • Commission for Children and Young People
  • Electoral Boundaries Commission
  • office of the Health Complaints Commissioner
  • office of the Ombudsman
  • Office of the Victorian Information Commissioner
  • office of the Victims of Crime Commissioner
  • Mental Health Complaints Commissioner
  • Mental Health Tribunal
  • VCAT
  • Victorian Auditor-General’s Office
  • Victorian Disability Worker Commissioner
  • Victorian Electoral Commission
  • Victorian Independent Remuneration Tribunal
  • Victorian Inspectorate
  • Victoria Police.

A body can be classified as a special body through an Order in Council.