Medicare moves into Human Services IT family



blog It’s been a while now since the Federal Government signed into being the Department of Human Services, the new super-department formed by the merger of Medicare, Centrelink, the Child Support Agency, Australian Hearing and CRS Australia. However, as iTNews reported just before Christmas (we recommend you click here for the full article), DHS’ IT department, which largely consists of Centrelink’s very successful IT department with more resources, has only just now taken responsibility from long-time outsourcer for much of Medicare’s IT systems:

“The Department of Human Services has assumed responsibility for Medicare applications and IT services in the final step of a two-year move away from outsourcer IBM.”

If you’re interested in the magnitude of the moves, adds and changes going on within DHS at the moment, we recommend you read our interview last year with new DHS chief information officer Gary Sterrenberg, as well as this article published in May 2011 which details the large amount of funding (the better part of a billion dollars) which previous Sterrenberg’s predecessor John Wadeson won in that year’s budget for the IT portion of the merger. This is one of the largest IT projects in Australia at the moment.

Image credit: Amanda Slater, Creative Commons


  1. Once upon a time, a long time ago, there was a Government Department called the Department of Social Security. Sadly for a few and with cries of joy from others it was broken up in to different bits so that the services could be delivered more efficiently and expertly to those the Department was meant to serve.

    Surprisingly things actually started to work under the new system. People started to get the services they needed and were referred to other services when needed. Customers started to feel like people not numbers and that the new services were actually trying to help[ them.

    Now some “ivory tower” building galah has decided that it is going to be more efficient to amalgamate those services all again and not only that add a few extra services into the mix. Don’t these people look at historic decisions?

    Is it going to be more efficient. Not likely! Now tell me honestly; how do you feel about going to the dole office to put in your medicare claim?

    • Yeah I don’t think a lot of people will like going into Centrelink to do their Medicare stuff … but on the other hand I kind of feel like Medicare is the kind of thing which can mostly be done through the post or online these days anyway.

      • I was first in line last time i went to Medicare. Last time I went to Centrelink is was a half hour wait with lots of swearing from the other people.

        Centrelink also failed (three times) to stop my payments when I got a job. Tip: stop filling in the online form, they stop sending the money :)

        On topic again: If this helps prevent money cheats and means less cards in my wallet I’m all for it.

    • It re minds me of a story told to me years ago by an old Engineer for BP,
      Once we where all huddled together then the latest University Management ideas said we should decentralise, so we spent Millions of $ and decentralised. 10 Years later the latest University management train of thought was to centralise, so we spent millions and centralised and so it continues. One day someone will do something based on if it actually works rather than

    • This is factually incorrect there was zero ‘breakup’ of DSS (Dept of Social Security) service delivery at the creation of Centrelink. DSS service delivery was kept in it’s entirety and added to by adding on service previously provided by the Commonwealth Employment Service (the CES). The CES was broken into public/private shards and DSS tool on some of the public aspects along with other parts of public service delivery being centralised into Centrelink as the prime service delivery agency within the Australian government (education payments is just one example of Centrelink accumulating multiple previous agencies into a single agency).

      The segmentation of DSS was into two public sector organisation. A pure policy organisation (10%) and a service delivery agency (the Commonwealth Service Delivery Agency with the ‘trading name’ of Centrelink) 90%. All the operational aspects, including the IT systems went to Centrelink.

      The creation of Centrelink involved substantial centralising of public delivered services from multiple public agencies into a single public agency while other services were opened to public sector operators.

      The move the DHS is more of the same as far as centralising public sector delivery of services.

      If the Centrelink centralising made you so happy then more centralising should make you even happier, surely.

      Rather than being the work of a ‘galah’ it is more of what you, yourself say has worked well over the last 15 years.

  2. The driver of this is the huge reduction in used office space at Centerlink facilities due to the focus on online service. There are two (and perhaps some three story in some places) story buildings which have over the course of the last decade completely shifted out of the top floor because half the staff were replaced by online services and phone call centres for what previously was done face to face (like initial interviews).

    To use that space they’ve renamed the whole shebang, merged a dozen different departments so the physical staff of those smaller agencies can now be put into the empty centerlinks and the small agencies can have their own offices sold or shut down.

  3. Why do you describe Centrelink’s IT department as “very successful”? I am just wondering what led you to reach that conclusion?

    • -No major project failures in the decade I’ve been covering it
      -No contract probity issues
      -Good relationships with outsourcers
      -Good reputation inside and outside government
      -Long-term CIO John Wadeson always ferociously competent
      -Govt now allocating Centrelink IT dept to take over IT depts of other departments as part of DHS
      -Always able to attract funding from govt (good political relationships)
      -Long term senior IT management below Wadeson, little turnover

      All in all, most people judge it a very well run shop.

      • Renai,

        Can you confirm that Centrelink are big users of RedHat linux? I have heard this mentioned in a few places but nothing concrete.

        If so, I would hope that it might encourage other government IT departments to at least consider Linux options.

        • For their desktops at least, they use XP and Novell at the branches I’ve been to with a horribly garish wallpaper.

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