When the Deputy Secretary of Defence’s Estate and Infrastructure Group, Steve Grzeskowiak, retires on August 6, he can look back upon a long list of career achievements.
It was an interest in machines that initially drew Mr Grzeskowiak to the UK Ministry of Defence.
He completed a four-year apprenticeship as a fitter and turner before going on to graduate with a degree in marine engineering and pursuing a career in engineering management.
In 2001, he accepted a two-year secondment to the Department of Defence in Canberra and has never looked back.
He held senior positions in Defence People Group before he took on the role of Deputy Secretary Estate and Infrastructure Group in 2013 overseeing Defence bases and building projects.
Mr Grzeskowiak has had leadership roles in the implementation of major reforms including the 2009 Strategic Reform Program, the shared services implementation, the First Principles Review and several White Papers.
He also has been at the helm through the challenges of bushfires, floods, cyclones, PFAS contamination from fire-fighting foam, the management of overabundant animal species, Estate budget repair and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Indigenous engagement has been a particular passion for Mr Grzeskowiak.
In 2014, then-secretary Dennis Richardson asked Mr Grzeskowiak to participate in the Jawun Secondment Program, an initiative that took Mr Grzeskowiak to Aurukun, a remote community in Far North Queensland.
Mr Grzeskowiak said he was moved by his experiences in Aurukun and returned to Canberra motivated to take action to improve employment opportunities for Indigenous Australians.
He championed the Indigenous Procurement Policy and sought to include Indigenous-owned businesses in the Defence supply chain.
Defence is now spending more on contracts with Indigenous businesses than any other Australian Government department, accounting for about half of all Australian Government spending in this space.
Defence was recognised by Supply Nation as the Government Member of the Year three times – in 2017, 2019 and 2021 – for its support to Indigenous business.
Mr Grzeskowiak was quick to give credit to others for his achievements.
“As the deputy secretary, you don’t achieve much without your team,” he said.
One of the proudest moments of his career was sponsoring a team member who had given years of dedicated service to communities impacted by PFAS contamination for an Australian Public Service Medal.
Mr Grzeskowiak described his management of the PFAS contamination issue as one of the most important bodies of work in his career.
He set up the PFAS Investigation and Management Program, a high-profile program that drew him into the public eye.
“These were real people with real concerns,” he said.
“We were open with them and did our best to put things right.”
Mr Grzeskowiak has some clear advice for those beginning their careers in Defence.
“Look for work that you enjoy, focus on doing a good job and make sure you have some fun,” he said.
The avid rower is now looking forward to gliding across Lake Burley Griffin and spending more time with his family.