Annual Report 2004-2005

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1. Overviews2. Performance3. Corporate4. Appendixes5. Financials6. Glossaries and Compliance Index

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Management of human resources

The department deployed staff efficiently and flexibly to meet the Government's busy foreign and trade policy agenda and deliver consular and other services.

We positioned additional staff with appropriate skills to begin negotiating four new free trade agreements (with ASEAN and New Zealand, China, Malaysia, and the United Arab Emirates) and to provide consular and administrative support for high profile events such as the Olympic Games in Athens and Anzac Day commemorations at Gallipoli. We adjusted staffing levels at our consulate-general in Bali in response to increased consular demand.

The department's crisis management planning stood up well to emergency situations. Well-established systems allowed quick activation of our 24-hour crisis management centre in Canberra and, as required, the deployment overseas of special teams at short notice after incidents such as the Jakarta embassy bombing, the Indian Ocean tsunami and the kidnapping of an Australian in Iraq. We provided additional staff training to develop a bigger pool of officers with the required skills to work in our crisis and emergency call centres.

Based on headcount as at 30 June 2005 (see tables 16 and 18), the department had 3389 staff, comprising 1986 A-based staff and 1403 locally engaged staff. Of the department's A-based staff, 1207 were in Canberra, 493 were in our overseas missions, and 286 were located in state and territory offices. There was a net increase of 36 in A-based staff numbers over the previous year. The changes in the A-based staffing profile resulted from a growing demand for passports production and additional resources required to upgrade security at our overseas posts, and a restructuring of communications and information technology services.

As part of the Government's commitment to strengthening Australia's relationship with the Middle East, the department opened and staffed a new embassy in Kuwait City.

Workforce planning, staff retention and staff turnover

The department is working to improve forecasting capability and to analyse and manage the long-term implications of our workforce profile. We are committed to developing our employees' skills and experience to provide for flexible deployment in a variety of roles according to changing priorities and objectives. In a tightening labour market, especially for graduates, we aim to ensure the department remains an employer of choice, as reflected in high numbers of applications for generalist and specialist positions. The implications of an ageing workforce and succession planning will continue to be important areas of focus.

The department embraces workforce planning as part of its strategic approach to human resources management. The fluid nature of the policy environment we face and the need to regularly post and place a significant portion of our staff demand that we continually anticipate required staffing levels and skills. Despite a highly mobile workforce, we consistently fill essential positions with appropriately skilled staff.

A healthy organisation—a productive organisation

Photo - See caption below for description
The new extension of the Currawong Childcare Centre was officially opened in February 2005 by the Secretary, Mr Michael L'Estrange. Departmental staff Margaret Bowen with her daughter Eri (left), and Mardi Wu with her daughter Siena (right), flank the Secretary.
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The low incidence of unscheduled leave in the department demonstrates the success of our efforts to maintain a healthy workplace and high productivity. In 2004–05, our staff took 6.34 days of unscheduled leave per full-time equivalent employee (FTE)—much lower than the APS average of 11.9 days per FTE employee and below the private sector median of 6.8 days per FTE employee. We also have a lower number of compensation claims than the APS average.

Currawong Childcare Centre

The new extension of the department's childcare centre was officially opened on 25 February 2005 by the Secretary, Mr Michael L'Estrange. The Currawong Childcare Centre now caters for up to 90 children in five age groups from newborns to five years. Opened in 1996, the Currawong was among the first childcare centres in government agencies in the ACT and it remains one of a few such facilities. The provision of work-based childcare is a key element in the department's commitment to help employees balance their professional and personal responsibilities and is consistent with our family-friendly policies.

Human resource management information system

We analysed the department's work practices relevant to Peoplesoft, our electronic human resource management information system (HRMIS). As a result, we automated a number of administrative processes via Peoplesoft. For example, Peoplesoft's Posting Dates Proposal module has replaced the manual Staff Movement Action Advice, and the Leave Deeming and Leave Audit modules have improved the accuracy and accountability of leave processing.

We initiated the 'HRMIS Succession Project' to provide clearly defined options for the acquisition and implementation of a successor to PeopleSoft (Version 7). The project will consider the department's future strategic requirements in HRMIS to place us favourably to achieve other potential long-term goals, such as a consolidation of HRMIS tools and possible implementation of a global locally engaged staff HRMIS solution.


The department's recruitment and selection processes are based on the merit principle and the APS values set out in the Public Service Act 1999. We continue to meet our staffing needs through annual 'promotion-to-level' bulk selection processes at each broadband and SES level. We undertake specialist selection processes as required to fill gaps in specific skills areas such as accounting, law and information technology.

We attracted more than 2300 applicants for our graduate intake for 2005. Through our program of visits to Australian universities and our updated graduate recruitment website, we continued to emphasise the department's need for staff with a broad range of skills and experiences. These needs were amply met in the 2005 graduate trainee intake, which included graduates of international relations, law and economics, as well as engineering, strategic studies, science and education. There was also increased interest in our corporate and financial management trainee program, which aims to attract new staff with high-level skills and qualifications in accounting and management.

The department's Contractor Management Unit (CMU) further tightened procedures for engaging contractors, paying particular attention to the revised Commonwealth Procurement Guidelines introduced in January 2005.

Workplace diversity

Photo - See caption below for description
Pictured at DFAT's 2004 Roni Ellis Indigenous Study Awards (REISA) presentation ceremony on 3 December 2004 (standing, left to right): Doug Chester, Deputy Secretary; Nicole Rawson-Harris, daughter of Roni Elllis; Andrew Horne, REISA winner 2001; Terry Williams, Manager, Ngunnawal Indigenous Studies Centre, University of Canberra; Daphne Bennell, REISA winner 2003; Patrick Johnson, departmental officer, elite sprinter and 2004 Olympian; Jillian Omosigho, REISA winner 2002. Seated, left to right: Peter Backhus, who accepted the 2004 award for his daughter Tarran Backhus; and Jessica Wanganeen, REISA winner 2004. Photo: Michael Jensen
Enlarge image :: Photo gallery

Our workplace diversity activities promote a high level of awareness among employees of the principles of sustainable teamwork—respect, personal courtesy, inclusion and the elimination of bullying, harassment and discrimination. There are designated workplace diversity contact officers in all work units in the department in Canberra, in state and territory offices and at overseas posts.

Through our workplace diversity program, the department seeks to provide Indigenous Australians with employment opportunities in Australia and overseas. We recruited five Indigenous employees and promoted awareness of employment opportunities in the department through increased outreach activities with Indigenous communities and networks. We concentrated efforts to promote the career development of Indigenous employees through the Indigenous Task Force, which provided a forum for Indigenous employees to discuss issues of concern with senior management. The department launched in November 2004 a new Indigenous Recruitment and Career Development Strategy 2004–07 to assist the career development of our Indigenous employees.

During 2004–05 ten cadets participated in the department's Indigenous Cadetship Program (see section on trainee programs below).

The department supported and hosted workplace diversity activities for NAIDOC Week in July 2004 and International Women's Week in March 2005. As part of our NAIDOC Week celebrations, acting Secretary Murray McLean launched the specially commissioned 'Currawong Children's Indigenous Mural' in the R G Casey Building Atrium, which is now displayed in the Currawong Children's Centre. For International Women's Day, the Minister for Foreign Affairs Mr Downer launched the Women working for Australia display. The display was an important record of the department's history against the backdrop of developments in Australia and internationally to promote gender equality.

We also acknowledged Harmony Day (21 March) and National Reconcilication Week 2005 throughout our network of offices in Australia and overseas.

The department's performance in implementing the Commonwealth Disability Strategy is reported in Appendix 4.

Training and development

The department provides staff with training and development opportunities to meet their professional needs, including in such areas as management, leadership, finance and administration, conduct and ethics, information technology, foreign languages, consular issues and security. The training program reflects organisational goals and reinforces key corporate messages such as the importance of strong advocacy skills, exemplary standards of conduct and ethics, and a high level of security awareness.

The department offers more than 70 different training programs. During 2004–05 we established a working group to coordinate training at a strategic level across the department, both in Australia and at our overseas missions. The average number of training days per employee in 2004–05 was 8.6, well above the minimum amount of five days a year required under the department's training and development strategy (see Table 26 in Appendix 2 for details of training days and costs).

Trainee programs

In February 2005, 31 foreign affairs and trade graduate trainees joined the department. We provide them with a two-year in-house training program before they go on their first postings. The program consists of four workplace rotations, two training blocks focused on professional skills development and, as required, short academic courses in international politics, international law and economics.

Five corporate and financial management trainees joined the department in February 2005. The trainees undertake four workplace rotations in our corporate areas over two years and complete their Certified Practising Accountant, or equivalent, qualification. They can then expect to be posted overseas in an administrative capacity.

The two-year Administrative Officer Development Program aims to provide a pool of skilled staff to fill junior administrative positions at overseas posts and in Canberra. Over the longer term, these staff provide a feeder group for senior administrative officer positions overseas. Five staff participated in the program in 2004–05.

In 2004–05, our Indigenous Cadetship Program assisted ten cadets with tertiary studies. Two cadets graduated from the program in November 2004. Three others undertook work assignments in the department between November 2004 and February 2005, and four new cadets joined us in March 2005. On completion of their tertiary studies, cadets graduate from the program and begin permanent employment with the department. We encourage cadets to apply for other traineeships, including the Graduate Trainee Program and the Corporate and Financial Management Trainee Program.

Language training

The department continued to train staff in priority languages that reflect Australia's foreign and trade policy interests. At any given time around 40 staff were undertaking long-term language training in Australia or overseas. Total expenditure on language training was $2.19 million.

To encourage staff to maintain existing high-level proficiency in key languages, we conducted four intensive one-week in-house immersion courses in Indonesian, Japanese, Mandarin and Thai. We also conducted well-attended weekly lunchtime language discussion classes.

Studies assistance

The department offers a Studybank scheme providing study leave and financial assistance to staff to complete academic courses in areas relevant to the department's work. At June 2005, 62 staff were studying under the scheme. Postgraduate studies in international law, public policy, accounting and financial management, and business administration accounted for 73 per cent of total enrolments.

Regional management conferences

The department organised regional management conferences for managers at our overseas posts and key locally engaged staff. Conference participants, including senior staff from Canberra, discussed consular and passport, finance, security, property and other administration issues. We held meetings in Miami in August–September 2004 for posts in North and South America and in Paris in March 2005 for posts in Europe.

Performance management

Annual performance appraisal is a vital component of the department's people management strategy. The performance management system is designed to encourage and reward high achievement, manage individual performance and provide a clear link for staff between their work and broader corporate goals. Appraisal reports feed into promotion, placement and posting decisions (for information on the payment of performance rewards see Table 25 in Appendix 2).

Locally engaged staff management

Our overseas missions continued to ensure that locally engaged staff were employed in accordance with local labour law requirements and that salaries and conditions packages were appropriate to local markets. Heads of mission and post managers continued to play a vital role in the effective management of LES and their employment arrangements.

The department remains committed to providing locally engaged staff with a safe and productive work environment, appropriate training and fair and effective performance management systems that deliver appropriate rewards. We ensure our posts have consultative mechanisms for effective dialogue between Australia-based and locally engaged staff.

Australian Workplace Agreements

All SES staff and a small number of non-SES staff in specialist positions are employed under Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs). The AWAs reflect the conditions of service, including salary increases, applying to departmental staff covered by the Certified Agreement 2003–06. The AWAs are valid for three years from July 2003 to June 2006.

Certified agreement

The department's current certified agreement came into effect from 1 July 2003. The agreement expires on 30 June 2006. The agreement includes a salary increase of 11.5 per cent over three years. The second increase of 4 per cent was paid with effect from 1 July 2004. On 8 June 2005 the Australian Industrial Relations Commission approved a variation to the certified agreement to increase the final year pay increase under the agreement to 4 per cent, bringing the total salary increase under the agreement to 12 per cent over three years.

Non-salary benefits under the certified agreement and Australian Workplace Agreements

Both the certified agreement and AWAs in the department provide non-salary benefits, including access to performance-based bonuses and a range of flexible and family-friendly work practices, such as flex-time, time off in lieu, half-pay maternity leave and emergency child care costs. The allowances for overseas service are a significant non-salary benefit available to departmental staff posted overseas.

SES staff employed under AWAs have access to vehicles and mobile phones.

Overseas conditions of service

Conclusion of the department's review of overseas conditions of service has been delayed to allow more detailed consideration of issues. Staff have been consulted throughout the review and it is expected to be finalised in 2005.

Staff welfare

Through specialist services provided by our Staff Counsellor's Office, Principal Medical Adviser and Family Liaison Officer, the department continued to support staff and their families on postings and in Canberra.

The Staff Counsellor's Office and the Principal Medical Adviser played an important role in our response to consular and other emergencies. The Senior Staff Counsellor coordinated trauma support services following the terrorist bombing attack on the Jakarta embassy. The office and the Principal Medical Adviser provided specialist support services for Australian citizens and departmental officers after the Indian Ocean tsunami in Thailand, Indonesia and Sri Lanka. The Principal Medical Adviser visited injured Australians in hospital in Phuket and Bangkok, and provided support to other Australian citizens and government officials deployed in Phuket. The Staff Counsellor's Office coordinated the counselling activities provided in Phuket to Australian families, local expatriate Australians and visitors. Eight families received full case management services, which included counselling on an at-call basis, as well as extensive practical assistance and advice. The office also provided oversight of services by Centrelink social workers.

The office and the adviser contributed to the department's contingency planning for a possible outbreak of avian flu.

The Principal Medical Adviser provided advice to 436 staff and dependants before they undertook overseas postings and more than 360 staff undertaking short-term missions overseas. The department managed 52 medical evacuations. The Principal Medical Adviser provided travel-related medical advice to parliamentarians and staff from other government agencies. The department operated six doctor-based clinics attached to posts in the Asia–Pacific region providing services to Australian Government staff and expatriates.

The department expanded the Staff Counsellor's Office to strengthen the existing support network for staff and their families. The Senior Staff Counsellor provided clinical services in Australia and overseas in support of a range of departmental functions. The office provided on-site psychological support services to staff and families in 19 posts, including Jakarta, Baghdad and Port Moresby. It helped develop improved personal security awareness training for staff posts in difficult environments.

The department's Family Liaison Officer, with the assistance of a network of community liaison officers at many of our overseas posts, briefed more than 130 employees and spouses prior to posting, approved 28 cases of compassionate travel from posts, and provided support to staff and their dependants on issues such as employment and education opportunities while posted overseas.

We continued to consult staff on occupational health and safety (OHS) issues, including through regular OHS forums to discuss OHS policy and procedures (see Appendix 3 for more information on our OHS policy and measures). We delivered training modules on OHS and workers' compensation and rehabilitation through in-house management courses and mandatory courses for newly appointed senior executive staff. We continued our program of OHS briefings to employees proceeding on overseas postings. We enhanced our OHS policy framework to include guidelines on risk management and on first aid.

Remuneration of senior executives

All SES employees are employed under Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs). The provisions of the AWAs are consistent with the department's Certified Agreement 2003–06. While the agreements provide for an 11.5 per cent pay rise over the three-year period, consistent with the variation to the Certified Agreement (see page 245), SES employees will also receive the additional half a per cent pay increase in financial year 2005–06, bringing the total pay rise to 12 per cent over the three year period (see note on executive remuneration in the financial statements and Table 24 in Appendix 2 for more information).

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Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Annual Report 2004–2005
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