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Australian Government - Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Advancing the interests of Australia and Australians internationally

Australian Government - Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Advancing the interests of Australia and Australians internationally

Management of human resources

The department managed staff flexibly and effectively in response to the Government’s policy priorities in 2009–10, including the International Commission on Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament and the United Nations Security Council campaign; combating people smuggling; enhancing our engagement with Latin America, Africa and the Pacific; extending Australia’s diplomatic presence in Afghanistan; and commencing work on expanding our diplomatic presence in Lima, Chennai, Mumbai and Addis Ababa.

In line with the government’s changing priorities, funding was provided during 2009–10 for new positions, including 31 new A-based positions overseas, 17 new locally engaged staff positions overseas, and 25 new positions in Canberra. These additional resources enhanced productivity and strengthened the department’s capacity to perform the full range of its foreign, trade, security, consular and passport responsibilities.

Workforce planning, staff mobility and retention

In response to a dynamic policy environment and the need to deploy staff overseas, the department continued to carry out regular placements and posting rounds to ensure we filled positions with skilled staff. We continued to develop our employees’ skills and experience to allow them to move readily between positions in Canberra, overseas and state and territory offices.

Seventy-nine ongoing staff separated from the department in 2009–10.

Human resource management information system

The department expanded its human resource management information system, PeopleSoft, to include locally engaged staff (LES) in Port Moresby. This was the first step in improving global LES payroll management.


In 2009–10, the department completed 65 recruitment processes resulting in over 273 offers of employment.

Thirty-nine graduate trainees and eight corporate and financial management trainees (CFMTs) started work in the department in 2010. The department’s 2011 graduate recruitment program attracted well-qualified applicants, with 2234 applications received for the graduate trainee intake and 194 for the CFMT intake.

Personal Profile:

Photo - See caption below for description
Sandra Tam

Sandra Tam

Sandra Tam joined the department in 2009 as a Corporate Financial and Management Trainee (CFMT). She has completed rotations in the Performance Management Unit, the Procurements, Contracts and Governance Section, and the Audit and ICT Finance Management Sections. These rotations have given her hands-on experience in human resources, legal issues and the financial management of the department’s resources.

Sandra also worked in Cairo, on a short-term mission, as Vice-Consul. She oversaw property renovations to the chancery and the Ambassador’s residence, and assisted the post with finance and consular matters.

Over the two-year CFMT program, Sandra’s training in the financial, consular policy and corporate management roles has helped her develop the skills required for her first overseas posting. As well as practical on the job training, CFMTs undertake further financial or corporate management studies—and Sandra has just qualified as a Chartered Accountant.

“It’s been great to rotate through different areas of the department, because it gives you an insight into where your career in DFAT can take you.”

Workplace diversity

Our key workplace diversity events included NAIDOC Week in July 2009 and International Women’s Day in March 2010.

Through our overseas network and state and territory offices, we recognised and promoted the contributions women make to society in Australia and globally, by hosting celebrations to commemorate International Women’s Day on 11 March 2010. The events focused on the many challenges faced by women in leadership roles.

We continued our active engagement in APS-wide initiatives to promote workplace diversity, Indigenous employment and enhanced employment opportunities for people with disabilities, including through the celebration of Families Week and Harmony Day.

Reconciliation Action Plan

Our Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) 2007–10 contributes to Australia’s National Strategy of Action, the overarching objective of which is closing the seventeen-year life expectancy gap between Indigenous and non-indigenous Australians. The RAP reflects our Indigenous Recruitment and Career Development Strategy 2007–10, which seeks to improve recruitment and retention rates of Indigenous staff and ensure these staff maximise their career potential in the department.

Commonwealth disability strategy

The department met its responsibilities under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992, the Workplace Relations Act 2006 and the objectives in the Management Advisory Committee report on Employment of People with Disability in the APS, in accordance with the Commonwealth Disability Strategy Performance Reporting Framework. We are committed to equity in employment and the elimination of harassment and discrimination of employees with a disability. Our 2009–10 Collective Agreement and human resource policies set out mechanisms to achieve Commonwealth disability strategy objectives.

We continued to implement our ‘Disability Action Plan for Employing People with Disability 2007–10’. We developed appropriately tailored individual employee programs designed to: foster reasonable adjustments, behaviours, attitudes, systems and knowledge; successfully engage with people with a disability as employees; and implement proactive strategies to attract and retain talented people with a disability. The department reviewed and developed new Selection Advisory Committee Guidelines to be more inclusive of employing and retaining employees with disabilities.

As at June 2010, 28 staff had identified as having disabilities.

Training and development

The department provided a range of induction, management, leadership, policy and professional skills and overseas training programs, many of which utilised the expertise of external training consultants. Staff had access to over 175 courses, seminars and workshops during 2009–10. We concluded a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on education and training with the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The MOU sets out a framework for cooperation between officials, students and lecturers, as well as exchanges of information and joint training activities.

In September 2009, we introduced a ‘Support for Professionals Scheme’ to further our commitment to support staff to pursue professional development opportunities directly relevant to the department’s work. The scheme provides for the reimbursement of fees and training costs required to retain membership of relevant professional associations.

Trainee programs

In February 2010, 39 graduate trainees (one less than last year) commenced a two-year training program. The program consists of four work placements to build the trainees’ skills in bilateral, trade, multilateral and corporate policy areas.

Eight corporate and financial management trainees joined the department in February 2010 (the same number as last year). Recruited with a minimum of a bachelor’s degree minor in accountancy, they are trained to be corporate policy specialists.

The two-year Administrative Development Program provides a pool of skilled staff to fill administrative positions in Australia and overseas. This program is offered to employees at the APS2 to EL1 levels of the department. In 2009–10, 11 staff participated in the program.

We assisted seven cadets with their tertiary studies through the Indigenous Cadetship Program. One of the cadets completed the program and is engaged in employment outside the department. We are assisting the remaining six cadets with their studies, until they graduate and join as full-time employees.

Studies assistance

Our Studybank scheme provided leave and financial assistance to 39 staff to complete academic courses in areas relevant to the department’s work.

Language Training

The department continued to place a high priority on training staff in languages that reflect Australia’s foreign and trade policy interests and consular priorities. Over the year, 91 employees undertook long-term language training in Australia and overseas. A further 55 staff undertook short-term ‘survival’ language training of four weeks, in preparation for their postings. Total expenditure on language training was over $3.78 million (compared with $2.7 million last year).

Performance management

Performance appraisal of employees is an important component of the department’s human resource strategy. Our performance management system (PMS) sets performance objectives and indicators for each employee, provides the key means for evaluation and feedback, and is used to identify personal training and development needs.

The PMS was a key consideration during negotiations for the department’s 2009–10 Collective Agreement (CA). The outcome of those negotiations introduced some substantial changes to previous arrangements. The key changes to the PMS were:

  • movement of the performance cycle from the year ending 30 June to the year ending 31 March
  • introduction of a system comprising four categories of performance assessment
  • provision of annual pay-point movements for staff who perform in the top two categories, or a performance bonus (two per cent of annual base salary) for staff at the top of a broadband or band.

Locally engaged staff

Our performance at overseas posts is significantly enhanced by the work of locally engaged staff (LES). Under the 2009 Prime Minister’s Directive, the department manages the appointment, termination, salary and conditions of service of all LES, except Austrade and AusAID, in accordance with contemporary Commonwealth management principles, local labour and other relevant laws and good employer practice. The department is the legal employer of more than 3050 LES, over 1460 of whom were employed on behalf of other government agencies.

The department implemented the Machinery of Government decision to transfer the Australian Education International function from DEEWR to Austrade, which affected 60 LES positions at 21 posts.

Workplace arrangements

Consistent with the Government’s workplace relations framework, we use Determinations made under section 24(1) of the Public Service Act 1999 to supplement the collective agreement terms and conditions for non-SES staff. SES officers’ entitlements are delivered using Determinations under the same provision from the Public Service Act 1999.

During the year the department transitioned the majority of staff covered by Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs) onto section 24(1) Determinations.

The department’s 2009–10 collective agreement and supplementary workplace arrangements helped deliver increased productivity and a high-performing, motivated workforce. This was achieved through our strong performance-based culture and an emphasis on high-quality management of human resources to achieve excellence in foreign and trade policy and client service.

Remuneration of senior executives

During 2009–10, all ongoing SES staff were placed on Determinations made pursuant to section 24(1) of the Public Service Act 1999. There was an annual increase of 2.8 per cent of base salary.

Enterprise Agreement

Negotiations took place on a new Enterprise Agreement as the department’s existing 2009–10 Collective Agreement expired on 6 July 2010. The new agreement came into effect on 7 July 2010 and expires on 30 June 2011. It includes a number of enhancements to existing entitlements, including flex-time and time-off in-lieu, personal/carers’ leave and maternity/adoption leave. It also provides for a salary increase of 2.9 per cent.

Personal Profile:

Photo - See caption below for description
Casey Beath

Casey Beath

Casey Beath is a graduate of the Indigenous Cadetship Program, and is currently working in the Canada and Latin America Section at DFAT in Canberra. She joined the Department in 2007 as an Indigenous Cadet, while completing her degree in International Relations at the Australian National University.

After joining the department full-time in 2009, Casey gained experience in a wide range of Australia’s foreign and trade issues, including through placements in the Indonesia Political and Trade Sections, and the Consular Information Section. She is currently the desk officer responsible for Haiti and Peru, and provides ministerial briefing, submissions and advice on our relationships with these countries.

“I am grateful for the opportunities presented by both the Indigenous Cadetship and Graduate programs. I’m looking forward to developing my career in the department, and one day representing Australia overseas.”

Non-salary benefits

Our staff were entitled to a range of non-salary benefits, as offered by both the collective agreement and individual workplace arrangements. These included performance-based bonuses and a range of flexible and family-friendly working practices. Allowances for overseas service are a non-salary benefit available to compensate staff posted overseas for the costs and, in some cases, hardship conditions, associated with a posting.

Staff welfare

Our Medical Unit, Staff Counselling Office and Family Liaison Officer provide specialist welfare services to our staff. In addition to providing advice to the department and individual employees on health-related issues, the Medical Unit managed 77 medical evacuations over the year. Over 470 Australia-based staff, their families and locally engaged staff received counselling.

The Family Liaison Officer worked with the Community Liaison Officer network at overseas posts to provide assistance to posted employees and their families on spouse recognition and employment, educational needs of children, cultural adjustment, general living conditions at post and other issues.

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