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 its staff to respond effectively to the dynamic policy environment and to assist Australians overseas. Staff were deployed overseas to advance foreign policy objectives including the United Nations Security Council campaign; increased engagement with Africa; Australia’s participation in the G20 forum; combating people smuggling; and an upgraded diplomatic presence in Chennai, Mumbai, Lima and Addis Ababa. Departmental staff were also sent at short notice to provide consular assistance to Australians overseas following the unrest in the Middle East, the earthquake in Christchurch and the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

A limited number of new positions were created in Canberra and overseas as a result of funding for emerging Government priorities in the 2010–11 Budget. In this context, new positions were created in Afghanistan during 2010–11, enhancing the department’s capacity to pursue important whole-of-government objectives in that country.

Workforce planning, staff mobility and retention

The department carried out regular placements, postings and recruitment rounds to ensure positions were filled with skilled staff. Over $9 million was invested in training and development so employees’ skills and experience allow them to move readily between positions in Canberra, state and territory offices and overseas.

In total 136 ongoing staff separated from the department in 2010–11.

Human resource management information system

The department reviewed its human resource management information system requirements for improving payroll management for overseas locally engaged staff.


The department undertook eight bulk recruitment rounds (including graduate recruitment) supplemented by 51 specialist rounds. Two SES selection processes were conducted to fill the Director General, Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office (ASNO) and the Chief Information Officer positions.

The 2012 graduate recruitment program attracted 2075 applicants for the policy graduate intake and 386 applicants for the corporate intake.

Workplace diversity

The department’s commitment to the promotion of workplace diversity encompassed activities in Australia and at our overseas posts. Major workplace diversity events that were celebrated included: NAIDOC week in July 2010; International Day of Disability in December 2010; International Women’s Day in March 2011; and Reconciliation Week in May 2011.

We continued our participation in APS-wide initiatives to promote workplace diversity, including through enhanced employment and career development opportunities for Indigenous employees and employees with disabilities. Harassment, bullying and discrimination were targeted through awareness raising training and enhancements to the Workplace Diversity Contact Officer network.

Reconciliation Action Plan

The Indigenous recruitment and career development programs expanded with the launch of the Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) 2011–15. The plan reflects the department’s commitment to increasing Indigenous employment targets in line with the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Closing the Gap reform agenda. The RAP incorporates the department’s Indigenous Recruitment and Career Development Strategy. A deputy secretary-level Indigenous Champion was appointed and the department’s Indigenous Task Force and Indigenous Employees Network were active in promoting enhanced recruitment and career development opportunities for Indigenous employees.

National Disability Strategy

The department was active on disability issues during 2010–11, reflecting its longstanding commitment to equity in employment and the elimination of discrimination and harassment of employees with disability. The department’s disability champions worked closely with Corporate Management Division to coordinate a range of activities aimed at improving career opportunities for disability employees, including through targeted placements utilising the Public Service Commissioner’s Directions. The champions were also active in raising awareness of disability issues in the department as a whole. A new Disability Action Strategy (DAS) 2011–15 was developed in consultation with the Workplace Relations Committee and launched by the Secretary.

The DAS was developed following the release of the National Disability Strategy (NDS) in February 2011. Further details about disability reporting under the NDS will be available at Information regarding other disability reporting mechanisms are available through the Australian Public Service Commission’s State of the Service Report and the APS Statistical Bulletin, which are available at; and through the Social Inclusion Measurement and Reporting Strategy found at

Training and development

The department remains committed to providing employees with training and development opportunities relevant to the department’s corporate goals. Under the guidance of the Executive, the effectiveness and relevance of corporate training and development was reviewed and new programs were implemented in 2010–11. These included an Executive Training and Development Program aimed at SES and EL 2 levels, a revised induction program and informal mentoring arrangements for new lateral recruits. Two new programs were introduced for non-SES staff:

  • Leadership and Management Development Program—this complements our existing leadership and management programs for staff
  • Professional Skills Development Program, with a view to enhancing our foreign and trade policy capabilities.

Staff had access to over 216 courses, seminars and workshops during 2010–11. Employees participated in external professional development and graduate programs managed by the Australian Public Service Commission, Australian and New Zealand School of Government, Australian National Institute for Public Policy and the National Security College. Two employees participated in postgraduate economics courses developed by the Treasury and one employee was selected for a secondment to the Department of the Senate’s professional development program, Working in the Senate.

Under the Staff Training and Development Program, the department provided on-the-job experience for 112 junior staff to participate in, and contribute to, international conferences and negotiations.

Trainee programs

In February 2011, 48 policy graduates (formerly ‘graduate trainees’), one New Zealand exchange officer and nine corporate graduates (formerly ‘corporate and financial management trainees’) commenced the department’s two-year graduate training program.

Graduates benefited from new initiatives, including a two and a half-day training program on modern diplomacy and diplomatic representation skills, and seminars which gave senior diplomats the opportunity to share their experiences with the graduates.

In 2010, there was an increase from 14 to 18 in the number of international participants who joined policy graduates for two months during the core part of their training program. Five junior diplomats from the Caribbean and five from African countries joined junior diplomats from other developing countries in Asia, the Middle East and the Pacific.

The two-year Administrative Development Program continued to develop skilled employees at the APS4 to EL1 levels to fill administrative positions at overseas posts. Eight employees participated in the program in 2010–11.

Four Indigenous tertiary students participated in the Indigenous Cadetship Program in 2010–11. This program supports promising Indigenous tertiary students to gain practical experience in the department while completing their studies.

In March 2011, the department initiated a new Indigenous Traineeship Program to provide skills development in a range of corporate areas as well as the opportunity to obtain a qualification in government administration. Two officers are employed under this program.

Personal Profile:

Photo - See caption below for description
Nick Williams

Nick Williams

As an Indigenous Cadet who joined the department in 2009, Nick played a key role in organising the second East Asia Summit Workshop on Trade Finance in Sydney. While completing his business degree, he worked in the Queensland State Office, representing the department at government meetings and diplomatic events. During this time, he also worked as an accredited passport interview officer, delivering passport services to the Australian public.

In his current role in the Human Rights and Indigenous Issues Section, Nick is responsible for business and human rights, including corporate social responsibility, human rights and foreign debt, and multilateral human rights issues in the Pacific and Europe. He also prepares statements and provides advice for Australia’s participation in the United Nations human rights forums, including the Human Rights Council, the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

“DFAT’s Indigenous Cadetship program allowed me to establish a foundation upon which to build a successful career in foreign and trade policy. As a 2011 policy graduate, I am continually developing my skills and abilities, and look forward to the opportunity to represent Australia overseas and be a role model for young Indigenous Australians.”




Studies assistance

Employees can access leave and receive financial assistance for tertiary study related to the department’s work under the Studybank scheme. The scheme was accessed by 35 employees.

Language training

In recognition of the high priority the department places on training staff in languages, the Executive commissioned a comprehensive review of the language training program. As a result, 22 new language-designated positions were created overseas to improve the department’s language skills capability. Immersion, interpreting and language discussion programs were expanded to assist staff in maintaining language skills.

In 2010–11, 93 employees undertook long-term language training in Australia and overseas. A further 80 staff undertook short-term ‘survival’ language training of four weeks, in preparation for their postings. Total expenditure on language training was over $4.56 million (compared to $3.78 million in 2009–10).

Performance management

Performance appraisal of employees is an important component of the department’s human resource strategy. The department’s performance management cycle runs for 12 months, starting in April each year. Employees receive ongoing informal performance feedback throughout the year, a formal mid-term appraisal, and an end-of-cycle performance review. The system aims to:

  • provide employees with a clear understanding of their role and what is expected of them
  • provide incentives for improved performance through salary advancement or performance bonus payment
  • identify personal training and development needs.

A number of changes to the performance management system were negotiated for the Enterprise Agreement 2011–14. The key changes are designed to better focus the appraisal process on training and development outcomes and to streamline formal under-performance procedures.

Locally engaged staff

The department’s performance at overseas posts is significantly enhanced by locally engaged staff (LES). Under the Prime Minister’s Directive on the Guidelines for the Management of the Australian Government Presence Overseas, the department manages the appointment, termination, salary and conditions of service of all LES, except those engaged by Austrade and AusAID, in accordance with contemporary Commonwealth management principles, local labour and other relevant laws and good employer practice. In 2010–11, the department was the legal employer of 3076 LES, 1432 of whom were employed on behalf of other government agencies.

Workplace arrangements

Consistent with the Government’s workplace relations framework, the terms and conditions of employment for non-SES employees were governed by the department’s Enterprise Agreement 2010–11. Any supplementary terms and conditions for non-SES employees were made pursuant to remuneration supplementation clauses in the Enterprise Agreement. The terms and conditions of employment for all SES employees are set out in determinations made under section 24(1) of the Public Service Act 1999.

The department’s Enterprise Agreement 2010–11 and workplace determinations continued to promote productivity through a strong performance-based culture.

Remuneration of senior executives

In 2010–11, SES employees received a pay rise of 2.9 per cent, in line with that negotiated for non-SES.

Enterprise Agreement

Negotiations took place on a new Enterprise Agreement as the department’s existing 2010–11 Agreement expired on 30 June 2011. The new agreement, which came into effect on 22 July 2011 and expires on 30 June 2014, provides an annual salary increase of 3 per cent over the life of the agreement.

There were no Individual Flexibility Arrangements (IFAs), common law contracts or Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs) in place during 2010–11.

Non-salary benefits

Staff were entitled to a range of non-salary benefits outlined in both the Enterprise Agreement 2010–11 for non-SES employees and determinations made under section 24(1) of the Public Service Act 1999 for SES employees. These included performance-based bonuses and a range of flexible and family-friendly working practices. Allowances for overseas services are a non-salary benefit that is available to compensate staff posted overseas for the costs and, in some cases, conditions associated with a hardship posting.

Staff welfare

The Medical Unit, Staff Counselling Office (SCO) and Family Liaison Officer provided welfare and support services to staff. In addition to providing advice to the department and individual employees on health-related issues, the Medical Unit, in conjunction with the Family Liaison Officer, managed 70 medical evacuations during 2010–11. Over 500 Australia-based staff, their families and locally engaged staff received support and advice from the SCO. Additional support was provided after significant incidents in Cairo, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Port Moresby, Suva and Wellington, and following major natural disasters in Christchurch and Japan.

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

Next page: Management of financial resources
Previous page: External scrutiny