Management of human resources
The department continued to manage its staff flexibly and effectively in response to emerging policy priorities and to assist Australians overseas. Following Australia's election to the UNSC, we deployed additional staff to New York, Addis Ababa, Nairobi and Accra to support Australia's term on the council. The government announced the establishment of a dedicated Jakarta-based Ambassador to ASEAN, to be appointed in 2013–14, whose role will be to enhance Australia's engagement on priority regional political and economic issues. Departmental staff were sent on short-term assignments to support Anzac Day commemorations in Gallipoli and France, as well as to assist with the case of a kidnapped Australian citizen in the Philippines. The department also created a new Emergency Response Team, a cadre of highly-trained officers who can be deployed overseas at short notice in response to consular crises. (See also 2.1, for more information on consular services)
In Canberra, we placed staff to support new and emerging policy priorities, including enhancing Australia's engagement on the G20 in advance of Australia's hosting in 2014; implementing the recommendations of the Australia in the Asian Century White Paper; and combating people smuggling. The department agreed to new secondment arrangements with Defence Headquarters Joint Operations Command. New secondments were also established with the Business Council of Australia and Australian Institute of International Affairs to broaden and deepen the department's external outreach activities.
Workforce planning, staff mobility and retention
We managed 21 external recruitment rounds and regular internal placements and postings rounds in 2012–13 to ensure positions were filled with skilled staff. The department made improvements to its workforce planning capability, including by restructuring its planning and reporting functions and by commencing the recruitment process for a specialist workforce planner at the EL2 level. The department streamlined its postings and placements processes. The department maintained its significant investment in training and development to build employees' skills and experience to enable them to move readily between positions. In total, 110 ongoing staff separated from the department in 2012–13.
The department completed three non-SES bulk recruitment rounds (including graduate recruitment) and 13 non-SES specialist rounds. In addition, three bulk and two specialist SES selection processes were completed to fill SES Band 1, 2 and 3 positions, as well as the Executive Director, Overseas Property Office position, and a non-ongoing SES Band 1 position in Information Management and Technology Division (IMD).
The 2014 graduate recruitment program attracted 2 353 applicants for the policy graduate intake and 385 applicants for the corporate graduate intake.
The department is committed to ensuring that all employees are treated with respect in accordance with the APS Values. Major workplace diversity events celebrated by the department, both in Australia and throughout our overseas network, included: NAIDOC week in July 2012; International Day of Disability in December 2012; International Women's Day in March 2013; and National Reconciliation Week in May 2013. In October 2012 the department also participated, for the first time, in National Mental Health Week by hosting a workshop and presentation by beyondblue CEO, Jeff Kennett.
We continued our participation in APS-wide initiatives to promote workplace diversity, notably in terms of flexible working arrangements—access to flex/time off in lieu, permanent part-time work arrangements and teleworking (home-based work)—as reflected in the Enterprise Agreement 2011–14. During 2012–13, four employees undertook six-week secondments to Indigenous communities in Arnhem Land, Cape York, Redfern and the Central Coast of NSW under the Jawun Program.
We strengthened reporting mechanisms for the Workplace Diversity Contact Officer Network, and expanded training opportunities. In March 2013, the department launched two mandatory e-learning modules on workplace diversity and on harassment and discrimination to supplement existing training on workplace behaviour, equity and diversity principles. A third module has been specifically designed for supervisors and managers to assist them to ensure that all employees, including locally engaged staff (LES)and contractors, have a clear picture of appropriate workplace behaviour.
The DFAT Families Network (a volunteer organisation set up in 2011) continued its efforts to assist families with the challenges of moving overseas and back to Australia through the launch of a website and other social media, social events, a panel discussion program and liaison with management to address issues of concern and interest to the families.
The department continues to increase Indigenous employee representation—as of 30 June 2013, 52 individuals identified as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islanders. Indigenous employees represent 2.2 per cent of all staff, approaching the Council of Australian Government's target for the APS of 2.7 per cent by 2015. This year the government appointed Damien Miller as the first Indigenous Australian ambassador (see 1.1.4).
In support of the government's 'Closing the Gap' strategy we continued to recruit applicants for the department's graduate, cadetship and traineeship programs through the APSC's Indigenous Pathways Program. In March 2013, the department launched a graduate recruitment campaign targeting Indigenous applicants. We also introduced special measures positions for Indigenous applicants in our annual graduate selection process and revised the graduate program website to include personal profiles of Indigenous graduates.
Several of the initiatives delivered in 2012–13 under the department's Reconciliation Action Plan 2011–15 supported recruitment and retention of Indigenous employees. For example, we conducted Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural awareness training sessions targeting supervisors of Indigenous employees and graduates. We also signed a memorandum of understanding with Griffith University's Gumurri Centre to explore traineeship and cadetship programs and to establish two annual scholarships to the value of $5 000 for Indigenous students of the Gumurri Student Support Unit.
In June 2013, the department held, in conjunction with the APSC and Reconciliation Australia, an Indigenous Employment Workshop to examine issues of Indigenous employment in the APS, including recruitment and retention. We hosted Indigenous secondary school students at the department under the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations' Learn Earn Legend! program.
As part of the department's ongoing commitment under its International Skills Development Program, two Indigenous employees, Katina Clarke and Genna Lehman, attended the Twelfth Session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in New York in May 2013. There they gained valuable experience in multilateral diplomacy and increased their understanding of Australia's Indigenous policy priorities at the international level.
The department continued to implement measures to encourage employment and career opportunities for people with disability. Managers in host divisions were provided with tailored disability awareness and skills training to integrate new employees with disability. In two successful trials, employees who were initially hired on a non-ongoing basis were made ongoing employees under Clause 4.3A of the amended Public Service Commissioner's Directions 2010.
Two individuals, originally engaged through the Paralympian Program, continued to gain valuable work experience during university semester breaks throughout 2012–13, with a view to applying for the department's graduate program on completion of their studies.
The department made use of the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations' Employment Assistance Fund to source appropriate equipment and services for employees with a disability. Graeme Innes, Disability Discrimination Commissioner, delivered a presentation on strategies for enhancing recruitment and retention of people with disability on International Day of People with Disability in December 2012.
In August 2012, we established the DFAT Disability Network to provide peer support for employees. The network, which includes representatives from our overseas posts and state and territory offices, will focus in the first instance on disability awareness activities and ensuring that employees with disability have full access to training opportunities. With the support of the department's Disability Champion, the network is working with management to address any identified barriers to an accessible and inclusive workplace.
On 30 June 2013, the department had 32 employees who had self-disclosed as having a disability, although internal staff surveys show that there are more employees with a disability.
Disability reporting mechanisms
Details about disability reporting under the National Disability Strategy are available at www.fahcsia.gov.au. Information regarding other disability reporting mechanisms is available through the APSC's State of the Service Report and the APS Statistical Bulletin, at www.apsc.gov.au; and through the Social Inclusion Measurement and Reporting Strategy found at www.socialinclusion.gov.au.
The department continued to offer a wide range of training and development opportunities to staff. In 2012–13, employees participated in approximately 300 courses, seminars and workshops.
The department continued the Executive Training and Development Program for SES and EL2 officers. The program supports participation in a range of high-level programs in Australia and overseas, including at the Australian Graduate School of Management, the Kennedy School at Harvard University, and the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy in Singapore. The Leadership and Management Development Program and Professional Skills Program for non-SES officers also included courses in Australia and overseas.
For the second year in a row, the department offered a training program on economics delivered by the Crawford School of Public Policy at the Australian National University attended by 30 departmental employees and five staff from other agencies. In addition, staff attended training and development programs with the National Security College, the Centre for Defence and Strategic Studies, the National Intelligence Committee, the Asia-Pacific College of Diplomacy at the Australian National University, the APSC, and the Australian and New Zealand School of Government. Departmental officers also participated in training courses provided by AusAID.
New training initiatives included the launch of a refreshed leadership and management course for EL2 staff, the publication of a departmental training catalogue, a new online business writing course, new courses on Islamic Awareness and the History of Australian Foreign and Trade Policy, and a new seminar series—'Policy Forums'—designed to deepen the world view of departmental officers. We also provided two workshops for LES from more than 20 posts.
The International Skills Development Program provided learning and development opportunities for 40 employees attending international seminars, conferences and short-term missions at overseas posts.
In February 2013, 32 policy graduates and five corporate graduates commenced the department's two-year graduate training program—a program designed to provide a mix of academic and professional skills training, including in areas such as consular and crisis response, cultural awareness and Australian foreign and trade policy history. Policy graduates undertake placements in bilateral, trade, multilateral and corporate policy areas. Corporate graduates work in a range of corporate areas and also have the opportunity to improve their business management and/or accounting qualifications.
An exchange officer from the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade participated in the first year of the program and 26 other international participants joined graduates for two months during the core part of the training, an increase from 24 in 2012. Junior diplomats were drawn from Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, the Caribbean, Asia and the Pacific, with funding provided though AusAID's Australian Leadership Awards Fellowships, the Australia–Africa Partnerships Facility Program and the Australia–Malaysia Institute.
The department continued its two-year Administrative Officer Development Program to skill officers at the APS4 to EL1 levels to fill administrative positions at overseas posts. In 2012–13 the program provided five new administrative officers with six to eight rotations in key corporate areas, as well as short term placements in overseas missions and state and territory offices.
We employed a further three Indigenous tertiary students through the Indigenous Cadetship Program. The program helps promising Indigenous tertiary students gain practical experience while completing their studies, before possibly moving into the department's pool of policy and corporate officers. One cadet undertook an internship in New York and Washington to assist with the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. In February 2013 one cadet finished their studies and was successfully recruited through the graduate program.
In March 2013 two new staff joined the department under the Indigenous Traineeship Program. The 15-month program provides skills development in a range of corporate areas as well as the opportunity to gain a Certificate IV in Government. Two Indigenous trainees recruited in 2012 successfully completed the program in May 2013.
Through 2012–13, the department continued supporting the whole-of-government ICT entry-level recruitment programs. In December 2012, our first ICT apprentice graduated from his two-year program earning a Certificate IV in Information Technology. The two ICT tertiary cadets who commenced in 2012 continued their programs, combining work placements with their studies towards IT-related degrees.
In January 2013, two ICT graduates participated in the graduate induction training, making them the first ICT graduates to start with the department. Our ICT graduates are working in IMD and will complete the APSC Graduate Development Program, incorporating a Diploma in Government. This 11-month program has a strong ICT emphasis and includes working with ICT graduates from other agencies on a major project for presentation to a panel of SES officers. The 2013 intake is the first of its kind for the APS. These entry-level recruits not only assist IMD to meet its business needs, but also enhance the department's ICT capability.
The department continued to support employees undertaking part-time tertiary study through its Studybank scheme. Financial assistance and leave was provided to 70 employees, an increase from 55 the previous year.
The department invested in training staff in 27 languages that reflect Australia's foreign and trade policy interests and consular priorities. In 2012–13, 99 employees undertook long-term language training in Australia and overseas. A further 63 employees undertook short-term survival language training.
The department encouraged staff to maintain language proficiency through financial incentives such as the language proficiency allowance, immersion courses and lunch-time discussion classes. In 2012, the department began a language introductory program (LIP) in Japanese and Arabic. The program provided a combination of e-learning and tutoring to employees without a previous knowledge of these languages. The LIP program was expanded to include Indonesian in 2013. The Language Studies Unit purchased a number of Rosetta Stone e-learning licences which were offered to interested staff for home learning.
The Language Studies Unit budget for 2012–13 was $6 264 633, an increase of 3.3 per cent from 2011–12.
Appraisal of employees' performance is an important component of the department's human resource strategy. The 2012–13 performance management cycle ran from April to March. During this time, employees received ongoing informal performance feedback, 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; and
- identify personal training and development needs.
In 2012, the department amended its SES Section 24 Determinations to roll SES performance payments into SES base salaries. While SES staff still participate in the performance management system, they are no longer eligible to receive a performance bonus.
Locally engaged staff
The department recognises the significant contribution made by locally engaged staff to the advancement and protection of Australia's overseas interests. LES undertake a diverse range of important tasks across our overseas network, ranging from political and economic reporting, public diplomacy activity and corporate management to translating/interpreting and the delivery of consular and passport services to Australian citizens. The department ensures that LES are well integrated at Australian missions and has increased the scope of training and development opportunities to improve their professional standards.
Under the Prime Minister's Directive: 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 2012–13, the department was the legal employer of 3 355 LES, 1 581 of whom were employed on behalf of other government agencies.
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 2011–14. This provides for an annual salary increase of 3 per cent over the life of the agreement. Staff are entitled to a range of non-salary benefits, including 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, conditions associated with a hardship posting.
There were no Individual Flexibility Arrangements, common law contracts or Australian Workplace Agreements in place during 2012–13.
The department's Enterprise Agreement 2011–14 and workplace determinations continued to promote productivity through a strong performance-based culture.
As an LES Senior Research Officer in the Political Branch at the embassy in Washington DC, I am responsible for monitoring, analysing and reporting on US foreign policy developments. Working in close concert with my Australia-based colleagues, I report the US Administration's views as well as academic and think tank discussions. The main areas I focus on are non-proliferation and arms control issues, North and Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Europe
I also coordinate with both A-based and LES colleagues to manage the high volume of prime ministerial, ministerial and senior official visits to Washington and elsewhere in the United States. Since 1997, I have worked on over 15 prime ministerial visits and many more ministerial visits. In particular, my role has been to organise and help manage ministerial delegation offices around the country, including in Washington, Boston, Pittsburgh, Honolulu, Chicago and Tennessee.
While born and educated in Australia, I have lived overseas most of my adult life. Being a part of the Australian embassy in Washington allows me to work on the issues at the centre of the US foreign policy debate while also promoting the interests of my country and maintaining a vital connection to Australia.
All SES staff are employed under the terms of a determination made by the Secretary under section 24(1) of the Public Service Act 1999. Executive remuneration is set out in Note 11 of the financial statements on pages 264 to 267.
The Medical Unit, Staff Counselling Office (SCO) and Family Liaison Officer provide health, welfare and support services and advice to the department, individual employees and/or their dependants. The Medical Unit, in conjunction with the Family Liaison Officer, managed 75 medical evacuations during 2012–13.
The Family Liaison Officer worked with the Community Liaison Officer network at overseas posts to assist employees and their families on issues such as spouse recognition and employment, educational needs of children, cultural adjustment and general living conditions at post.
The department's SCO provided more than 520 management and counselling consultations with 380 staff and family members in Australia and at posts overseas. The SCO conducted over 100 training sessions with 1 600 participants on topics ranging from cross-cultural awareness to stress management and self-care. During 2012–13, staff counsellors visited 32 posts as part of the routine visits schedule or in response to requests for assistance. The SCO provided selection and mental health screening for high-threat posts, support to posts following critical incidents, oversight of the Employee Assistance Program and management advice on performance issues, mental health matters and other organisational concerns.