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Management of human resources

The AAT’s members and staff are integral to carrying out our role as an independent merits review tribunal effectively. We continue to develop our workforce and the workplace environment so that members and staff are able to provide high-quality services that meet the needs of users.

Staffing overview

At 30 June 2019, there were 362 members appointed to the AAT. More information about members is set out in Chapter 2 Overview of the AAT and Appendix 1: Members of the AAT.

At 30 June 2019, there were 714 staff working in the AAT: 648 employed under the Public Service Act and 66 engaged under labour hire arrangements. Of the 648 APS employees, 466 were ongoing and 182 were non‑ongoing with 34 of the non-ongoing staff engaged to undertake duties that are irregular or intermittent.

Table A2.1 in Appendix 2: Additional staffing statistics sets out statistics on the number of ongoing and non-ongoing employees at 30 June 2018 and 30 June 2019 in relation to employment status, gender and location. Tables A2.2 and A2.3 set out statistics on ongoing and non-ongoing APS employees at 30 June 2018 and 30 June 2019 in relation to classification, employment status, gender and location as well as information about the number of AAT staff identifying as Indigenous, as being from a non-English speaking background, and as a person with disability.

The AAT maintained our APS staffing levels within the mandated Average Staffing Level cap of 610 full-time equivalent staff. There was a slight decrease in APS headcount over the reporting period from 660 to 648. The reduced APS headcount was mostly the result of short-term vacancies pending recruitment outcomes as well as higher uptake of long leave provisions at that time. Staffing levels decreased in Melbourne and Sydney while increasing or maintaining level in most other cities. These changes were associated in part with the program to transform registry operations that involves moving some operational roles to support a full-service registry model in other locations. APS staff turnover reduced slightly over the financial year but continues to be consistent with turnover in the APS more broadly. Changes in workloads as well as some projects are managed with the assistance of non-APS labour hire staff. Labour hire staff reduced from 82 to 66 over the reporting period.

The APS employee census was conducted in May and June 2019 with an overall AAT response rate of 69 per cent, up nine percentage points from our 2018 rate and our highest response rate since the AAT amalgamated in 2015. The results for the Tribunal were positive. In relation to employee engagement, the AAT achieved an index score of 74 per cent, two percentage points higher than the result for 2018. It shows the extent to which our employees are motivated, inspired and feel enabled to improve our organisation’s outcomes. The innovation index score for the AAT improved from 63 per cent in 2018 to 65 per cent in the reporting year indicating that our employees feel willing and able to be innovative and that the AAT has a culture which enables them to be so. In relation to wellbeing, the census measures both the practical and cultural elements that allow for a sustainable and healthy working environment. The AAT scored 68 per cent, up from 64 per cent in 2018.

Employment agreements and arrangements for staff

The framework for the terms and conditions of employment for APS employees includes an enterprise agreement for non-SES staff and section 24(1) determinations under the Public Service Act for SES staff. The AAT Enterprise Agreement 2017–2020 came into effect on 9 June 2017, remaining in operation for three years, and nominally expires on 9 June 2020.

At 30 June 2019, 643 non-SES APS employees were covered by the enterprise agreement with 15 of these also having an individual flexibility arrangement. Five SES employees were covered by section 24(1) determinations. Appendix 2: Additional staffing statistics shows the salary ranges available to APS employees in 2018–19 by classification level.

Executive remuneration

Information relating to the remuneration of the senior leaders of the AAT is set out in Appendix 6: Executive remuneration.

The remuneration for Executives who are members is determined by the Remuneration Tribunal, which is also included in Appendix 6: Executive remuneration.

Senior Executive Service employee remuneration

Remuneration for SES employees in 2018–19 was determined having regard to the remuneration for SES staff in similar Australian Government agencies. The remuneration package included cash in lieu of a motor vehicle in accordance with common Australian Government practice.

Performance pay

The AAT did not have a performance pay or bonus system for any staff in 2018–19, nor did we pay a performance bonus to any staff.

Non-salary benefits

Non-salary benefits available to staff in 2018–19 included:

  • two weeks of paid maternity/parenting leave in addition to the legislated minimum
  • access to our Studies Assistance Scheme
  • contributions to relevant professional memberships
  • ability to participate in a public transport loans scheme, and
  • health and wellbeing benefits such as assistance for group participation in health and fitness activities, the Employee Assistance Program, eyesight testing and flu vaccinations.

Employees were also able to access a range of salary sacrifice benefits, including additional superannuation, leased motor vehicles, and airline lounge memberships.

Developing our members and staff

Professional development continues to be a priority for the AAT to optimise and build the capability of our members and staff.

Two key activities that will support improved learning and development outcomes into the future came to fruition in the reporting year. In July 2018, we launched our new online learning management system known as educAATe, which enables us to deliver more flexible learning options for members and staff to assist with knowledge and skills development. In October 2018, we finalised our Leadership Capability Framework that provides a shared understanding of critical leadership capabilities across the organisation. It will support an assessment of our current capability and help us achieve the capability we require for the future.

In addition to these activities, we delivered and facilitated access to a wide range of training and development opportunities during 2018–19 to meet the learning needs of members and staff. These included a mediation accreditation training program to expand the number of both members and staff able to conduct alternative dispute resolution processes.

Member professional development

We have a comprehensive Member Professional Development Program based on a framework of competencies specific to the AAT, which describes the essential attributes required by members to perform their functions competently. The program comprises induction, mentoring, appraisal, and other learning and development opportunities.

In 2018–19, we held induction programs for four groups of new members. The program ensures all new members are made aware of their role and responsibilities as members of the Tribunal and the resources available to support them. They also receive specific training in relation to the legal and procedural issues that arise in the caseloads they will be handling. Arrangements were made for new members to have access to a mentor.

Beyond induction, a comprehensive range of professional development opportunities was offered to our members. In-house sessions were delivered by external and internal presenters and covered division-specific caseload topics as well as more general knowledge and skills development, including mediation training and the sessions on the role of a member.

Members also attended a range of external seminars, workshops and other professional activities, including conferences arranged by the Australian Institute of Administrative Law, the Council of Australasian Tribunals, the International Association of Refugee and Migration Judges and the Law Council of Australia.

Conference registrar professional development

The Conference Registrar Professional Development Program is also based on a framework of competencies developed for the AAT and includes induction, mentoring, reflective learning, peer review and performance appraisal. The key professional development activity for Conference Registrars in the reporting year was the 2019 National Mediation Conference, a three-day conference offering workshops, panels and oral presentations in relation to mediation and dispute resolution skills.

Staff learning and development

In 2018–19 we began to embed the new Leadership Capability Framework in our recruitment processes and performance management program and as a tool to support ongoing learning and development. The SES group participated in a pilot assessment program using the framework and assessments will be undertaken with other senior managers in 2019–20.

Other training and development activities for staff in the reporting year responded to identified training needs and involved various delivery methods, including in-house courses, online learning, external seminars and conferences. To complement enhancements to our performance appraisal scheme and system, refresher training was provided for supervisors on establishing effective performance agreements, giving performance feedback and having meaningful performance conversations. In-house workshops were also conducted to support supervisors to effectively engage with staff, including having difficult conversations, and thereby manage and aid improved performance as well as foster a workplace environment that supports psychological safety.

Our Studies Assistance Scheme provided ongoing and certain non-ongoing staff with access to financial support and/or study leave to develop their own capabilities, and that of the AAT, through vocational and tertiary education. During 2018–19, 18 employees accessed support for studies in areas such as business, commerce, public sector management and law.

Workplace diversity

The AAT is an organisation that values diversity in the workplace. At 30 June 2019, 66 per cent of our APS staff were women, with strong representation across all classification levels. Seventeen per cent of our staff identified as being from a non-English speaking background. Eight APS staff identified as Indigenous, an increase from the previous year.

Our Workplace Diversity Plan sets the foundation for the AAT to build an organisation reflective of the diversity in the Australian community. It is intended to assist the AAT in promoting and maximising the opportunities and knowledge that can be gained from an inclusive and diverse workforce. The objectives of the plan are: to promote and uphold the APS Values and Code of Conduct embedding the principles of diversity; to attract, retain and support staff from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds; to increase the recruitment and retention of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander employees; to support gender equality and the advancement of women; and to provide an inclusive and flexible work environment for all staff.

A key initiative undertaken during the reporting year was rolling out online learning modules covering a range of topics, including diversity in the workplace, disability awareness, general cross-cultural communication and a specific cultural learning module relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.

We participate in the APSC Indigenous Pathways Graduate Program and anticipate engaging a new graduate in 2019–20.

Work health and safety

We are committed to maintaining the health and safety of our people and those who come into contact with, or are affected by, our operations.

This year we made significant progress in integrating better health and safety practices into our operations. We updated our Work Health and Safety Management System to reflect international standards and codes of practice. We surveyed our people to better understand the risks they perceive to their health, safety and wellbeing and incorporated actions to address these risks in our more proactive Work Health and Safety Management Plan. Our work health and safety policy was also revised to provide greater clarity of roles and responsibilities. The annual audit of our Rehabilitation Management System against the Guidelines for Rehabilitation Authorities 2012 achieved a 100 per cent conformance with the auditor noting our strong commitment to providing assistance to employees through the timely provision of early intervention and rehabilitation programs.

We reviewed our health and wellbeing policy during the report year to improve equity of access and undertook a variety of health and wellbeing initiatives. We continued our annual flu vaccination program with a take up rate of 46 per cent, undertook workstation assessments for new employees and reimbursed staff for eyesight testing and optical correction costs. We implemented a number of wellbeing activities, including the Global Challenge, a holistic program to help employees develop healthy activity and lifestyle habits. We offered Calm App subscriptions to support mindfulness practice and supported events such as Ride2Work and R U OK? Day. We also developed a Slips, Trips and Falls Prevention seminar and an online learning module to support incident prevention.

Participation rates in our employee assistance program have increased over the past two years, with members and staff benefitting from a broader range of support streams. We also improved access to flexible working arrangements through our workplace diversity and home-based work policies.

Notifiable incidents and investigations

We reported one notifiable incident to Comcare in 2018–19 year in accordance with the requirements of section 38 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011. No investigations were conducted in relation to the AAT and no notices were given to the AAT under Part 10 of the Act.


The AAT continues to have low numbers of accepted compensation claims over time, as shown in Trends in compensation claims, 2017–18 to 2018–19. Four staff were provided with early intervention support during the reporting year.

Trends in compensation claims, 2017–18 to 2018–19



Number of claims accepted



Workplace harassment

Our comprehensive policy on the prevention and elimination of harassment, bullying and discrimination in the workplace articulates our expectations of members, managers and other staff. A new online learning module relating to sexual harassment prevention was made available during the reporting year to assist with awareness raising. Eight Workplace Harassment Contact Officers, including one member, were available to members and staff during 2018–19.

Productivity gains

In 2018–19, productivity improvements were delivered primarily by using technology to improve the efficiency of our operations. Internally, we introduced a unified communications system that allows members and staff across locations to collaborate more effectively using web conferencing, including real-time content sharing. We expanded our internet gateway and made other changes to our ICT infrastructure which has led to improved system speed and reliability. Our Finance Services Section also automated a number of manual processes and forms and provided improved access to information in relation to budgeting and reporting.

Further enhancements were to our external-facing digital service offerings. A new online form was developed for use in the student visa refusal caseload to obtain relevant information from applicants in a more structured way that is also integrated with our case management system. We also launched a pilot service enabling parties, representatives and others to lodge documents online in any case at any stage of the review process. Automating these kinds of processes produces time savings for members and staff.