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Our people

Workplace agreements

The Attorney-General’s Department Enterprise Agreement 2019 (the agreement) provides the remuneration and other conditions for non-SES employees. The agreement provides different salary structures and other remuneration provisions for employees in the AGS Group. The differing remuneration arrangements reflect the substantially different remuneration arrangements that existed between the department and AGS at the time that AGS functions were moved to the department in a 2015 machinery-of-government change.

The agreement allows for individual flexibility arrangements to be entered into between the department and an employee in respect of remuneration arrangements, superannuation, working hours, leave, allowances, overtime rates and penalty rates. As at 30 June 2021, 1,839 employees were covered by the agreement; 90 of these employees were covered by individual flexibility arrangements. Of the individual flexibility arrangements, 21 relate to remuneration arrangements and 25 relate to enabling the cash–out of a portion of employer superannuation contributions. The balance deal predominantly with the timeframe in which ordinary hours of work are performed.

Performance pay

Non-SES employees within AGS may earn or be awarded performance pay in accordance with the agreement. SES employees within AGS may earn or be awarded performance pay under a determination made under subsection 24(1) of the Public Service Act 1999. There are 3 types of performance-based bonuses:

  • Net production bonus: employees designated as a Lawyer or Paralegal with a fee earning target are eligible to receive a bonus equivalent to 20% of the employee’s net production above their net production target. The bonus is paid where the employee’s overall performance is assessed as at least ‘satisfactory’ under the performance management program.
  • Discretionary bonus: AGS has a pool of funds of up to $150,000 per year available to award to employees who are eligible for the net production bonus. The bonus is paid at the Secretary’s discretion having regard to any other bonuses the employee may be entitled to receive, the employee’s responsibilities and their overall contribution. The pool of funds is not required to be expended each year. SES employees were not entitled to be paid a discretionary bonus during the 2020–21 financial year.
  • Percentage-of-salary bonus: outposted lawyers, graduate APS employees and other roles as determined by the Secretary are eligible to earn up to 10% of their salary in a percentage-of-salary bonus. The bonus is paid where the employee’s overall performance is assessed as above ‘satisfactory’ under the performance management program.

The following table shows the performance payments made to AGS staff in the 2020–21 financial year. The majority of payments were for individual work performance relating to the 2019–20 financial year.

Performance payments made to AGS staff in 2020–21


Number of employees who received performance pay

Aggregate (sum total) of all payments made

Average of all payments made

Minimum payment made to employees

Maximum payment made to employees

SES Band 3






SES Band 2






SES Band 1






EL 2






EL 1






























*Substantive classification as at 30 June 2021, or if the employee ceased employment prior to 30 June 2021, their substantive classification on cessation.

Employee profile

All staffing information is prepared in accordance with the instrument issued under subsection 17A(4) of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Rule 2014.

As at 30 June 2021, the department had 2,015 ongoing, non-ongoing and casual employees. For information related to workforce statistics including numbers and locations of staff, employment arrangements, turnover, remuneration and other staff non-salary benefits, refer to Appendix 3: Workforce statistics.

Of the 2,015 employees, 68.7% are female, which is higher than the overall APS of 59.7%. The average age of the department’s employees of 38.7 years is lower than the overall APS average age of 43.7 years. The following figure illustrates the employee profile for 2020–21.

Attorney-General's Department employee profile 2020–21 Attorney-General's Department employee profile 2020–21. Map of Australia showing state and territory boundaries. Each state and territory has staff total numbers relating to gender for 2021. Total staff 2,015. WA females 29, males 13. NT females 2, males 0. QLD females 50, males 22. NSW females 112, males 38. ACT females 1,070, males 501. Vic females 101, males 38. SA females 23, males 12. Tas females 2, males 2. Overseas 0.

Workforce strategies

Capability development

We continue to invest in building capabilities and the way we work to ensure that we have the skills we need to meet our objectives. We identify and foster staff talent at all levels, build capability through on-the-job learning through exposure to experiences and encourage learning from others who have specific expertise. Our formal learning opportunities build and strengthen management and technical skills that are critical to our current and future workforce.

Our learning programs and activities align with the corporate plan and the APS Workforce Strategy 2025 to strengthen workforce capability. The department’s online learning platform, ALEX (AGD Learning EXperience), provides self-directed learning programs and resources and records staff attendance at learning and development courses. ALEX gives employees access to learning resources anytime and anywhere, promoting an inclusive, flexible learning culture.

We offer leadership programs that build skills, knowledge and confidence in our leaders. The department’s Capability Council is responsible for oversight of SES leadership development through annual SES Career Conversations. In May 2021, we launched 360-degree feedback for SES managers, providing further insight into their leadership capability as part of their career and development discussions with the department’s executive.

Our executive-level leadership programs, EL2 Connect and EL1 Evolve, support middle managers to build and strengthen their management and leadership capability. Our employees can access study assistance and scholarship programs to complete external studies and gain formal qualifications that benefit their work. Benefits include financial reimbursement and study leave.


The department supports a range of long and short-term staff secondments including to other the Australian Public Service agencies, parliamentary committees and non-government organisations.

For example in 2019, the department established a pilot program for a legal secondment to Waminda (the South Coast Women’s Health and Welfare Aboriginal Corporation) for a period of 6 months. Based in Nowra in New South Wales, Waminda is a ‘culturally safe and holistic service, providing women and their Aboriginal families an opportunity to belong and receive quality health and well-being support’. The secondment builds the legal capability of the organisation and provides valuable experience for the department’s employees. Following the successful completion of the first secondment in 2020, the department supported a second secondment to be undertaken in 2021.

Performance management

Our performance management framework is built on a ‘no surprises’ approach and facilitates effective performance conversations. These conversations help us meet the objectives set out in our corporate plan.

Our Program for Performance Improvement applies to employees who are employed for 3 months or more. It includes check-ins at established intervals and an end-of-cycle review and performance rating. We also encourage regular, informal performance conversations.

Workshops for managers on managing underperformance are delivered regularly to assist with identifying and addressing underperformance matters.

Probation is applied as a condition of engagement for all new ongoing employees and, in certain circumstances, non-ongoing employees.

Employment programs

Through our Graduate Development Program, we recruit and develop high-calibre graduates. We recruit graduates from diverse academic backgrounds to support the department’s future workforce needs. The program’s purpose is to attract, engage and develop a graduate cohort with a strong record of achievement and the capability to deliver high-quality policy, program and legal services. Through on-the-job experience and exposure to networks and expertise, graduates develop into practising lawyers and policy, legal and program officers. The Graduate Development Program is supported by supervisors and mentors who play a vital role in coaching and developing graduates.

In January 2021, 50 graduates completed the 2020 Graduate Development Program. In February 2021, a new cohort of 62 graduates commenced, including 52 policy and program graduates (including 4 industrial relations legal graduates and one economics graduate) and 10 legal practice graduates. Affirmative measures rounds were run for candidates who identified as Indigenous or having disability. These processes resulted in one Indigenous and 5 disability graduates commencing as part of this program.

We explore ways to attract talented individuals to the department. Our graduate recruitment campaign for the 2022 Graduate Program leveraged lessons learnt during the pandemic, with a stronger use of remote and virtual engagement. The department received a strong response across 4 streams of Policy and Program, Legal Practice, Economics and Industrial Relations Legal. Two affirmative measures processes were run to support Indigenous graduates and graduates with disability to participate in the program.

For the last 8 years, the department has ranked in the top 75 graduate programs, as assessed by the Australian Association of Graduate Employers. Our program continues to perform well compared with other graduate programs in the public and private sectors.

In 2020–21, we implemented a variety of employment programs, including the Indigenous Australian Government Development Program, the Australian Network of Disabilities Stepping Into Internships program and the Centre for Disability Studies uni 2 beyond program.

Diverse workforce

We embrace diversity, flexibility, inclusion and the unique skills and qualities of all employees. A workforce that is diverse in background, culture and gender is innovative, productive and delivers better organisational outcomes. We build on this through the department's membership of the Diversity Council of Australia.

Under the direction of the department's Diversity Council and Diversity Committee, employee-led diversity networks support women and gender equity, disability and carers, LGBTIQA+ inclusion, Indigenous culture and representations as well as cultural and linguistic diversity. These networks promote inclusion through a variety of events, initiatives and advice on departmental policy.

Further information is available on the department’s website.

Diversity strategy

Our Diversity Strategy has been operating since 2016 and we achieve strong results in the APS employee census, particularly related to inclusive culture. Throughout 2021, we consulted with employees to develop a new diversity strategy. The aim is to define current workplace culture, establish a vision for the future and identify challenges, and importantly opportunities, to continue to foster a diverse and inclusive workplace.

Gender equality

The department's Gender Equality Action Plan is guided by the Balancing the future: The Australian Public Service gender equality strategy 2016–19. The plan has 5 action areas to meet gender equality targets, including a target of 50:50 at the SES Band 2 level by 2021. In 2020–21, 33% of the department’s SES Band 2 employees were women.

This year we reviewed our approaches to preventing and addressing sexual harassment. This included:

  • reviewing policies relating to sexual harassment
  • identifying ways to improve levels of respect, safety and equality
  • making greater use of data, training and internal communications.

During 2021, we progressed work to develop a Nursing Parents Policy and establish facilities in preparation for accreditation as a breastfeeding-friendly workplace from the Australian Breastfeeding Association.

The Women’s Network holds events on days of significance such as the UN International Day of Elimination of Violence against Women to raise awareness in support of women and gender equity.

Supporting Indigenous employees

As part of the department's Innovate Reconciliation Action Plan 2020–22, we introduced processes that support the recruitment of Indigenous employees. We also support AGS lawyers to recommend the use of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander barristers to clients, where appropriate. In 2020–21, there were 11 briefs to 2 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander counsel.

This year, the Reconciliation Action Plan Working Group commenced work on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander protocols, including Welcome to Country and Acknowledgement of Country. We also began consulting with staff about developing an anti-discrimination policy.

The department’s Indigenous Employee Network is a source of counsel on workplace issues affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees. Network members also contribute to building awareness of Indigenous culture and achievements through celebrating and commemorating significant events such as NAIDOC Week, National Sorry Day and National Reconciliation Week.

Our SES-level Champion represents the Indigenous Employee Network internally through membership of the AGD Diversity Council and externally through the APS Indigenous Champions Network.

Supporting employees with disability

As at 30 June 2021, 3% of the department’s employees identified as a person with disability.

The department is committed to breaking down barriers that might prevent our current and potential employees from fully participating in the workplace. The department's Disability and Mental Health Action Plan was extended into 2021 to allow additional time to complete actions to strengthen inclusive workplace culture, particularly for people with disability or ill health and carers of people with disability.

The department's Celebrating Ability Network is a strong source of support to employees with disability and carers of people with disability.

The department is a gold member of the Australian Network on Disability and was the major sponsor for its 2021 National Conference. The department’s Chief Operating Officer was the keynote speaker for the event. The department participates in the Access and Inclusion Index and there has been a year-on-year improvement in performance. The department is rated first among participating organisations for workplace adjustment policies and is one of only 2 organisations operating at the strategic level on this measure.

The National Disability Strategy is Australia’s overarching framework for disability reform. It acts to ensure the principles underpinning the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities are incorporated into Australia’s policies and programs that affect people with disability, their families and carers. All levels of government will be held accountable for the implementation of the strategy through progress reports. These reports are published the Department of Social Services website. Disability reporting is included the Australian Public Service Commission’s State of the Service reports and the APS Statistical Bulletin. These reports are available on the commission’s website.

Multicultural access and equity

Our Multicultural Access and Equity Plan is a commitment to multicultural access and inclusion in the way we work and in the outcomes we deliver. The plan fulfils obligations under the Australian Government Multicultural Access and Equity Policy (MAEP). The MAEP aims to support a culture that embraces multicultural access and inclusion informed by the following commitments: leadership, engagement, responsiveness, performance, capability and openness. The department reports annually on its progress under the MAEP to the Department of Home Affairs, which coordinates reporting across Australian Government departments and agencies. Further information is available on the Department of Home Affairs website.

The department promotes cultural and linguistic diversity to build a strong and cohesive workforce. As such, staff in our Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) Network actively promote awareness of multiculturalism by celebrating days of significance such as Lunar New Year and Harmony Day.

The department’s CALD Network is progressing an assessment of how the department is performing in creating a diverse and inclusive environment for CALD staff. Participants in the review discussed the department’s existing strengths in supporting CALD staff, the barriers that CALD staff still face and their causes, and practical actions the department can take to address issues and ensure that CALD staff feel safe, included and valued. The review is scheduled to be completed during 2021–22.

Supporting LGBTIQA+ staff

This year, we participated in the Australian Workplace Equality Index for the fifth consecutive year. The index is Australia’s definitive national benchmark on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTIQA+) workplace inclusion. The assessment is conducted by Pride in Diversity of which the department is a member. The index gauges the overall effectiveness of LGBTIQA+ inclusion and identifies opportunities to improve our culture of inclusion. In 2021, we maintained positive results in the areas of LGBTIQA+ employee networks and resource groups, and visibility of inclusion.

We support LGBTIQA+ inclusion and awareness in the department by engaging external LGBTIQA+ organisations to facilitate training for staff on inclusive leadership, how to be an effective ally and supporting trans and gender diverse staff at work. The PRIDE in AGD Network leads celebrations of days of significance for LGBTIQA+ communities including International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Intersexism and Transphobia, Wear it Purple Day and World AIDS Day. In 2021, the PRIDE in AGD Network engaged with and influenced internal policy development and review processes through their representatives on the Diversity Committee, Workplace Relations Committee and the Steering Committee for the review of the department’s approach to addressing sexual harassment. The network regularly engaged with its members across Australia by disseminating a monthly newsletter and circulating information to staff about mental health services available to LGBTIQA+ communities. The network also attended the Pride in Diversity’s virtual Pride in Practice conference, a national conference dedicated to advancing LGBTQA+ inclusion in Australian workplaces.

Work health and safety

We provide and maintain safe and healthy workplaces and meet our obligations under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (WHS Act) and the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988.

The department’s National Health and Safety Committee met 4 times during 2020–21. In July 2019, Comcare conducted a Work Health and Safety Management System Initial Assessment to evaluate the maturity and effectiveness of current policies and practices to assess how they meet and maintain due diligence responsibilities. The assessment was conformance rather than compliance-based and found that appropriate work health and safety processes and procedures are in place. In March 2021, Comcare certified that all areas that had been noted as nonconforming had been rectified.

Health, safety and wellbeing initiatives

The department’s Mental Health Wellbeing Program provides a structured model for identifying, assessing and mitigating risks to people’s psychological wellbeing. The program includes training, early intervention support and wellbeing assessments that mitigate risks for employees, including employees engaged by royal commissions.

Between October 2020 and March 2021, the department piloted an APS-wide Mental Health Capability Framework. The framework was developed to improve understanding of existing mental health initiatives in workplaces. The project involved examining how activities and initiatives align with the framework and establishing a plan to align with the framework to build mental health capability. Findings from the pilot will be implemented during 2021–22.

Every year, the department conducts workstation assessments. During 2020–21, 239 assessments were conducted, with 53 conducted internally by our Health and Safety Representatives and external providers undertaking more complex assessments. These assessments are extended to staff who have flexible working arrangements.

Employee influenza vaccinations were conducted in April and May 2021 and 1,241 employees were vaccinated. This represents 53% of total staff, an increase from 47.6% in 2020.

Reporting incidents and enforcement measures

Under the WHS Act, in 2020–21 there were:

  • 3 notifiable incidents reported under section 38
  • no enforcement measures taken or improvement notices issued under Part 10 (which provides for the issuance or taking of improvement notices, prohibition notices, non–disturbance notices, remedial action and injunctions)
  • no enforceable undertakings under Part 11 applied to the department’s operations.

Workers’ compensation performance

The department’s workers’ compensation premium for 2020–21 was again reduced. The premium rate for the financial year was 0.2% of payroll costs, which compares favourably to the scheme average of 0.85%. Claim costs, based on the 4 previous years, were substantially lower.

Compliance with the Carer Recognition Act

We promote awareness and understanding of the Statement for Australia’s Carers by publishing the Carer Recognition Act 2010 guidelines on the department's intranet. We consider the guidelines when reviewing human resources policies and ensure these policies are consistent with the Australian Government’s commitment to support carers.