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People management

Our people

Following Machinery of Government changes in February, the department commenced redesigning its People Strategy to ensure it builds and sustains a workforce that supports the work and priorities of the department and the broader APS.

COVID-19 Human Resource (HR) Taskforce

In March 2020, the department established an HR Taskforce to coordinate a corporate response to managing COVID-19 risks. Its particular focus was work health and safety, personnel administration, and employee support. The taskforce worked quickly to establish a baseline of support services and products to successfully transition employees to working from home.

The department developed a Courage-Care-Connect campaign as a way of keeping in touch and communicating to staff about requirements as they transitioned back into the office. In addition, the department provided both staff and managers with a range of tools and guidance documentation to assist with safe work practices, supporting individual requirements and flexible work, mental health, IT equipment and individual workstations.

Secondments in response to COVID-19 pandemic

The department provided 272 employees to Services Australia to help deliver critical services to the community. These employees—approximately 8 per cent of the department’s total headcount— were seconded to Services Australia throughout March to June 2020. While employees were predominately redeployed to Services Australia in the Australian Capital Territory, employees located in Queensland, South Australia and Victoria were also involved in the redeployment.

The department also provided six staff to the Department of Health, Department of the Treasury and the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.

Seconded employees returned to the department in four phases in late May and early June 2020.

Managing the way we work

The department reviewed its flexible work framework during the year and consulted with employees through its consultative committee on issues including delivering critical business operations during difficult times. This framework supported changing working requirements for employees, first through the bushfires in early 2020, and then through the COVID-19 pandemic.

The framework successfully supported employees to continue working and delivering critical business operations through flexible work options. The framework continues to support ongoing flexible work requirements.

Entry-level programs

The department continues to provide entry-level program opportunities, including the graduate program and Indigenous Australian Government Development Program (IAGDP) to build capacity and support succession planning.

The graduate program consists of two work placements over 10 months, on-the-job training and a structured learning and development program. IAGDP participants study at the diploma level across a range of areas while working full-time over a 15-month period.

The department also participates in whole-of-government entry-level programs, including the Department of Finance Career Starters Program, the Indigenous Apprenticeships Program (IAP) and the Science Fellowships Program. IAP participants undertake either a Certificate IV or Diploma in Government while working full-time over a 12-month period and Career Starters undertake a Certificate IV in Government. The department also works collaboratively with other agencies to recruit talented individuals through other speciality graduate programs such as the Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) Digital Emerging Talent Program, the APS Human Resources Graduate Development Program, the APS Data Graduate Program and the Australian Public Service Commission (APSC) Indigenous Recruitment Pathways Program.

For the 2020 graduate program cohort that commenced in the department in February 2020, there were 51 participants. In the 2019 graduate program cohort that commenced in February 2019, there were 49 (combined across both former agencies). In February 2020, two IAP participants, one IAGDP participant, two science fellow participants and two Career Starter participants were employed. The department was recognised as one of the top 100 graduate employers in the government sector at the 2019 GradAustralia Awards.


The Secretary’s remuneration is set by the Remuneration Tribunal under section 13 of the Remuneration Tribunal Act 1973.

Remuneration and conditions for SES officers are covered by section 24(1) determinations made by the Secretary under the Public Service Act 1999. These determinations provide for a total remuneration approach to SES remuneration and conditions. Salary levels for SES employees are generally set at rates within a salary band applicable to each SES classification. SES arrangements do not provide performance pay. Governance arrangements for SES remuneration include an annual review of performance overseen by the Executive Board, with movements in salary determined by the Secretary based on a range of criteria, including employee performance. Table 3.4 shows the number of SES covered by section 24(1) determinations and Table E.2 in Appendix E shows the salary ranges for SES employees. Additional statistics on remuneration for key management personnel, senior executives and other highly paid employees are provided in tables E.1 to E.3 in Appendix E.

After consultation with employees and in-line with the APSC’s Workplace Bargaining Policy 2018, on 21 December 2018 the department issued a section 24(1) determination for non-SES employees. The determination provides for pay rises of 2 per cent in 2019, 2020 and 2021. All terms and conditions for employees of the former departments are provided under the Department of Education and Training Enterprise Agreement 2016–2019.

Table 3.4 shows the number of non-SES employees covered under the Enterprise Agreement as their primary employment instrument, and Table E.18 in Appendix E details their salary ranges under the section 24(1) determination. The department also uses individual flexibility arrangements to secure expertise or specialist skills that are critical to business needs. At 30 June 2020, 54 employees had individual flexibility arrangements in place. Non-SES arrangements do not provide for performance pay.

Appendix E provides statistics on employees by Indigenous status, classification, employment status and location, including breakdowns by gender.

Table 3.4: Number of SES and non-SES employees by employment arrangement, 30 June 2020

Section 24(1) determination

Enterprise agreement












Note: Includes employees on leave without pay. Excludes the Secretary as remuneration arrangements for departmental secretaries are determined by the Remuneration Tribunal.

Diversity and inclusion

The department is committed to diversity and inclusion, and building a workplace culture that embraces the unique skills and qualities of all our employees.

Our Workplace Diversity and Inclusion Strategy and associated action plans are being updated in 2020. The department has a number of highly active and engaged employee networks, including the:

  • Ability and Carers Network
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Employee Network
  • Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Network
  • Gender/Women’s Network
  • Pride Network.

These networks continue to play an important role in promoting diversity and inclusion initiatives, providing support and resources to employees, and recognising diversity days of significance.

The department monitors and evaluates its progress against diversity and inclusion targets through the:

  • Executive Board
  • People, Culture and Engagement Committee
  • Indigenous Business is Everyone’s Business Committee.

A number of senior-level champions are also in place to:

  • represent the department at external diversity forums
  • raise awareness of diversity issues
  • promote initiatives that support inclusive practices for people from diversity groups.

Indigenous business is everyone's business

The department supports the Government’s priority to work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, communities and businesses to improve opportunities and build a better future. Policies and programs are developed and delivered by working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, respecting their cultures and building our own cultural capability. We proudly support the Government’s Indigenous Procurement Policy, through which we are fostering Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander businesses, creating jobs and employing more Indigenous Australians. Our employees are encouraged to embrace and value the important contribution Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples make to our department and wider Australian society.

In December 2019, the department released its new Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Employment Action Plan 2019–2020. This supports the department’s philosophy that Indigenous business is everyone’s business, and complements the current Reconciliation Action Plan.

The priority areas identified in the plan provide a framework to build on successes to date and highlight our commitment to improving the lived experience of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees. The three priority areas are:

  • increase representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees at all levels, including a focus on higher classifications (APS6 - SES Band 1)
  • provide career development for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees
  • promote a culturally responsive work environment that supports Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees and acknowledges their cultures.

Reconciliation Action Plan

The department’s Reconciliation Action Plan 2018–2020 commits to practical actions that build respectful relationships and create opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Our plan is in the ‘Stretch’ category of Reconciliation Australia’s ‘Reflect, Innovate, Stretch, Elevate’ framework. It supports our people to deepen their cultural understanding by building an environment based on respect, trust, positive relationships, equality and opportunities for all.

The department’s plan has five key initiatives designed to inject more vitality into our work culture, build our capability and advance reconciliation. These initiatives support a strong Stretch status, and demonstrate a significant, broader contribution to reconciliation that reflects our distinctive position as the Australian Government agency with primary responsibility for education and training.

Learning and development

During the year, the department offered a number of professional development activities including:

  • access to e-learning across a variety of technical and management areas
  • face-to-face cultural appreciation training
  • pilot Executive Level 2 (EL2) and SES Band 1 leadership development training
  • face-to-face workshops on better mental health in the workplace
  • secondment and mobility opportunities through the Jawun Indigenous Corporate Leadership Program and Executive Level mobility rounds, as well as community secondments with local Indigenous organisations
  • training programs to build policy, data and writing capability
  • the opportunity to gain insights and learn from the experience of others in the department through a structured mentoring program (Amplify)
  • mandatory fraud awareness and security training.

The department continues to develop its people capability through learning activities aligned to our vision, corporate plan and leadership development priorities. There were 1,083 participants in face-to-face learning and development activities during 2019–20 (see Table 3.5).

Table 3.5: Number of participants in face-to-face learning and development programs, 2019–20


Number of participants


Number of programs available


Table 3.6: Participation in self-paced learning activities, 2019–20


Number of self-paced activities completed*


* A range of self-paced learning tools is available to employees through the department’s learning management system, Learnhub. These include APS and department-specific e-learning modules and a large collection of resources available through third-party providers such as LinkedIn Learning.

The effectiveness of learning and development activities was assessed through individual program evaluations and more broadly through outcomes from APS Employee Census results.

The department supports leadership development for SES and EL2 employees through a range of externally delivered executive education programs. In 2019–20, 38 EL2 and eight SES employees attended development programs offered through providers including the Melbourne Business School, the APSC, and Australia and New Zealand School of Government. These high-calibre programs are selected for their alignment to individual development and the department’s vision to create a workforce for the future.

As well as managing and coordinating corporately funded learning and development for employees, the department continued to manage the Learnhub system on behalf of other government agencies. Forty-six agencies are subscribed to Learnhub.

Work health and safety

The department provides a safe and healthy workplace for all employees and takes a proactive approach to managing health and safety. Through consultation, communication, systematic identification, assessment and control measures, we are minimising and mitigating risks.

The primary mechanism for this is through the department’s Work Health and Safety Committee, which was established under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011. The committee meets each quarter and is the principal consultative mechanism to ensure the department has effective measures in place to support workers’ health and safety. It also ensures accountability and transparency of all work health and safety matters, and reports quarterly to the Executive Board.

The department has a national network of health and safety representatives, and a national employee support officer network that underscores our strong safety culture. We promote a positive work health and safety culture—and reinforce our philosophy that the responsibility for health, safety and wellbeing rests with every one of us—through the department’s:

  • annual national influenza program
  • resilience workshops, which were implemented during the 2019–20 bushfires and pre-Machinery of Government changes
  • mental health workshops
  • flexible working arrangements, particularly throughout the COVID-19 pandemic
  • work station assessments
  • confidential counselling services
  • National Work Health Safety Month activities
  • R U OK Day activities
  • men’s health seminars during Men’s Health Week.

In 2019–20, the department had eight notifiable incidents in accordance with section 38 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011. There were no investigations or actions taken under Part 10 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011.