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Management of human resources

Professional development

We continued to invest in the professional development of our staff, focusing on leadership capability to build a high-performance organisation.

Aligned to the department’s capability framework, we delivered learning activities in a range of mediums to reach staff members in different locations and with different learning styles.

Delivery shifted to online self-paced learning from March 2020 in response to COVID-19. This included promoting our existing online learning offering, external remote learning opportunities and customised online learning modules where needed.

Workforce planning

Workforce planning will continue to be an important part of our strategy to create a workforce that can respond to organisational needs now and into the future. During 2019–20, we conducted a review of workforce planning maturity and we are developing a new approach to workforce planning.

The department continues to use the APS Job Family Model as the basis for workforce analysis, planning and strategic decision-making. Job Family data allows the department to understand its current workforce, target capability development for future work needs, and facilitate staff mobility.

Diversity and inclusion

In 2019, all staff members were invited to provide feedback to help develop the department’s ‘values in action’. This exercise was part of our effort to nurture an inclusive and diverse workplace where employees have a sense of belonging and feel valued and respected.

The department’s values supplement the APS Values and Behaviours. They express how we operate, what we strive for, and how we interact with each other, our stakeholders and the broader community. They state what is valuable and meaningful about the work we do, and how we will work together to achieve our vision.

Our values

 Collaborative, Innovative, Respectful and Excellence. Each value is described in one or two sentences and is followed by a list of actions employees in the department take to demonstrate the value.
Innovate Reconciliation Action Plan

The department respects and celebrates the unique place that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples hold as the First Australians. The Innovate Reconciliation Action Plan 2019–2021 outlines the actions that support our goals to:

  • increase employment opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
  • build better career paths for our employees
  • develop our programs and policies to support Indigenous businesses in new and existing industries.

A key deliverable of the plan is a departmental Indigenous Employment Strategy, which outlines the approach to increasing the employment and retention of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff. The two-year strategy was launched in November 2019.

Diversity networks

The department has employee networks that celebrate and promote diversity and inclusion, including:

  • Women’s Network
  • Indigenous Employees Network
  • Disability and Wellness Network
  • Pride Network
  • Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Network
  • Flexible Workplace Network.

Each network is championed by members of the Senior Executive Service (SES) and employee network chairs. The champions attend quarterly Inclusion Insights meetings with our Executive Board to identify, promote and report on inclusion initiatives within the department.

Disability reporting mechanisms

The National Disability Strategy 2010–2020 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, and their families and carers.

All levels of government will continue to be held accountable for implementing the strategy through biennial progress reporting to the Council of Australian Governments. Progress reports can be found at dss.gov.au.

Disability reporting is included in the Australian Public Service Commission’s (APSC’s) State of the Service reports and the APS Statistical Bulletin. These reports are available at www.apsc.gov.au.

Accessibility Action Plan 2020–25

On Global Accessibility Awareness Day on 21 May 2020, we launched our Accessibility Action Plan 2020–25. The plan supports our work to make the department accessible for people with a range of abilities. It outlines key actions for improving accessibility in four areas:

  • Attract, retain and recruit—we foster a developmental culture that builds employee capabilities and creates career opportunities.
  • Leadership—our leaders are role models who empower our people to reach their full potential and embed inclusive and accessible practices.
  • Culture and inclusive practice—we elevate inclusion by creating an environment where people feel valued and can thrive.
  • Property, procurement, and information and communication technology (ICT)—we embed accessibility into procurement, property and ICT practice and processes, while taking a collaborative and consultative approach.

The Accessibility Action Plan 2020–25 was developed in close consultation with our employees. The plan aligns with the new APS Employment Strategy for People with Disability 2020–2024.

Work health and safety

The department maintains a strong commitment to the health and wellbeing of all employees and visitors. During 2019–20, we continued to strengthen our work health and safety management system. We explored strategies to help staff members improve their wellbeing, emphasising prevention and early intervention. We partnered with Comcare and Injurynet to test an external injury and illness early intervention service. Sixty-nine departmental employees participated in the pilot, which was conducted between August 2019 and February 2020.

The department’s employee assistance program offers employees and their family members free, confidential counselling for personal or work-related issues. We have expanded the definition of ‘family member’ to include an employee’s spouse, de facto partner, child, parent, grandparent, grandchild or sibling.

In response to a Culture and Inclusion Review conducted in 2019, the department developed an online module for respectful workplace behaviours. This training reinforces the value we place on diversity and tolerance. The training is now part of the department’s onboarding program and continuous learning strategy.

As part of the department’s approach to health and wellbeing in 2019–20, 2040 staff members participated in the free vaccination program, a 31 per cent increase compared with the previous financial year.

In 2019–20, seven incidents were deemed notifiable under section 38 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (WHS Act) and reported to Comcare. No notices were issued under Part 10 of the WHS Act.

The department’s 2019–20 Comcare premium rate remained low, at 0.61 per cent. Initiatives such as the Early Intervention Program, Chat to a Case Manager sessions and revised case management guidance played a key role in preventing potential compensation claims and loss of productivity. They also enabled staff members to seek immediate treatment for illnesses and injuries that were likely to have an impact on their capacity to work.


To effectively support the Australian community through the COVID-19 pandemic, we established a redeployment register and facilitated the redeployment of 41 staff members to Services Australia. We also facilitated remote work for more than 3000 departmental staff. To promote a culture of support during COVID-19, we established the Outreach Program. This comprehensive support package included staff information sessions that addressed key areas of concern, such as leave and working safely from home. It provided factsheets and guides on managing mental health, remote working and leave entitlements.

The APS Mental Health Capability Project

The importance of nurturing and maintaining our mental health has been at the fore for many public servants this year. To support and nurture mental health, the Secretaries Board endorsed the APS Mental Health Capability Project’s Initial Report in July 2020.

This whole-of-APS project, led by the department, is aiming to improve our collective understanding of the experience of mental health capability within our workplaces.

More than 16 000 of our APS colleagues participated in this project, representing more than 100 agencies. The richness of the personal experiences shared by many APS staff members has added significant value to the project’s findings, and subsequently its key recommendations. The initial report proposes the development of an APS Mental Health Capability Framework to support a whole-of-APS approach to building and sustaining good mental health.

The project’s next steps include piloting the proposed APS Mental Health Capability Framework within selected agencies. The first pilot is underway with the National Indigenous Australian’s Agency.