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Chapter 1.1 Our department

The Department of Social Services is responsible for a diverse range of policies, payments, programs, and services that improve the wellbeing of people and families in Australia.

We fund services and payments that assist families, children and older people, provide a safety net for those who cannot fully support themselves, enhance the wellbeing of people with high needs, assist those who need help with care, and support a diverse and harmonious society.

Our mission

Our mission is to improve the wellbeing of individuals and families in Australian communities.


We work in partnership with government and non-government organisations to achieve our mission through the effective development, management and delivery of payments, policies, programs, and services.

Our purpose reflects four core areas in which we seek to assist people:

Purpose 1: Social Security

Encourage self-reliance and support people who cannot fully support themselves by providing sustainable social security payments and assistance.

Purpose 2: Families and Communities

Contribute to stronger and more resilient individuals, families and communities by providing targeted services and initiatives.

Purpose 3: Disability and Carers

Improved independence of, and participation by, people with disability, including improved support for carers, by providing targeted support and services.

Purpose 4: Housing

Increased housing supply, improved community housing and assisting individuals experiencing homelessness through targeted support and services.

Our priorities

We deliver our mission and purpose through:

Quality policy advice – providing timely, evidence-based, social policy advice to our Ministers and the broader government with a focus on ensuring the long-term sustainability of the welfare system.

Effective program design and management – ensuring government policies and programs achieve intended outcomes through effective program planning, design, implementation, ongoing monitoring, and evaluation.

People, culture and performance – building a productive, safe, diverse and respectful workplace, effectively managing risks and resources, and ensuring we have the capability to deliver government priorities now and into the future.

Our values

Our values are those of the Australian Public Service (APS). The APS values require us to be impartial, committed to service, accountable, respectful, and ethical. These are central to the way we work with our Ministers, colleagues, and stakeholders.

Organisational structure

Our department is led by the Secretary and supported by deputy secretaries operating across four streams. Our organisational structure as at 30 June 2020 is shown at Figure 1.1.1.

Figure 1.1.1 Organisational structure as at 30 June 2020

This figure is the first of two diagrams that show the department's organisational structure across the four streams. It lists the Senior Executive Services personnel and shows the department is led by Kathryn Campbell, Secretary; Nathan Williamson, Deputy Secretary COVID-19 Taskforce; Shane Bennett, Acting Deputy Secretary, Social Security stream; Liz Hefren-Webb, Deputy Secretary, Families and Communities stream.
This figure is a continuation of the department's organisational structure across the four streams and lists the Senior Executive Services personnel in two streams under the Acting Chief Operating Officer, Adrian Hudson and the Deputy Secretary, Disability and Carers stream, Catherine Rule.

Our people

We operate across Australia with 71.6 per cent of our staff based in our national office located in Canberra and 28.4 per cent in the service delivery network located in state, territory, and regional offices.

Figure 1.1.2 Our national presence as at 30 June 2020

Staff numbers by state.ACT 1,694; NSW 161; NT 37; QLD 114; SA 84; TAS 54; VIC 148; WA 74; Grand total 2,366Illustration showing 71.6 per cent of staff (1,694) work in National Office and 28.4 per cent (672) work in the Delivery Network