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Diversity and inclusion

DVA is committed to reflecting the diversity of the Australian community in its workforce and building an inclusive culture in which employee backgrounds, skills and views enrich our working environment and quality of work.

Diversity and inclusion artwork

In 2018 DVA’s Diversity and Inclusion Staff Network commissioned 22-year-old Kalkadoon artist Chern'ee Sutton to create an artwork representing the many different ways diversity and inclusion is celebrated within DVA and the veteran community we serve.

Ms Sutton’s extraordinary artwork was unveiled at DVA’s Harmony Day event on 21 March 2019. ‘This painting represents DVA's five key areas of diversity focus and is called “Diversity and Inclusion”’, Ms Sutton explained. ‘In my painting the large community symbol on the top left-hand side represents DVA using blue, aqua, green, grey and maroon—the colours of DVA’s culture wheel—which is surrounded by the Southern Cross, which represents Australia. ‘The poppies and rosemary represents ANZAC Day and Remembrance Day and the fallen service men and women that were left behind. The two handprints together represent “Galumbany”, “Me, You, We, Together”'. Each of the 12 red, white and grey circles represent the various war/peace operations the ADF has been involved in.

The artwork is shown below in Figure 5. It is currently on display at DVA’s Canberra office.

Figure 5: DVA Diversity and Inclusion artwork

DVA Diversity and Inclusion artwork. See above for description of the artwork.

Diversity Strategy

The DVA Diversity Strategy 2018–2023 was developed in 2017–18 and is updated biannually to ensure that DVA is a workplace that is inclusive, values diversity and innovates.

The strategy identifies five key areas of focus:

  • Gender equality
  • Disability and carers
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
  • Culturally and linguistically diverse
  • Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer/questioning and allies.

A dedicated Diversity Officer drives diversity initiatives, with the support of the Diversity Champion, the Indigenous Champion, and the Cultural and Linguistic Champion. The Diversity and Inclusion Staff Network was established in early 2018 to support the implementation of the Diversity Strategy.

Diversity in the workplace activities

DVA’s activities to promote diversity in the workplace in 2018–19 included:

  • offering an ongoing program of cross-cultural awareness and unconscious bias recognition training for all staff
  • participating in government initiatives for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, such as:
    • the APS Indigenous Employees Staff Network and an Australian Public Service Commission (APSC) memorandum of understanding on funding for the APS Indigenous Employment Programs 2016–2019, relating to Turning Up the Volume on Indigenous Employment 2018–19
    • the APSC’s Indigenous Graduate Recruitment Program, the Indigenous Mentoring Program, the Indigenous Apprenticeships Program, and the APS Jawun Secondment Program
  • attracting, supporting and developing staff with disability through the application of the APS RecruitAbility scheme to all advertised positions, provision of accessible workplaces, and silver membership held with the Australian Network on Disability
  • hosting events to promote awareness and understanding of the importance of diversity within the workplace on occasions such as International Women’s Day, Harmony Day, Reconciliation Week, NAIDOC Week, the International Day of People with Disability, White Ribbon Day, Wear it Purple Day, and the International Day against Homophobia, Biphobia, Intersexism and Transphobia
  • maintaining corporate memberships of Diversity Council Australia and Pride in Diversity.

DVA currently has an Innovate Reconciliation Action Plan—Galumbany. On 30 June 2019 we had 20 ongoing staff members and one non-ongoing staff member (1.3 per cent of total staff) who identified as Indigenous, which was similar to the 2017–18 result of 22 ongoing and one non-ongoing staff identifying as Indigenous (1.2 per cent of total staff).

We also continued to implement our Gender Equality Action Plan 2017–2019. On 30 June 2019, 64 per cent of staff identified as female and 36 per cent as male. This is similar to the 2017–18 result of 63 per cent identifying as female and 37 per cent as male.

Indigenous Veterans’ Strategy

Through the Indigenous Veterans’ Strategy (IVS), DVA continues to create pathways to identify and connect and engage with Indigenous veterans and their families to ensure they are aware of and can access DVA services and benefits. The IVS also raises awareness about their contribution.

In 2018–19 DVA provided services and programs under the strategy to improve its service delivery to the Indigenous veteran community and improve the cultural knowledge of DVA staff. Community-related activities during the year included:

  • ongoing support for Indigenous commemorations. This included events held during Reconciliation Week 2019 in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney and attended by DVA representatives, including the National Indigenous Liaison Officer. All DVA staff were encouraged to attend events being held in their regions
  • ongoing support for national Indigenous events, including NAIDOC Week. The National Indigenous Liaison Officer, Indigenous Veterans’ Liaison Officers and staff in each state use these events as opportunities to connect with Indigenous veterans and the broader Indigenous communities to promote DVA benefits and entitlements and gain a better understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures
  • the National Indigenous Liaison Officer continuing to meet and engage with Indigenous organisations to raise awareness of veteran entitlements. These organisations include elders groups, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Medical Services, local Aboriginal Land Councils, Torres Strait Islander Corporations, Aboriginal Housing Groups, local and national Indigenous networks, the Queensland Police Service Liaison Officer Network, Indigenous ex-service groups (local and national), and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men’s groups.

Indigenous Veterans Forum

As part of the IVS Indigenous veterans engagement process, in November 2018 DVA hosted its second Indigenous Veterans Forum—a roundtable held in Canberra. The purpose of the roundtable was to discuss:

  • barriers preventing Indigenous veterans from accessing DVA benefits and entitlements
  • the Indigenous perspective on DVA’s transformation agenda and veteran-centric reforms
  • the Veterans Recognition Program
  • improving services to Indigenous veterans and their families
  • how DVA can service rural, remote and island Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.


DVA continued its support for national and international ceremonies to honour the service and sacrifice of all veterans, including the contributions made by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander service men and women in wars, conflicts and peacetime operations.

Cultural awareness training

As a deliverable under the IVS to increase the cultural knowledge and understanding of staff, the National Indigenous Liaison Officer continued to facilitate cultural awareness training. Between 2014 and 2018 around 393 staff attended this training. We will continue to give staff access to this vital training and online cultural awareness training.


DVA continued to strengthen partnerships with Army, Air Force and Navy via each of their Indigenous branches and Indigenous networks. We also continued to strengthen partnerships with the Australian War Memorial to understand, promote and honour the history and stories of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander service men and women. We continued to build partnerships with other key stakeholders who work with and in Indigenous communities, including Services Australia, the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and the newly established National Indigenous Australians Agency.

Across the department

All divisions of DVA actively consider Indigenous perspectives in the development of programs and strategies and, when necessary, seek appropriate advice from the Indigenous veterans community, the National Indigenous Liaison Officer, the Indigenous Employee Staff ‘Nganana’ and the broader Indigenous community.

Disability reporting mechanisms

DVA strives to ensure that its policies and programs are inclusive of people with disability and their families and carers, including veterans and their families, departmental employees, and members of the public. Since 1994, non-corporate Commonwealth entities have reported on their performance as policy adviser, purchaser, employer, regulator and provider under the Commonwealth Disability Strategy. In 2007–08, reporting on the employer role was transferred to the APSC’s State of the Service Report and the APS Statistical Bulletin. These reports are available at www.apsc.gov.au. From 2010–11, entities have no longer been required to report on these functions.

The Commonwealth Disability Strategy has been overtaken by the National Disability Strategy 2010–2020, which sets out a 10-year national policy framework to improve the lives of people with disability, promote participation and create a more inclusive society. A high-level, two-yearly report will track progress against each of the six outcome areas of the strategy and present a picture of how people with disability are faring. The first of these progress reports was published in 2014 and can be found at www.dss.gov.au.