Communicating with stakeholders
During 2011–12, we continued to work closely with a range of industry consultative committees, peak bodies and community groups, to consult on issues and progress initiatives. Our stakeholder engagement is reported in Part 3: Report on performance.
Our communication efforts support the delivery of the department's policies, programs and information to stakeholders, clients and the community through channels that include the internet, publications, reports, communiqués, conferences, media releases, social media and face-to-face forums.
The release of our new Strategic Statement was supported by several actions to increase the recognition of DAFF's role and work among stakeholders, overseas trading partners, customers and the community; strengthen communication and engagement activities; and make it easier for people to work with us.
These actions included changes to the titles of the key service delivery areas of the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS) and ABARES, to better reflect their position within the broader department.
The AQIS title has been retired, while maintaining a focus on biosecurity. This follows the government's decision to retain biosecurity management within the department and the shift towards biosecurity across the continuum—offshore, at the border and onshore. It also reflects the contribution that biosecurity services make to the goals of the department—Resources, Productivity and Markets.
AQIS was a title used to describe border quarantine activities. The business of the department has changed and a sole focus on quarantine no longer reflects the diversity of our biosecurity business and the way we need to work with industry, other agencies and the community into the future.
The work of ABARES has a high degree of public and professional recognition and is regularly quoted for its forecasts and analysis. With this in mind, the ABARES name has been retained but is more closely identified with the department and is now known as DAFF ABARES.
Changes to communication materials to support the new arrangements included a new design for our website and publications. Changes to signage, vehicles and uniforms are being made through business-as-usual activities to minimise costs. We are working with industry and stakeholders to support the transition.
A key priority was to increase our use of social media to communicate with our stakeholders and the broader community. We used Twitter, Facebook and YouTube to increase the availability of content presented at the annual DAFF ABARES Outlook conference held in March 2012. Conference sessions were streamed live for the first time, enabling audiences to engage in real time with presenters and content.
The @DAFFnews (formerly @DAFFmedia) Twitter account was established to increase our ability to notify stakeholders and respond to critical issues. We also communicated to stakeholders through DAFFnews, our weekly email newsletter, providing a snapshot of news, publications and events from across the portfolio.
Through ABARES, the department provided professionally independent world-class research, analysis, advice and reports for government and private sector decision makers on significant issues affecting Australia's primary industries. In 2011–12, ABARES produced 108 publications (see Appendix 8). These ranged from short newsletters and updates to complex and sometimes highly technical documents and reports. This includes the flagship publication Agricultural commodities, which is produced quarterly.
News media are important for communicating with our stakeholders and building general awareness with the community. In 2011–12, we prepared 238 media releases for distribution, responded to 1519 media inquiries and drafted 32 speeches for the minister, parliamentary secretary and departmental officers.
We have a centrally managed public inquiries email inbox to help stakeholders and clients communicate with us. A total of 20 020 inquiries was received in 2011–12.
We also chair the Biosecurity Incident National Communication Network—a network of communication officers representing biosecurity agencies from the Australian, state and territory governments and agricultural health organisations. The network provides nationally coordinated public information during biosecurity incidents.
Our client service charter sets out our commitment to deliver a high level of service. It complements the APS Values and Code of Conduct and reflects our own values of professionalism, fairness, respect, integrity and openness. The charter identifies our service responsibilities and standards and tells clients how to give feedback or make complaints. The client service charter is available on our website.
The department has a supplementary client service charter for the provision of biosecurity services. In 2012–13, a single national register will be implemented to incorporate our service responsibilities and standards across the department. The new system is being developed on the principles set out in the Ombudsman's Better practice guide to complaint handling, and will provide improved accountability, tracking and reporting capabilities. The biosecurity client service charter is available on our website.
In 2011–12, the department received a total of 237 compliments and 397 complaints through its biosecurity client service charter. There were no complaints received by the rest of the department through the DAFF client service charter mechanism. Other feedback is received through the department's public inquiries inbox and is referred to the divisions. Each area of the department analyses and uses trend data from this feedback for planning.
The Australian Government's Social Inclusion Framework aims to create 'a stronger, fairer Australia', by giving all Australians the resources and opportunities they need to participate fully in our society.
DAFF contributes to social inclusion by working to sustain the way of life and prosperity of the people and communities that take part in, and depend on, our portfolio industries. Our programs:
- support education and training to help primary producers increase their self-reliance and ability to manage the impacts of climate change and market variability
- assist industries to deal with change in their operations
- provide immediate financial assistance for farming families that face hardship
- support community engagement, including participation by Indigenous people, women, young people and people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.
The continuing support for Landcare is a good example of the way we give individuals and communities a voice in natural resource management. There are more than 6000 Landcare groups across Australia, funded through Caring for our Country. These groups support community engagement, understanding and actions in the development and adoption of sustainable land management practices.
Other examples of support include:
- the move from Exceptional Circumstances drought assistance to the Transitional Farm Family Payment, to support all farming families facing financial hardship
- continued funding for the Rural Financial Counselling Service, to provide free financial counselling to primary producers, fishers and small rural businesses in hardship
- a Contractors Voluntary Exit Grants Program, to help operators leave the Tasmanian native forest industry
- the Community Networks and Capacity Building program, which builds leadership and representation skills among young people, women, Indigenous Australians and people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.
- support, training and employment for Indigenous groups to enable participation in sustainable resource management and the recording of traditional ecological knowledge.
As an employer, we are supporting social inclusion through the implementation of a new DAFF Diversity Strategy and Action Plan 2012–16. The plan aims to implement programs to attract and retain Indigenous employees, employees with disability, mature age workers and employees from minority groups and to continue to integrate workplace diversity principles into our business.
Program for Australian women farmers recognised internationally
The National Rural Women's Coalition (NRWC) online E-Learning and Leadership Program was hailed as a resounding success at the 56th session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women in New York in March 2012.
The program, funded by the department under the Recognising Women Farmers Grant, gave women living in regional Australia the opportunity to take part in online learning without having to travel.
'As a group we all log on at the same time each week and have the opportunity to interact with industry leaders who support us to learn new skills and develop our knowledge,' said Mount Prospect farmer, Gabrielle Fraser, who signed up to develop her abilities to contribute to the family farm and her rural community.
With no downtime, fuel costs or child-minding expenses, participants from all over Australia logged on in the evening to learn from industry's best via a series of live webinars. An experienced mentor was paired with each participant to support learning and to facilitate the implementation of a personal project that involved an on-farm or rural community based project.
At the UN session, a live webinar was able to link women farmers from all over the world in a two-hour interactive session. Speakers at the NRWC event included Elisabeth Broderick, Australia's Sex Discrimination Commissioner; Sandra Stoddart, NRWC chief executive officer; and Darriea Turley, NRWC President. Ark Publishing in the United Kingdom is showcasing the project in a new textbook as an example of innovation and best practice of flexibility in delivery of training to remote areas.
Australia's Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elisabeth Broderick addresses the group at the UN session while National Rural Women's Coalition chief executive officer Sandra Stoddart looks on (Photo: DAFF).
Since 1994, Commonwealth departments and agencies 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 Australian Public Service Commission's State of the service report and the APS statistical bulletin. These reports are available on the commission's website. From 2010–11, departments and agencies have no longer been required to report on these functions.
The Commonwealth Disability Strategy has been overtaken by a new National Disability Strategy, which sets out a 10-year national policy framework for improving life for Australians with disability, their families and carers. A high level report to track progress for people with disability at a national level will be produced by the Standing Council on Community, Housing and Disability Services and will be available on the FaHCSIA website.
The Social Inclusion Measurement and Reporting Strategy agreed by the government in December 2009 will also include some reporting on disability matters in its regular How Australia is faring report and, if appropriate, in strategic change indicators in agency annual reports. More detail on social inclusion matters can be found on the social inclusion website.
 AQIS was disestablished as a separate business operation under the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997 during the year and is no longer required to have a set of financial statements prepared in accordance with the Finance Minister's Orders. Its financial statements have been integrated into the department's financial statements as shown in Part 6.