Organisational capability—people

​​​At 30 June 2015, the department employed 3946.7 full-time equivalent staff (excluding casuals). This included accountants, biosecurity officers, economists, information and communication technology specialists, meat inspectors, policy officers, programme administrators, scientists, survey staff and veterinary officers. We operated in more than 160 locations in cities, regional centres and rural communities. We worked at major airports, mail centres, ports, laboratories and abattoirs across Australia. Around 58.8 per cent of our Australian-based staff worked outside Canberra, mainly in biosecurity services and levies collection.

Staff also worked in Bangkok, Beijing, Brussels, Dubai, Jakarta, New Delhi, Rome, Seoul, Tokyo and Washington to build and maintain relationships with trading partners and international organisations.

Table 19 Staff (headcount) by location and classification at 30 June 2015
APS1921 113
APS427431323167681154901 090
Meat Inspectors 1–465892347628285
Total1 9088055169921514602318144 626

Note: Headcount includes staff on leave without pay. The department secretary is excluded from this data.

Our people capability is underpinned by the People Strategy 2014–17. The strategy and annual action plans describe how we can foster our culture and capability, and strengthen our client focus in the context of the government’s priorities and a dynamic workplace.

The department continued to use a risk-based approach to biosecurity management and a compliance-based approach to intervention. For example, clients and industry partners are sharing responsibility through the increased use of authorised officers and third parties to perform inspection and other regulatory functions (see Programme 2.1).


Workplace health, safety and rehabilitation

Better work practices

We implemented a national service delivery model for rehabilitation and work health and safety (WHS) to ensure consistent and effective service.

This will reduce the number of workplace injuries, improve rehabilitation outcomes and contribute to a reduction in the department’s workers’ compensation insurance premium.

Table 20 Reported serious personal injuries, prescribed incapacities and dangerous occurrences to employees, at 30 June 2015 and 30 June 2014
Serious personal injuries a35
Dangerous occurrences b1422

a Serious personal injury means that a person needs emergency treatment by a doctor; treatment in a hospital as a casualty, with or without being admitted to the hospital; or admission to hospital. b Dangerous occurrences are ‘near misses’ that could have, but did not, result in death, serious personal injury or incapacity.

Educating staff on work health and safety

All staff undertake mandatory WHS e-learning. In 2014, we released an additional module for staff and supervisors on injury and illness management. This will increase awareness of early intervention strategies to facilitate the early return to work of injured and ill employees and improve return-to-work outcomes.

Reducing workers’ compensation claims

In 2014–15, there was a decrease in the number of departmental workers’ compensation claims lodged with and accepted by Comcare. During the past five years, claim numbers have decreased significantly. One of the main factors contributing to this is the implementation of early intervention practices that promote the management of minor workplace incidents internally.

We continue to work on maintaining good relationships with Comcare and other service providers to ensure effective decision-making and good rehabilitation outcomes for our injured employees.​​ ​ ​

Table 21 Investigations, directions and notices under work health and safety legislation at 30 June 2014 and 30 June 2015
Provisional improvement notices
Directions or notices3

Participation and productivity

Managing our workforce resources

The percentage of ongoing employees separating from the department in 2014–15 returned to levels comparable to 2012–13.

In 2013–14, the department’s separation rate was higher than usual because we conducted a voluntary retrenchment programme to reduce staffing numbers, following consideration of the budget and low levels of natural attrition. Approximately 62 per cent of separations during 2013–14 were associated with this program.

Table 22 Separations 2012–13 to 2014–15
Number of ongoing employees4 1424 3074 780
Total separations275542301
% separating (the department)6.612.66.3
% separating (APS average) aNo data7.56.3

a Figures for 2013–14 taken from State of the service report 2013–14 and for 2012–13 from State of the service report 2012–13. The department secretary is excluded from this data.

Employment programmes

In February 2015, 26 graduates joined the department through the Graduate Development Programme and the ABARES Entry Level Professional Programme. Graduates undertaking training and development in these programmes prepare for a career in the department and the broader APS.

The department continues to focus on building a more diverse workforce and participated in the APSC Indigenous Pathways programme. We welcomed four Indigenous trainees and one graduate in the February 2015 intake.

Table 23 Employment type (headcount) at 30 June 2014 and 30 June 2015
Employment type2014–152013–14
Ongoing employee full time3 3423 484
Ongoing employee part time800823
Non-ongoing employee full time11737
Non-ongoing employee part time145
Non-ongoing employee casual353272
Total4 6264 621

Note: Headcount includes staff on leave without pay. The department secretary is excluded from this data.

Performance and change culture

Improving performance management

We implemented several initiatives to improve the way the department undertakes performance management. These included an internal audit of performance management processes and management of staff underperformance.

We also streamlined and strengthened performance management processes for inclusion in the next enterprise agreement.

A priority of this work was informing and educating staff and managers about the importance of performance management and of how individual performance connects to the delivery of the department’s objectives. As part of this effort we released two new e-learning modules on performance management. At 30 June 2015, 1502 staff had completed the Introduction to Performance Management module, and 1645 had completed the How to Draft a Successful Work Plan and Learning Agreement module.

Building a new performance management model

In August 2014, we implemented a new Integrated Performance Appraisal Model (IPAM). This model builds on the Australian Public Service Commission’s (APSC) Strengthening the Performance Framework Project, which developed guiding principles for achieving a high-performing APS.

The department took part in the APSC project and ran focus groups across its regional office network. We used this information to tailor the IPAM to our diverse workforce.

The IPAM focuses on performance conversations and condenses these into four themes that highlight a staff member’s productivity, participation, communication and development. The model applies to all facets of the department’s performance cycle, ensuring a clear focus on the balance between the ‘how’ (behaviours) and the ‘what’ (output and outcomes) of performance in the workplace.

The model has the flexibility to be applied into the future to accommodate organisational change and, for the first time, provides consistency across the department by bringing all non-SES staff into the same performance system.

Table 24 Performance pay received in 2014–15 as assessed on 2013–14 performance
ClassificationNo. of staff receiving performance payAggregated amount awarded to classificationsAverage performance paymentRange of performance payments
EL12$11 169$5 584$4 252–$6 218
EL210$61 702$6 170$5 000–$10 564
Total12$72 870$6 073$4 252–$10 564

Note: Performance pay provisions are only available to employees with a valid Australian Workplace Agreement in place. There were 12 Australian Workplace Agreements in place during the relevant period. Performance pay arrangements are not available through the department’s enterprise agreement.

Building core skills

In 2014, we launched the Effective Workplace Conversations core skills programme for supervisors and managers. This training integrates the APSC’s core skills programme with the tools provided in the department’s Let’s Talk performance partnerships programme and the IPAM.

The programme assists managers to create effective working partnerships with staff, to identify employee development needs and to manage staff performance levels. At 30 June 2015, a total of 215 managers had taken part in the programme.

In December 2014, we launched the Dealing with Change core skills programme. This training is available to all staff and provides practical skills and information. At 30 June 2015, 406 staff had taken part.

Rewarding people

We celebrated the achievements of our staff at the 2015 Australia Day Awards. The secretary presented 98 achievement awards, 31 innovation awards and four diversity awards to individuals and teams. The secretary also presented 187 length of service awards to employees who have been with the department for 10, 20, 30 and 40-plus years.

Staff feedback

We again participated in the APSC State of the Service Employee Census. The census allows the department to collect feedback, address specific issues and shape future departmental priorities.

Around 63 per cent of our staff participated in the 2014 census. The department performed well in areas of healthy workplaces, work-life balance and change management. The results showed the majority (74 per cent) of staff surveyed were proud to work for the department and 83 per cent understood how their work contributes to the agency’s strategic outcomes (up from 80 per cent in 2013).

We have an ongoing commitment to improving performance management, communicating and managing change, reducing unscheduled absences, ensuring safety and wellbeing, promoting diversity and encouraging positive and active leadership. We have made significant progress in some of these areas through:

  • establishing a dedicated branch and governance structure for design and change management
  • implementing a national service delivery model for rehabilitation and WHS to ensure consistent and effective service delivery
  • increasing internal communication through Leadership Dialogue Sessions and forums that provide opportunities to influence the way we work and to inform and support departmental strategies and actions.

The 2014 census showed areas for ongoing improvement include reducing bullying and harassment, improving leadership and dealing with underperformance.

We have used the census results to shape future priorities and further refine work under the department’s People Strategy. Initiatives include training packages addressing leadership, performance management and acceptable behaviour in the department, and implementing the IPAM.

Workforce capability

Promoting workplace diversity

In October 2014, we released our Diversity Strategy and Action Plan 2015–18. The updated strategy continues our commitment to attracting, recruiting and retaining a skilled, diverse and capable workforce, as well as cultivating a supportive workplace environment that encourages and engages in diversity. All staff undertake mandatory e-learning on workplace diversity.

As part of the new APS Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Employment Strategy, the department has a goal of increasing our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employee representation to 2.5 per cent of the total workforce by 2018. The department also maintains an aspirational target of 3 per cent, which we are actively pursuing through direct recruitment and APS special entry-level programmes. The representation at 30 June 2015 was 2.1 per cent, as shown in Table 25.

Table 25 Representation of diversity groups (headcount) at 30 June 2015 and 30 June 2014


Non-English speaking background

People with disability

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander

Meat Inspectors 1–412473433
Total2 1882 18131530584809990
% of all staff47.347.

Notes: Headcount includes staff on leave without pay. These figures are based on all female employees and employees who identify themselves as members of one or more diversity groups. The department secretary is excluded from this data.

Our achievements in 2014–15 included successfully hosting several rounds of the Stepping Into... disability internship programme. The department hosted five university students with disability for paid work experience during the summer and winter university breaks. The programme is coordinated through the Australian Network on Disability and has been well-received by business areas and participants. A larger intake is planned for the winter 2015 programme.

The department established the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) Employee Network. It also became a member of Pride in Diversity, Australia’s largest health organisation established to support employers in all aspects of LGTBI workplace inclusion.

Our staff also celebrated significant events including Harmony Day, International Day of People with a Disability, International Women’s Day, NAIDOC (National Aboriginal and Islander Day Observance Committee) Week and National Families Week.​​​ ​​​ ​​​ ​​​ ​​​ ​​​ ​​​ ​​​ ​​​ ​​​ ​​​ ​​​ ​​​ ​

Table 26 Staff age profile by classification (headcount) at 30 June 2015
Staff Age Classification<2020–2425–2930–3435–3940–4445–4950–5455–5960–64>64Total
<APS1 a4332113
APS44811314315117414116010041191 090
Meat Inspectors 1–4174156778055216353
Total51053845746566536086515492621794 626

a APS 1 includes Indigenous cadets. Note: Headcount includes staff on leave without pay. The department secretary is excluded from this data.

Leadership development

We continued to foster leadership development for our supervisors and managers by providing internal and external opportunities to build their skills and knowledge.

More than 15 staff took part in significant external programmes such as the APSC Career Development Assessment Centre, the Cranlana Programme, the Australian Rural Leadership Programme, the Cattle Council of Australia Rural Awareness Tour and the National Security College. Another 16 middle managers graduated from the Emerging Leaders Programme with a Diploma in Government.

We launched a national curriculum to provide information on nationally approved training and development activities to help staff perform their duties. The National Biosecurity curriculum is targeted at staff working in our biosecurity divisions and the National Corporate Curriculum is targeted at all staff. It delivers skills and knowledge across the breadth of corporate activities in the APS.

Workforce planning

The department has been building its capacity in workforce planning and is developing a strategic workforce plan. The plan will drive workforce capability and flexibility to meet current and anticipated needs, requirements and expectations.

Ethics and workplace environment

All staff undertake mandatory e-learning on fraud and corruption awareness, and on upholding the values and principles of the APS.

In March 2015, we implemented an employee integrity declaration as part of the IPAM process. This new declaration ensures all staff understand, and have considered, their integrity obligations on conduct, conflict of interest, fraud and corruption, privacy and security.


Participation and productivity

In 2014–15, we established an internal redeployment register to give staff in cost-pressured business areas the opportunity to nominate an interest in moving to another position.

The register listed staff with a variety of experience in different fields. However, due to demand for staff with specific skill-sets, not all vacancies within the department could be filled from the register and broader expressions of interest were advertised internally.

The process encouraged mobility across the department and provided the opportunity for staff who were looking to further develop their careers to expand their skill-set.

Performance and change culture

Managing and reducing the level of unscheduled absence throughout the department continues to be a significant challenge.

We have a diverse workforce that includes biosecurity officers, meat inspectors, veterinary officers and staff located in overseas postings. Our staff undertake work in airports, abattoirs, mail centres, ports and offices. Attendance patterns are complex. We have undertaken research to determine why the department has high absence levels and have commenced several initiatives to address this issue.

The department is reviewing arrangements for shift workers to improve access to leave during peak periods. We have also reviewed training and development to enable flexible staff deployment while meeting operational demands.

We have developed a new Leave Management Guideline and Work Instructions and supporting fact sheets to better assist managers and staff to use leave arrangements correctly. The department has also proposed streamlined leave provisions for the next enterprise agreement.

We continue to support the APSC’s work to develop an APS-wide absence management toolkit. We piloted the draft toolkit in our Canberra offices in November 2014 and it was launched in several regions in February 2015.

Enterprise agreement

The department’s enterprise agreement covers all non-SES employees engaged by the department under the Public Service Act 1999. The current enterprise agreement reached its nominal expiry date on 30 June 2014 and will remain in force until a replacement agreement is negotiated.

The department negotiated with the Community and Public Sector Union and other employee bargaining representatives in accordance with the government’s bargaining policy. In March 2015, the department tabled its proposed package, which included a pay offer and a streamlined enterprise agreement.

Further workplace relations information

Senior executive remuneration policy

The Prime Minister determines the secretary’s remuneration and other conditions, as specified under the Public Service Act 1999. The secretary determines the remuneration for the department’s SES officers under section 24 (1) of the Act, with regard to the APSC’s annual Australian Public Service Remuneration Survey.

The department’s remuneration policy allows variations in remuneration between individual jobs, based on market and work-value considerations. This is vital to our ability to compete effectively for the best people in the employment market.

Non-salary benefits

Non-salary benefits provided to SES officers as part of their remuneration package include superannuation and car parking. Non-salary benefits provided to non-SES officers as part of their remuneration package are generally limited to superannuation. In exceptional cases, employees may have private use of a Commonwealth vehicle where it is deemed necessary for the performance of their duties.

Table 27 Employment contractual arrangements at 30 June 2015
ArrangementNumber of employees under contract
Enterprise agreement4 537
s.24(1) determinations78
Common law contracts
Non-SES Australian Workplace Agreements11
Total4 626

Note: 24 employees who were covered by the enterprise agreement have an individual flexibility arrangement in place.

Table 28 Department salary structure at 30 June 2015
ClassificationSalary ran​ge
APS1$43 606 – $48 847
APS2$51 298 – $53 331
APS3$56 034 – $60 871
APS4​$62 818 – $68 183
APS5$69 238 – $74 643
APS6 a$77 602 – $109 584
EL1$94 208 – $106 301
EL2 b$113 671 – $146 971
SES c$183 485 – $335 683

a Positions requiring mandatory veterinary qualifications can access paypoints between $92 404 and $109 584. b Positions requiring mandatory veterinary or scientific qualifications can access paypoints between $134 497 and $146 971. SES salaries are determined on a case-by-case basis. Note: Remuneration negotiated through Australian Workplace Agreements or Individual Flexibility Arrangements can exceed the salary ranges for non-SES classifications.​

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Last reviewed: 4 November 2019
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