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Ensure its workforce reflects the community it serves?

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APS Review
29 Nov 2018

We’ve heard the Australian Public Service should reflect the community it serves and lead the way in fostering an inclusive and diverse workforce.

  • What practical steps can the Australian Public Service take to ensure all levels of its workforce are representative of the Australian community it serves?
  • Are there barriers to employment with the Australian Public Service for people with diverse personal or professional experience? If so, what are they?
  • What are other organisations doing to ensure an inclusive and diverse workforce is attracted and nurtured?
13 Mar 2019

The APS has completely taken the wrong approach to recruiting and promotion. The emphasis should be on recruiting people with relevant qualifications and work experience. I work with the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources. Over the 20 plus years I have been here the recruiting of people who know absolutely nothing about agriculture is astounding. This reflects in their attitude and in the quality (and quantity) of their work. Many are with the Department for the money only, and one often takes credit for other peoples work to cover his own inadequacies to get promotions. This same employee once got a $50,000 consignment of fertiliser destroyed because he did not know it was fertiliser and could not tell the difference between soil and iron ore. And what happens to these employees? Nothing. There seems to be no consequences for underperformance. So the current approach is not good enough. How can we say we are protecting and promoting Australian agriculture when the APS recruits people who do not know even the basics and do not even care? A new approach to recruiting is needed, simply advertising in the gazette and on Seek is not good enough. The APS needs to get more proactive. Approach institutions such as Dookie College and Longerenong College. Approach industry bodies. Attend Field Days. Go out and find employees, do not just advertise in metropolitan papers and accept whatever comes. The Australian public do not care if the APS is multicultural, they simply expect us to do our job. I am one of a number of Glenormiston College graduates the APS has employed over the years, however no-one in the APS seems to have done any analysis on where suitable employees can be found.

13 Mar 2019

Hello, I've noticed most APS language avoids using words like 'sexism' and 'racism'. Not just here but in existing policies and materials. It makes me wonder if the leaders of organisations actually believe that sexism and racism exist. We need to start having much harder conversations. This sort of consultation is being done as though everyone comes to this table with equal standings but that's simply not true. There is sexism and racism in the APS as there is in our community but so called strategies around 'diversity' don't even mention that this occurs. We are in kindergarden when we used to be at university on these issues. Things are going backwards.

19 Dec 2018

What does reflect the community serves mean? Do you mean we should have the same ratio of every community attribute included that bad ones? The Public Service does not require any sort biased quotas or even diversity planning. It should simply be comprised of those who can do the job and have a high level of ethics and virtue. If this is done then a great deal of wasted energy can be saved. The public service isn't a zoo. The public service pays too much attention to pushing inclusivity regardless of whether this has any place at work. Often don't. A great deal of resentment is built up amongst public servants who find they are bombarded and abused through campaigns they cannot support. These divisive issues cause conflict when they should not be brought into the workplace as policy at all. We are not government commissars.

13 Dec 2018

I started in the APS in 2010 in a Graduate Program but I felt like my previous experience (working overseas for an international organization) was completely disregarded and I had to start again at the bottom, doing menial and mundane tasks that did not require a university education at all, let alone my unique set of skills and experiences. I think the APS needs to do a much better job of valuing diverse experience and seeing the transferable skills inherent in the experience of someone who comes from working abroad, the private sector, state government or any other source. Instead the current recruitment methods seem to demand that you understand APS ways and have virtually done the job you are going into already somewhere else. This does not leave much room for people to grow and reduces diversity by making it so that people from those non-APS professional backgrounds struggle to enter the APS at all, let alone at the right level. This would particularly impact people from CALD, Indigenous and Disability backgrounds as they are currently not well represented in the APS, so if we want to improve representation we will need to hire those people from non-APS sources.

13 Dec 2018

Racial diversity in the APS is sorely lacking, except at lower/mid APS levels. There needs to affirmatively select for people of colour. That is, not just people of 'cultural and linguistic backgrounds', but people who don't look white, or have Anglo names because there are significant, research-backed barriers to them advancing other than merit. And, they may not in fact, be of a different cultural and linguistic background...

12 Dec 2018
  1. If you are going to hold CALD network, disability or LGBTI network meetings, have a clear strategic plan and proposed outcomes emanating from them. At REDACTED, we were asked to host our own diversity network meetings, which involved a bunch of frustrated, annoyed CALD women meeting pointlessly every couple of months to shut down debate on how frustrated we all were. Then, just as we had had enough, they would conduct some zero budget “lean in” style event, to suggest that CALD women could make it if we tried harder. Someone had definitely drunk the coolaid on that one.
  2. Hold the SES band responsible for CALD, disability or LGBTI numbers dropping in their division. The culture in these organisations is exclusively and ignorantly white and sheltered. It is process of dehumanising yourself to try to exist in this space.
  3. Finally, none of this is rocket science. It just requires a genuine commitment to diversity which Australia no longer really holds close to its heart. Pale, male and stale is the new black.
12 Dec 2018
  1. Collect stats on how many CALD people are offered interviews, and how many are actually offered jobs. Both the REDACTED have already received several complaints (that I know of) from people of colour talking about the impenetrable recruitment process affecting the "coloured outsiders". Every time I am offered an interview, I ask for the statistics on how many CALD people are offered interviews and, of those, how many are offered jobs. My requests have been refused and I have been told my 'choices' are to attend interviews and hope for 'merit' to prevail. If those stats are representative of the community, why not just disclose them? If they are not, how are these heads actually doing their job and who holds them accountable?
  2. Publish those statistics for each body so people of colour know whether to waste their time making an application to a racially biased institution.
  3. Recruitment has to be independent of peers and staff. When the panel interviewing you is driven by the question of “how will you fit in and how will you make me look good without threatening me?”, people of colour are never going to be offered the job in a white, middle class dominated institution.
  4. Track the movements of current CALD staff. How long before they leave? What levels are they leaving at? Has anyone asked why?
  5. Scrap generic Diversity and Inclusion Committees led by one reluctant General Manager rotated every year. It takes a lot more than a year to understand the systemic discrimination going on REDACTED. Rotating the role is great for the GM’s CV but a waste of time for the rest of us. Improving the numbers should be a matter for HR and HR should be held accountable if those numbers are not improving.
12 Dec 2018

It is so disheartening to read a question like this, in Australia, in the year 2018, after the Australian Human Rights Commission issued its report on the almost complete lack of representation of CALD people in senior ranks in the public service, and the fact that there is only one comment REDACTED in this forum. At some level it makes perfect sense. Why would anyone in the APS want to increase diversity. The current system of recruitment by peers has delivered the white, middle class APS that reflects the incumbents in their own image. There will be no interest in changing the APS unless you have external accountability and leadership engagement. That much is obvious given the strong resistance the APS has shown to change since the AHRC report. Here is what you need to do:

  1. Staff need to understand that, without multicultural representation, policy application and priorities become racist, dangerously paternalistic and cloistered from the needs of the general public. If you cannot understand the public you serve, you cannot serve it. It is why people of colour are so suspicious of public services and, at times, with good reason. It is why the AGS keeps losing cases and the ACCC hasn't had much success in court in recent years. When people hire in their own image, there is increased evidence of regulatory capture – that was obvious at the REDACTED in the division I worked in, and there is nepotism, prioritising their own preferred colleagues or friends over provision of service.
  2. Second, allegations of racial or sex discrimination should be taken seriously and not swept under the carpet. To that end, HR directors need to be held accountable and not be involved in the investigations or complaints.
  3. Collect stats on how many CALD people are offered interviews,
Dr Martin Dunn
5 Dec 2018

Surely this question is wrong. The Public Service needs to hire staff with the greatest merit. It wants staff that are superior in terms of intelligence, skills, knowledge and conscientiousness - and not representative of the diversity abilities that exist in the Australian public.

In attracting the most appropriate staff, the APS should be casting its net wide - gender, race, etc, should not be (even indirectly) barriers to employment.

In principle, a Public Service that advertises its vacancies widely, recruits on merit, and has robust discrimination policies should end up with the right workforce. As I observed in my submission on recruitment and promotion, the APS processes lack rigour, are vulnerable to personal biases and hence cannot guarantee that the most meritorious candidates are chosen.

This discussion is closed