Access and Equity Reporting
The Department subscribes to the seven principles of access and equity (detailed below) through its commitment to client service and by seeking input from key stakeholders represented by communities and State, Territory and local governments as part of the policy development process. Our policy development and programme administration are aligned with the Commonwealth Charter of Public Service in a Culturally Diverse Society and are linked with our Client Service Charter. Our services are delivered with the needs of people from diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds in mind so all people are better enabled to participate fully in economic, social and cultural life.
The seven principles are:
Consultation is an important factor in our working in partnership with people from urban, regional and rural Australia to achieve appropriate and effective services and equitable information provision for access by the community at large. The Department, through a number of our divisions and publications, endeavoured to respond to cultural and linguistic community needs effectively during 200102 through the following initiatives.
Australian Transport Safety Bureau
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau convened a national forum on road safety for Indigenous people and chaired a meeting of the Indigenous Road Safety Working Group. The Working Group was established by the National Road Safety Strategy Panel to advise on measures for reducing Indigenous peoples involvement in road trauma. A scoping study commissioned by the Bureau involved reviewing relevant research and statistics and consulting on Indigenous road safety issues.
In addition, to help fund the development, marketing and distribution of a video aimed at reducing the Indigenous road toll, the Bureau authorised a $25,000 grant to the Western Australian Local Government Association.
Transport and Infrastructure Policy Division and the Bureau of Transport and Regional Economics
To promote productive communication with our international counterparts, Transport and Infrastructure Policy Division (TIP) actively recruited and supported officers with a variety of language skills. TIP currently has skilled speakers of the Thai, Mandarin, Japanese, Russian and German languages within the Division. Cultural awareness training also forms one of the key divisional skills, with courses conducted from time to time. Officer exchanges with the Indonesian Ministry of Communications have also promoted cultural awareness at a broader departmental level.
Interpreters are employed when Ministers meet high level international delegations, or travel overseas, and TIP continues to ensure that international delegations visiting the Department have interpreters of a sufficient standard.
The Eighth Intelligent Transport Systems World Conference, held in Sydney in 2001, for which the Department was a sponsor, provided headsets for the opening ceremony and speeches, with interpretations between Chinese and Japanese and English. Descriptions of recent Bureau of Transport and Regional Economics research publications and the forward research programme were translated into Chinese, and were provided to our Chinese counterparts at the April 2002 Joint Working Group for Transport meeting.
In keeping with the aim of increasing accessibility to air transportation systems in remote locations within Australia, the Remote Air Services Subsidy (RASS) scheme subsidised air operators to provide regular air services to approximately 250 remote communities located in Queensland, the Northern Territory, South Australia and Western Australia. The service ensures that communities in remote areas of Australia have access to essential air transport services and provides for the regular deliveries of mail, including educational materials, as well as carrying general freight and passengers.
The Regional Womens Advisory Council has a key role in providing Government with advice on a range of social and economic issues from regional and rural womens perspectives. The Council provides advice focusing upon community change processes, including on the impact of Government policies on regional communities. The Council also has an Indigenous member who provides advice from an Indigenous cultural perspective.
To assist the Councils understanding of how regional communities adapt to change, the Council conducted a research project, involving one community from each State and one from the Northern Territory, between June 2000 and September 2001. The research focused on views and perspectives of regional women and examined attitudes, behaviours and skills that help communities work with change to achieve positive outcomes. The findings from all seven communities were distilled into a final report, entitled The Success Factors, which was launched in September 2001. The report is being widely distributed for use by both communities and Government.
The Council is actively seeking new information from women and communities that will provide evidence of the critical success factors to maximising the economic, employment and social outcomes for communities experiencing change.
The programmes administered by the Regional Programmes Division, while not targeting particular groups of people, are open to and accessed by all communities in regional Australia. These groups include those who may not have English as a first language, especially Indigenous groups, and all efforts are made to ensure that cultural and language barriers are overcome in terms of providing access to the programmes.
An example of this is the work of the Area Consultative Committees (ACCs) which actively canvass local communities for project proposals for the Regional Assistance Programme (RAP) and the Dairy Regional Assistance Programme (DRAP). This work by the ACCs ensured that all groups had appropriate access to the DRAP and saw the RAP approve a total of over $2.7 million to 31 projects benefiting Indigenous communities in regional Australia in the 200102 financial year.
During the 200102 financial year the majority of ACCs were provided with funds to assist in the facilitation of Indigenous employment in their region. The majority of ACCs used these funds to employ an Indigenous employment facilitator, to establish better links with local Indigenous organisations and communities.
Other programmes that were accessed by and benefited Indigenous groups during the 200102 financial year were the Regional Solutions Programme and the Rural Transaction Centres (RTC) Programme. The Regional Solutions Programme funded 15 projects from Indigenous communities or which had an Indigenous focus, and the RTC Programme provided 17 Indigenous communities with business planning assistance. Through the RTC Programme funding to two Indigenous communities for the purpose of establishing RTCs in their communities was approved. Additionally one Indigenous community was successful in opening an RTC.
As a part of the More Accessible Government (MAG) initiative to improve community access to government, the Division has included representatives on the MAG Working Group from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission and the Office of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders to ensure Indigenous access issues are addressed.
Territories and Local Government
In addition to the above activities regularly impacting on the lives of people from different cultural and linguistic backgrounds, our policies and programmes concerning the Indian Ocean Territories (IOTs)(Christmas Island and Cocos (Keeling) Islands) do so as well.
On Christmas Island, the primary languages are English, Mandarin and Malay, and on Cocos (Keeling) Islands, they are English and Cocos-Malay. Communication strategies have been developed to inform the residents of these Islands of new and revised policy and programme initiatives (for example, impacts of the Christmas Island immigration, reception and processing centre on the Island; and reasons for port closure during the Tampa crisis) and publicly available information on regulations. Information is communicated in all the relevant languages via various forms of media, including Government-owned radio and newspapers.
Complaint mechanisms are also in place to enable people to address issues and raise concerns. On Christmas Island, the Christmas Island Workers Union (CIWU) (which plays a social, political and industrial role on the island) or the Christmas Island Shire Council are often the first point of contact for those people with complaints. They ensure that complaint information is communicated to the Christmas Island administrators. Then, if the matter is serious enough and could not be handled by the CIWU, Shire Council or administrators, it is forwarded to the Territorys Official Secretary. The Christmas Island administration also employs translators, although most island staff are usually trilingual. Whenever possible, issues are handled locally. Other complaints are sent to the Departments Canberra office and responded to promptly
Social justice issues of concern to the Wreck Bay Aboriginal Community in the Jervis Bay Territory continued to advance through the Departments chairing and providing administrative support to the Justice Issues Group. The Group met quarterly during 200102 and comprises both public officials and representatives of the Wreck Bay Aboriginal Community Council.
The Department strives to achieve effective client service to a diverse community through its publications, including the following.
- The Rural Book (now renamed the Commonwealth Regional Information Directory) is written for people living in regional and rural Australia to assist in raising their awareness of the broader range of programmes and services available to them. This publication contains a section, written in 11 different languages (including English), which explains what is in The Rural Book and describes to those people with limited English language skills the ways in which they may access the Commonwealth Government Regional Information Service and other government services.
- Commonwealth Assistance for Local Projects is a guide to Federal Government programmes and services that support local government programmes, community projects and regional initiatives across Australia. The book concentrates on providing selected information of particular use to community groups, rather than a broad-ranging directory of government assistance and services for individuals.
- A booklet associated with the Commonwealth Regional Information Service campaign includes information regarding help for migrants and services for Indigenous peoples. On the back cover of the booklet, those people with limited English language skills, or those seeking assistance in order to communicate with people with limited English language skills, are directed to contact the Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs Translating and Interpreting Service.