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Appendix A : Report on the Commonwealth Access and Equity Strategy

The department aspires to communicate and consult effectively with all stakeholders, as outlined in Chapter 6. This appendix summarises our progress in implementing the Australian Government's Charter of Public Service in a Culturally Diverse Society (also known as the Access and Equity Strategy).

The charter, which was updated in 2003, challenges agencies to consider how they approach, and requires us to report our performance in terms of, five broad roles: policy adviser, regulator, purchaser, provider and employer. More information on our progress in each of these roles follows.

Policy Adviser

 

(Policy and Research Group, Regulatory Group, Safety and Investigations Group)

Description
Performance indicators
The policy adviser is responsible for initiating and developing government policy. They consider the needs of different groups and advise on what the government should achieve for the community as a whole.

New or revised policy/programmes that impact in different ways on the lives of people from different cultural and linguistic backgrounds, are developed in consultation with people from those backgrounds.

New or revised policy/programme proposals assess the direct impact on the lives of people from a range of cultural and linguistic backgrounds prior to decision.

New or revised policy/programme initiatives have a communication strategy developed and sufficiently resourced to inform people from relevant cultural and linguistic backgrounds.

The department researches and advises ministers on a range of transport and regional issues. We deliver:

In developing policies and programmes, we travel extensively to meet directly with clients and peak bodies. We are in regular contact with over 150 different groups, as listed in Appendix F. We also set up or target groups for consultation in the context of specific initiatives. This has included:

  • community meetings in the East Kimberley, where we are sponsoring an initiative by the Council of Australian Governments to improve services and living standards for indigenous Australians (see case study)
  • an indigenous women's gathering in May 2004, which was sponsored by the Regional Women's Advisory Council (see case study), and
  • the Indigenous Road Safety Working Group, which is working to address the fact that indigenous road death rates are three times higher than for other Australians.

All of the new policy proposals we present to government are required to describe their likely impact on the community. Ministers rate our advice highly - in 2003-04 we achieved satisfaction ratings of over 97 per cent for the third year running.

The department uses a variety of strategies for communicating information on new policies and programmes to stakeholders. For example, in 2003-04, we:

  • continued to post announcements of new policies and programmes on our website promptly - generally within 24 hours of release
  • published information on the decision to dispose of public housing in the Indian Ocean Territories (IOTs) in community newsletters and radio bulletins in all major community languages, and
  • through the Commonwealth Regional Information Service (CRIS), answered more than 1700 calls from people asking about the new Regional Partnerships Programme.

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Regulator

 

(Regulatory Group, Policy and Research Group)

Description
Performance indicators
The regulator is responsible for enforcing legislation or other government 'rules'. These rules may include quasi-regulations such as codes of conduct and advisory instruments or notes. Resources are provided so that publicly available and accessible information on regulations is communicated appropriately to people from a range of cultural and linguistic backgrounds, and especially to those identified as having a high level of noncompliance.

The department administers aspects of transport regulations and standards and works closely with other relevant regulators. To ensure that information on the regulations we administer is available and accessible, we:

  • publish a regulatory plan early each financial year
  • use plain English in preparing regulation impact statements and guidance materials
  • use charts and diagrams where appropriate to communicate issues, and
  • offer toll-free telephone numbers in key areas such as motor vehicle imports (see inside back cover for details).

We also consult with affected groups in the context of specific initiatives. For example, in 2003-04 we held workshops nationwide to ensure airports, airlines and other key players were aware of and would comply with the enhanced aviation regime. We worked with 400 industry participants to develop and implement a new maritime security regime.

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Purchaser

 

(All groups particularly Programmes Group and Corporate Group)

Description
Performance indicators
The purchaser determines what is to be purchased and from whom. Purchased items may include outsourced government services, grants and cultural items for public display. Purchasing processes that impact in different ways on the lives of people from different cultural and linguistic backgrounds are developed in consultation with people from those backgrounds.

Tendering specifications and contract requirements for the purchase of goods or services are consistent with the requirements of the charter.

Complaints mechanisms enable people (regardless of cultural and linguistic backgrounds) to address issues and raise concerns about the performance of service providers (contracted or other), and the purchasing agency.

The department administers a range of grants, subsidies and other payments on behalf of the Australian Government. In 2003-04 we made payments totalling $3.7 billion. These payments mainly related to:

In our day-to-day operations, we also purchase a range of goods and services. In 2003-04 we reported $113 million in supplier expenses.

All the entities that we make payments to are required to comply with relevant state and federal laws including the Racial Discrimination Act 1975, Sex Discrimination Act 1984 and Disability Discrimination Act 1992.

Two major regional development programmes are discretionary, in that the minister or department has discretion in determining whether a particular applicant receives funding and what if any conditions are imposed on the payment.

To administer these programmes effectively, we work with regionally-based advisory bodies to identify and support projects that will benefit local communities. A case study on the essence of our regional programmes is provided on page 109. For more information on the diversity of projects approved in 2003-04, see the:

The department also aspires to consult with communities in administering other, less discretionary programmes. For example:

  • Under the Remote Air Services Subsidy scheme, it is remote communities rather than operators who apply to participate in the scheme. For more information on the impact of this programme on indigenous and other communities, see Chapter 4.
  • We have recently been recognised for our contribution to a study to select the route for a major new transport link in Sydney, which involved approximately 120 000 households and businesses (see case study).

We recognise and respect the right of clients to provide us with feedback about our services, regardless of whether services are delivered directly by us or through a third party. In this context, we have provided a single report on our complaints mechanisms under the 'provider role' (below).

We also consult with staff about purchasing issues that may impact on the lives of staff from different backgrounds (see 'employer role').

Did you know?

Making it simpler for communities to access grants was one of our top 20 priorities for 2003-04. As highlighted in Chapter 1, the new Regional Partnerships Programme was a key achievement in this area. Communities now only have to deal with one programme, one application form and one funding agreement.

The funding agreements we use are the standardised agreements developed as part of the More Accessible Government initiative. While there are several formats of these plain English agreements, depending on the size of the grant, we use either the 40 page 'long form' or 20 page 'short form' agreement.

Through Regional Partnerships, we have also begun to tackle the major challenges facing regional businesses: access to finance, infrastructure and skilled staff. For more information about the programme, see Chapter 5 or visit www.regionalpartnerships.gov.au

A relatively large proportion of small-to-medium businesses, including in regional Australia, are owned and operated by people from non-English speaking backgrounds. Regional businesses also play a key role in indigenous employment - most indigenous Australians live in regional areas with high unemployment. We have a strong record of giving smaller regional enterprises, such as these, a chance to win our business. For more information on our purchasing practices, see Appendix C.

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Provider

 

(Programmes Group, Safety and Investigations Group, Corporate Group)

Description
Performance indicators
The provider delivers services, often under contract by government. Providers can be government, private or not-for-profit organisations. Providers have established mechanisms for planning for implementation, monitoring and review that incorporate the principles underpinning the charter.

Provider data collection systems incorporate the requirements of the Standards for Statistics on Cultural and Language Diversity.

Providers have established service standards that utilise the cultural and linguistic diversity of their staff, or their staff's cross-cultural awareness to facilitate and enhance service delivery.

Complaints mechanisms enable people (regardless of cultural and linguistic background) to address issues and raise concerns about the performance of providers.

In 2003-04, several of the department's top 20 priorities related to new mechanisms for planning and delivering government intervention in transport and regions. We:

These mechanisms emphasise the principles underpinning the charter: access, equity, communication, responsiveness, effectiveness, efficiency and accountability.

Diversity data is one of the factors we consider in planning and evaluating policies and programmes. For example, recent reports which incorporate diversity data include:

  • Road Safety in Australia, a publication released by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau within the department to commemorate World Health Day 2004
  • About Australia's Regions, an annual pocketbook of handy statistics released by the Bureau of Transport and Regional Economics within the department, and
  • individual profiles of each of the eight regions targeted for funding under the Sustainable Regions Programme.

The department provides relatively few services directly to individuals. These services include services to the 2700 residents of Australia's non self-governing territories, and CRIS.

In the case of the non self-governing territories, where the vast majority of our clients are from non-English speaking backgrounds, more than 95 per cent of our staff speak one or more community languages. Most staff are trilingual, and staff produce regular newsletters and radio bulletins for clients in all major community languages. Formal client service charters do exist, but residents who are not satisfied with our services generally choose to contact:

  • local advisory bodies such as the Wreck Bay Aboriginal Community Council, and/or
  • our ministers' offices.

CRIS, which is a national service, informs people what government help is available, without assuming they know anything about the structure of government or read English well. People can obtain information over the phone in English by ringing CRIS's freecall number 1800 026 222, or in languages other than English by ringing the Australian Government's Translating and Interpreting Service on 13 14 50 during business hours.

CRIS also provides booklets and directories which explain how to access this service in the ten languages most commonly used outside our capital cities: Croatian, German, Italian, Greek, Arabic, Spanish, Tagalog, Polish, Vietnamese and Chinese. In addition, a national CRIS advertising campaign, which began at the end of 2003-04, included printed advertisements translated into these languages.

The department seeks feedback about other activities we deliver or pay for through a range of mechanisms. Examples can be found throughout our report on performance (chapters 4 and 5). The main ways we seek feedback are through:

  • reports from the bodies who receive funding - usually as projects pass key milestones but sometimes on a regular basis as in the Roads to Recovery Programme
  • client surveys where the beneficiaries of services can be identified, such as the individual households in airport noise insulation programmes, and
  • formal evaluations of programmes, usually on a three to five-yearly cycle.

We also welcome client feedback as issues arise, and have client service charters explaining how clients can contact us with feedback on different issues. We also recognise and respect the rights of our clients to complain to external bodies, including our ministers' offices, the Ombudsman and the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission.

For more information on how we manage our client and stakeholder relationships, see Chapter 6.

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Employer

 

(All groups but particularly Corporate Group in setting HR policies)

Description
Performance indicators
The employer provides a range of work conditions, including wages, in exchange for labour to produce goods and services. All portfolio agencies undertake this role. No performance indicators - agencies are not required to report directly on the employer role. Information on the employer role is extracted from the Workplace Diversity Report produced annually by the Australian Public Service Commission.

The department is an employer under the Public Service Act 1999. At 30 June 2004, we employed 107 people in the Indian Ocean Territories, and 901 people in other locations around Australia.

Our employment policies and practices reflect the requirements of relevant laws including the Racial Discrimination Act 1975, Sex Discrimination Act 1984 and Disability Discrimination Act 1992. In addition, in 2003-04 we:

  • had a range of mechanisms in place for communicating and consulting with staff at all levels (see figure 6B)
  • used feedback from staff to help us create a better workplace and prepare for our 2004 staff survey (see case study)
  • offered flexible working arrangements and opportunities for personal and professional development to staff, and
  • consulted our internal Diversity and Equity Network on issues including our new certified agreement and the guidance provided to selection panels on diversity issues.

We also provide a modest budget to the network to promote better awareness and understanding of workplace diversity. In 2003-04 the network:

  • presented awards to individual staff nominated for their contribution to workplace diversity
  • promoted broader issues of diversity of style through a hypothetical 'Is it OK to disagree?' with guests from the Australia Institute and St James Ethics Centre, and
  • supported staff from diverse backgrounds to improve their business writing skills through classroom and online learning.

We have received positive feedback from staff about our workplace diversity programme. We asked staff about their experiences in our recent staff survey (see case study), and plan to review the diversity plan formally in 2005.

In the event that a member of staff has a specific complaint or grievance, we encourage them to take the matter up with their supervisor. If this does not resolve the matter, our certified agreement sets out the preferred process for resolving disputes.