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APPENDIX A : Report under The Commonwealth Access and Equity Strategy

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The department aspires to communicate and consult effectively with all stakeholders, as outlined in Chapter 5. 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, purchaser, regulator, provider and employer.

Policy Adviser

Description
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.

The department researches and advises ministers on a range of transport and regional issues, across all outputs. On an average working day we deliver more than 40 briefs, letters and other documents to our ministers and their staff.

Ministers generally rate our advice highly: in 200405 we were able to maintain high ratings in the face of a 20 per cent increase in the volume of briefs provided, still achieving a 94 per cent satisfaction level (page 160).

Performance indicators
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.

In developing policies and programmes, the department seeks to consult directly with clients and peak bodies. We are in regular contact with over 120 different groups, as listed in Appendix F (page 206). We also set up or target groups for consultation in the context of particular initiatives. In 200405 this included:

  • community meetings in the East Kimberley, where we sponsor a project by the Council of Australian Governments to improve living standards for Indigenous Australians (see page 10)
  • events sponsored through the Regional Women's Advisory Council (page 115), 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.

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.

All of the new policy proposals our ministers present to government are required to describe their likely impact on the community, and many include a high level communication strategy. A variety of strategies are used to communicate information on new government policies and programmes.

For example, the department:

  • continued to post announcements of new policies and programmes on its websites promptly-generally within 24 hours of release
  • received record numbers of hits on many of our websites, including 1.4 million hits on the whole of government website www.grantslink.gov.au, and
  • answered more than 28 000 calls from people wanting information about government services through the Australian Government Regional Information Service (AGRIS) (page 114).

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Regulator

Description
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.

The department administers specific transport regulations and standards and works closely with other regulators on:

  • transport security (output 1.2.1 page 49)
  • maritime and land transport (output 1.4.1 page 73), and
  • aviation and airports (output 1.4.2 page 92).
Performance indicators
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 non-compliance.

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).

Affected groups are consulted in the context of specific initiatives. For example, in 2004-05, nationwide workshops involving hundreds of people were held to learn from and enhance the security risk readiness of hundreds of aviation, maritime and other industry participants.

Below: in 2004-05 we continued to work with the Australian Transport Council to update the Australian Dangerous Goods Code. The code requires transport operators to display vital safety information in the most graphic way possible.

In 2004-05 we continued to work with the Australian Transport Council to update the Australian Dangerous Goods Code. The code requires transport operators to display vital safety information in the most graphic way possible.

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Purchaser

Description
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

In 2004-05 the department administered grants, subsidies and other payments on behalf of the Australian Government totalling $3.9 billion. These payments mainly related to:

  • national road and rail infrastructure (Output 1.3.1 page 61)
  • regional services (Output 2.1.1 page 113)
  • services to territories (Output 2.2.1 page 128)
  • services to local government including a number of Indigenous councils (Output 2.2.2 page 139), and
  • natural disaster mitigation and relief arrangements (Output 2.2.3 page 144).

In our day-to-day operations, the department also purchased a range of good and services costing $81 million in supplier expenses.

Performance indicators
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.

The department consults with stakeholders in managing tenders, contracts and grants. In 2004-05 consultations occurred on:

  • deferring work on the Echuca-Moama bridge (page 71), to allow VicRoads to consult further with the local Yorta Yorta Aboriginal people about the best route
  • bringing six separate infrastructure programmes - including the Roads to Recovery, Black Spot and former National Highways programmes - into a single legal framework (page 62), and
  • work with regionally-based advisory committees who provided advice on major discretionary grants programmes.
Tendering specifications and contract requirements for the purchase of goods or services are consistent with the requirements of the charter.

All the entities receiving payments 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.

Only two major 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.

A number of grants administered in 2004-05 focused on assisting Indigenous communities to promote and in some cases restore their cultural heritage. For examples of these and other projects, see the Regional Partnerships Programme (page 118), and Sustainable Regions Programme (page 121).

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.

We recognise and respect the rights 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).

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Provider

Description
The provider delivers services, often under contract by government. Providers can be government, private or not-for-profit organisations.

The department delivers transport and regional services and information to - and in partnership with - government, industry and the broader community. The only services the department delivers directly to individuals are:

  • the infrastructure and services we provide to the 2700 residents of Australia's non self-governing territories, and
  • the Australian Government Regional Information Service.
Performance indicators
Providers have established mechanisms for planning for implementation, monitoring and review that incorporate the principles underpinning the charter.

The department seeks feedback about the activities we deliver or pay for through a range of mechanisms. Examples can be found throughout our report on performance (chapters 3 and 4). The main ways we seek feedback are through:

  • reports from the bodies who receive funding, usually as projects achieve key milestones but sometimes on a regular basis as in the Roads to Recovery Programme (page 66)
  • client surveys where the beneficiaries of services can be identified, such as the individual households in airport noise insulation programmes (page 101), and
  • formal evaluations of programmes, usually on a three to five-yearly cycle.
Provider data collection systems incorporate the requirements of the Standards for Statistics on Cultural and Language Diversity

Diversity data are considered in planning and evaluating policies and programmes. For example, recent reports which incorporate diversity data published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics include:

  • the latest version of About Australia's Regions (August 2005) as cited on page 114, and
  • individual profiles of all ten regions targeted for funding under the Sustainable Regions programme - a summary of this information is presented on page 121.
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.

In 2004-05 the department reviewed its overarching outcomes and outputs framework, publishing more specific and measurable targets than in previous years (see Appendix I page 221). We also:

  • continued to ask our clients to rate the quality of our services and introduced several new client surveys (page 162), and
  • had service charters in place explaining how customers can provide feedback.
Complaints mechanisms enable people (regardless of cultural and linguistic background) to address issues and raise concerns about the performance of providers.

The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission received no complaints about us in 2004-05, as in 2003-04. The number of complaints made about us to the Commonwealth Ombudsman fell to a record low (page 162).

Services to residents of Australia's non-self-governing territories

In the non self-governing territories, where the vast majority of our clients are from non-English speaking backgrounds, we operate in a way which recognises the cultural and linguistic diversity of territory residents. For example, we produce regular newsletters and radio bulletins for clients in all major community languages.

While formal client service charters exist, residents who are not satisfied with our services generally choose to contact local advisory bodies such as the Wreck Bay Aboriginal Community Council, our ministers' offices, and/or the Joint Standing Committee on the National Capital and External Territories (page 165).

Australian Government Regional Information Service (AGRIS)

AGRIS, which is a national service, helps people find out 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 AGRIS'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.

AGRIS booklets explain how to access this service in the ten languages most commonly used outside capital cities. For more information about AGRIS, visit www.regionalaustralia.gov.au

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Employer

Description
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.

The department is an employer under the Public Service Act 1999. At 30 June 2005, we employed 89 people in the Indian Ocean Territories, and 1154 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 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 process for resolving disputes.

Performance indicators

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.

In 2004-05, the department had a range of mechanisms in place for communicating and consulting with staff (page 157) and for attracting and retaining a diverse range of staff (page 166-171).

While we have received positive feedback about these measures from staff, the number of our staff from an Indigenous background remains low. As mentioned in Chapter 5, we are working to address this over 2005-06, for example, by:

  • sponsoring a member of staff to participate in a twelve-month Australian Public Service Commission programme to build the leadership capability of executive-level staff from Indigenous backgrounds
  • targeting Indigenous graduates as part of our 2006 graduate intake, and
  • finalising a broader Indigenous employment strategy in consultation with a working group of staff drawn from across the department.

We will also continue to work with the department's Diversity and Equity Network to promote awareness and understanding of diversity issues. For details of the network's activities in 2004-05, see page 194.

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