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APPENDIX D – Report under the Commonwealth Disability Strategy

This appendix summarises the department’s progress in implementing the Commonwealth Disability Strategy, which aims to ensure people with disabilities are able to participate fully in community life.

The strategy challenges us to consider how we approach and report on our performance in terms of five broad roles: policy advisor, purchaser, regulator, provider and employer.

Did you know?

In 2004-05 the department’s internal Diversity and Equity Network continued its efforts to embed the needs of diversity groups into the fabric of the department. The network:

  • organised the celebration of NAIDOC Week
  • sponsored staff around Australia to attend presentations on women’s needs and work-life balance in celebration of International Women's Day in March 2005
  • promoted broader issues of diversity of style through
    • a seminar by Dr Rhonda Galbally, one of the founders of a pioneering online organisation offering practical resources to Australia’s 700 000 community groups
    • a panel discussion which included Professor Maryann Bil-Salik from Charles Darwin University’s executive think-tank of Indigenous leaders developing Indigenous research and education strategies
  • supported training in business writing skills including one-on-one tutoring to staff from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds, and
  • presented awards to individual staff members nominated for their contribution to workplace diversity as part of the department’s Australia Day awards ceremony.


Award winners included:

  • Heather Wark from Aviation and Airports for her initiative in the workplace and outstanding support for her team members
  • Catherine Garratt from Regional Programme Operations for her strong professional standards, contribution to her team and for maintaining her work/life balance, and
  • Leigh Crutchley from Aviation Security for the work he did to foster a supportive working environment for his team.

Policy Advisor

Description
The policy advisor is responsible for initiating and developing government policy. They consider the needs of different groups and advise on what the government should achieve 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 2004–05 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/programs that impact in different ways on the lives of people with disabilities are developed in consultation with people with disabilities.

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 included people with disabilities in our consultations and supported several forums through which their specific needs are considered. These include the:

  • Accessible Public Transport National Advisory Committee (APTNAC) (page 74), and
  • Accessible Public Transport Jurisdictional Committee—established to discuss issues raised at APTNAC meetings
New or revised policy/program proposals assess the direct impact on the lives of people with disabilities prior to decision.

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:

New or revised policy/program initiatives have a communication strategy developed and sufficiently resourced to inform people with disabilities.
  • 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 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).

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 transport regulations and standards and works closely with other relevant 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 with disabilities, 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
  • publish publicly available information on regulations on our website www.dotars.gov.au, 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 were held to learn from and enhance the security risk readiness of hundreds of aviation, maritime and other industry participants.

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 (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 with disabilities are developed in consultation with people with disabilities.

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 (see below).
Tendering specifications and contract requirements for the purchase of goods or services are consistent with the requirements of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992.

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

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.

Several of the grants administered in 2004-05 focused on assisting people with a disability to enter the workforce. For examples of these and other projects, see the Regional Partnerships Programme (page 118), and Sustainable Regions Programme (page 121).

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

The department recognises and respects 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).

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 delivered 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.
Providers have established mechanisms for planning for implementation, monitoring and review that comply with the Disability Discrimination Act 1992.

The department seeks feedback about the activities it delivers or administered funding 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 pass 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.
Providers have an established service charter that specifies the roles of the provider and consumer and service standards which address accessibility for people with disabilities.

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 us with feedback.
Complaints mechanisms enable people with disabilities 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).

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 2004, we employed 89 people in the Indian Ocean Territories, and 1154 people in other locations around Australia.

Over 2004-05 the number of our staff reporting a disability more than doubled from 13 to 27. Despite this improvement, the proportion of our workforce reporting a disability remains half the APS average. This is an area we are working to address over 2005-06.

Performance indicators
Employment policies, procedures and practices comply with the requirements of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992.

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 we:

  • include a specific clause in our certified agreement reminding staff of these legislative requirements, and
  • offer flexible working arrangements and opportunities for personal and professional development to staff (page 168).
Recruitment information for potential job applicants is available in accessible formats on request.

The department publishes details of employment opportunities weekly in the Commonwealth Public Service Gazette www.psgazetteonline.gov.au and also (on occasion) in the press.

More detailed recruitment information is available on our website www.dotars.gov.au and on request from the contact for each opportunity.

Agency recruiters and managers apply the principle of ‘reasonable adjustment’.

Assistance is readily available to ensure that any applicants with impairments receive fair, equitable and non-discriminatory consideration. This may include interpreters or, for hearing or speech-impaired applicants, the relay services of the Australian communication Exchange. Diversity data for new staff is recorded at induction.

Once recruited, staff can access occupational health and safety servces as appropriate. These have included workstation assessments (page 176), disabled car parking spaces, telephone equipment for hearing-impaired staff, and voice recognition software and special computer keyboards for staff at risk of occupational overuse injury.

Training and development programmes consider the needs of staff with disabilities.

The department provides access to a range of learning and development activities to cater to varying staff needs, including:

  • online training, such as the toolkit developed by the Office of Transport Security (page 170)
  • face-to-face classroom training, and
  • one-on-one tutoring in business writing skills (page 194).
Training and development programmes include information on disability issues as they relate to the content of the programme.

The department’s training and development programmes include information on disability issues where relevant. Specific courses which cover disability issues include training for:

  • new starters—our new induction programme gives an overview of support mechanisms in place for all occupational health and safety issues
  • fire wardens—staff with a disability may have specific evacuation arrangements
  • occupational health and safety representatives are made aware of staff with particular needs to ensure the workplace is free of hazards for all staff, and
  • workplace harassment contact officers are made aware of the types of issues that may arise for people with disabilities.
Complaints/grievance mechanism, including access to external mechanisms, in place to address issues and concerns raised by staff. 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 or with the senior management in their division. If this does not resolve the matter, the certified agreement sets out the process for resolving disputes.