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Appendix A-Report under the Access and Equity Strategy

Australian Government departments are required to report annually on their efforts to improve the delivery of government services to Australia's diverse population. This appendix summarises the Department's performance against the Australian Government's strategy to identify and respond to issues arising from Australia's cultural diversity, to better meet client needs and to ensure equitable access to government services.

The Australian Government's Access and Equity strategy (previously titled Accessible Government Services for All) was adopted in 2007 to promote fairness and responsiveness in the design, delivery, monitoring and evaluation of government services in a culturally diverse society.

Government agencies provide services that support all Australians in their efforts to be self-reliant and participate fully in society. Access and equity policy enhances the level of support by ensuring that culture and language barriers are broken down as much as possible.

The Access and Equity strategy is based on the four principles of:

  • Responsiveness - the extent to which programs and services are accessible, fair and responsive to the individual needs of clients;
  • Communication - open and effective channels of communication with all stakeholders;
  • Accountability - effective and transparent reporting and review mechanisms; and
  • Leadership - a whole-of-government approach to management of issues arising from Australia's culturally and linguistically diverse society.

Each of the principles is supported by suggested strategies for its implementation. More information about the Access and Equity strategy is available from the website of the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, at www.immi.gov.au/about/reports/access-equity/.

The following sections describe the Department's performance in 2007-08 in relation to the four principles and the detailed strategies.



Extent to which programs and services are accessible, fair and responsive to the individual needs of clients

Strategy Initiatives and outcomes

Developing and delivering fair programs and services that are based on a sound knowledge of the needs, circumstances and cultural and other characteristics of clients and assess the direct impact on the lives
of people.

The Remote Air Services Subsidy (RASS) scheme supported a weekly air service to 239 remote, isolated communities that otherwise would not have had access to essential air passenger transport and supplies, including medical items, fresh food and mail. The RASS scheme subsidised regular air services for remote Australians, while continuing to explore ways of improving the service in changing environments - for example, areas of growing demand, population change and cost and structure change in the aviation sector generally. Using direct consultation to gauge public satisfaction with the service, the RASS scheme gathers information that will allow improved future targeting of the types of services required for remote communities, particularly Indigenous ones, which make up approximately a third of the communities supported.

The Remote Aerodrome Inspection (RAI) program funded annual aerodrome inspections in 59 isolated Indigenous communities, as required by civil aviation legislation. The RAI program ensured the airstrips of isolated Indigenous communities met the regulatory standards, enabling air services to use them on a regular basis. The regular air services provided isolated Indigenous communities with a range of essential goods and services, such as mail, that they would not have had ready access to otherwise.

Regional Australia Impact Statements (RAIS) were included in all Cabinet submissions that were likely to have impact across Australia's regions. The purpose of a RAIS is to describe the positive or negative impact on Australia's regions of any new submission, particularly where the impact will vary by location or differ in rural and remote areas compared to metropolitan centres. Through RAIS the Department advised Australian Government agencies on the potential impacts of submissions on 317 occasions.

Drawing on cultural diversity to improve efficiency and effectiveness of agency programs and to support innovation and success of Australian enterprises.


A component of the Department's Reconciliation Action Plan, the Indigenous Workforce Action Plan (2006-09) identified four key areas to maximise the value of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees in the Department. These were:

  • recruitment;
  • retention;
  • development; and
  • workplace environment.

The Department continued to actively participate in Indigenous employment programs and made sustained efforts to recruit Indigenous employees through Australian Public Service (APS) programs that included Indigenous trainees, cadets and graduates. The Department tripled the numbers of Indigenous employees in the Department over the past three years, from four employees in 2005 to 12 employees in 2007, a number that was maintained in 2008.

The Department continued to support the Indigenous Professional Development Network (IPDN), a forum for Indigenous employees from across the Department, to achieve personal and organisational goals by:

  • considering career and development needs as Indigenous employees;
  • sharing information, networking and supporting Indigenous colleagues working in different locations across Australia; and
  • advising the Department on issues relating to Indigenous employment.

The IPDN met regularly during 2007-08. Two of its members represented the Department at the inaugural National Indigenous Australian Public Employees Conference in May 2008.

Network members participated in a two-day conference that focused on improving communication and team-building skills, establishing and using networks, and enhancing leadership capability.

Approximately 52 departmental staff attended the Indigenous Cultural Awareness training program. The course was positively received as a valuable opportunity for staff to increase their awareness of Indigenous culture, identify historical and contemporary issues and develop skills in communicating with Indigenous colleagues and clients.

Identifying and responding quickly to emerging issues affecting particular population groups or arising from Australia's cultural diversity.

The Department administered a national network of 54 Area Consultative Committees (ACCs) - non-profit, community-based organisations, funded by the Australian Government, that serve rural, regional, remote and metropolitan communities. Through the network, ACCs work with the key community stakeholders in each region, to identify development opportunities and barriers, set priorities, and develop strategies for growth. They also disseminate information on government priorities and programs for the benefit of business and the community. These roles will continue as the ACCs transition to become Regional Development Australia committees under new program arrangements.

The Australian Social and Economic Geography (AUSEG) approach was developed for analysing the conditions of Australian regions, to provide an empirical basis for place-based policy development and for developing an understanding of the relationship between program expenditure and regional conditions. Part of this approach considers the regional economic profile of communities, including Indigenous communities. The AUSEG 2006 report is scheduled for release in October 2008.


Open and effective channels of communication with all stakeholders
Strategy Initiatives and outcomes

Providing information in a timely manner, in appropriate media, publications, formats and languages.

A web notification form was available online to assist members of the public to report aviation safety occurrences, at www.atsb.gov.au/aviation/notification/accident_notification.aspx, and a 24-hour transport accident/incident notification hotline (1800 011 034) was available for reporting aviation, marine and rail safety incidents.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau ATSB) continued to promote its confidential marine reporting scheme in English, Indonesian, Hindi, Chinese, Ukrainian and Filipino, enabling non-Australian crews to confidentially report safety concerns. The ATSB's safety investigation reports were posted on its website www.atsb.gov.au, and marine safety investigation reports were distributed widely in hardcopy for the benefit of foreign crew members.

In promoting these reporting avenues the ATSB provided a means by which members of the public and foreign crews could easily report their transport safety concerns.

The Office of Transport Security (OTS) published information in languages other than English, in both print and electronic forms, and followed all protocols when dealing with people from the Torres Strait Island area and traditional land owners.

The Department provided information on nearly 2,000 programs on the Regional Entry Point website www.regionalaustralia.gov.au and the GrantsLINK website www.grantslink.gov.au. The Australian Government Regional Information Service (AGRIS) maintained a call centre (1800 026 222) to inform the public on a range of government programs, agencies and services for people living in rural, regional and remote Australia. A telephone interpreting service was available for non-English speaking callers.

In 2007-08, the Regional Entry Point website received more than 3.9 million hits, the GrantsLINK website, which promoted over 180 Australian Government grants programs, received more than 9 million hits, and the AGRIS call centre responded to more than 18,000 enquiries.

Recruiting and training staff who have appropriate linguistic and cultural skills or using interpreting services, to ensure effective communication with clients.

The ATSB engaged interpretation services to assist with interviews of non-English speaking crew members, allowing more open and accurate responses from foreign crew members during interviews, ensuring that the ATSB had the best opportunity to understand the circumstances and safety issues relevant to the investigation.

Access to an interpretation service also allowed the ATSB to translate cockpit voice recorders and the audio component of voyage data loggers, allowing investigators to gain valuable information when piecing together the sequence of events in transport-related incidents and accidents.

The OTS also used interpreters, when communicating with non-English speaking clients and other stakeholders. Clear understanding of non-English speaking clients' needs, through the use of interpreters, enhanced the OTS's quality service provision.

Consulting appropriately with diverse communities and client groups about the development of policy, legislation and regulations, the implementation of programs, and the delivery of services.


The Australian Government Office for Women, with support from the Department, held the National Rural Women's Summit in Canberra in June 2008. The purpose of the summit was to strengthen the voice of rural women in shaping rural and regional policy. The summit brought together 82 women from rural, regional and remote areas, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, women from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds and women with disabilities.

Participants who attended the National Rural Women's Summit provided advice and recommendations to the government on issues facing Australia's rural and remote communities - for example, climate change, environment and water, women in decision making, education, health, families and children. A report detailing the outcomes of the forum is scheduled to be provided to the government in the latter half of 2008.

The Department also provided secretariat support and other services to the Regional Women's Advisory Council, which met in September 2007. The council's role was to provide independent advice and feedback to the Australian Government on issues affecting women in regional Australia.

The Regional Development Council met in August 2007 and identified a number of areas of focus, including:

  • regional indicators;
  • the importance of high-speed broadband to regional Australia; and
  • the difficulties faced by rural communities as a result of the impact of drought.

The Regional Development Council provides an annual forum for collaboration and cooperation between all levels of government on issues affecting regional development. Council members include the Minister with responsibility for regional development in each jurisdiction, and a representative from the Australian Local Government Association. In 2007-08, the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government acted as permanent chair of the Council, which had the role of facilitating effective cooperation across all spheres of government in order to achieve sustainable economic, social and environmental outcomes for regional Australia.

In March 2008, the Area Consultative Committee network commenced transitioning to Regional Development Australia (RDA) committees. The committees have been asked to consult with their local communities to advise the government on ways to improve engagement of regional communities, regional development organisations and local government with the Australian Government.


Effective and transparent reporting and review mechanisms
Strategy Initiatives and outcomes

Establishing mechanisms to encourage feedback from people of all cultural backgrounds and allow them to register complaints.


The ATSB actively encouraged individuals or organisations that were directly involved in a transport safety occurrence, or may have influenced the circumstances that led to an occurrence, and whose reputations were likely to be detrimentally affected following the release of the investigation report, to provide feedback on draft investigation reports. The ATSB provided copies of each draft safety investigation report to involved parties, giving them the opportunity to provide evidence of factual inaccuracies or omissions in the report.

Through the process of encouraging feedback from individuals or organisations involved in a transport safety investigation, the ATSB provided a means of gaining fresh evidence from affected parties. Consequently, the majority of investigation reports were improved and enhanced through the submission process. By upholding this degree of feedback and review the Bureau could provide a more balanced and accurate account of the particular accident or incident.

Unsuccessful applicants for services under the RASS Scheme, who lacked eligibility under the standard criteria, were able to make a case to the Minister for further consideration of special circumstances relating to specific local issues.

Responding to concerns raised by clients, to improve agencies' performance.

The Department provided transparent reporting and review mechanisms to people of all cultural backgrounds, including members of the public, clients and staff. The Department's Client Service Charter invites members of the public to telephone, email or write to the Department if they are unhappy with the service they have received.

Members of the public had access to the Client Service Charter via the Department's website, at www.infrastructure.gov.au/department/about/charter.aspx. The website outlines the Department's responsibilities and service standards, and provides contact information relating to specialist areas of the Department and other portfolio agencies. The Department continued to disseminate the charter to key stakeholders in 2007-08, and maintained complaints management systems within the Department.

By upholding the Client Service Charter, the Department remained committed to investigating complaints and to providing speedy remedies if the Department was found to be at fault.


A whole-of-government approach to management of issues arising from Australia's culturally and linguistically diverse society
Strategy Initiatives and outcomes

Collaborating within and between agencies to address cultural diversity issues through publicising good practices, sharing information, coordinating programs or collaborating on projects.


The Department developed the Indigenous Workforce Action Plan (2006-09) to further the Department's commitment to:

  • increase the number of Indigenous people in the Department to a level more reflective of the broader APS and the community that we serve; and
  • improve the quality of working life for Indigenous employees in the Department.

The Department also developed a Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) which sets out three components of the Department's approach to its responsibilities for Indigenous issues:

  • to improve Indigenous employment levels in the Department;
  • to develop and maintain a positive workplace culture and environment; and
  • to implement departmental program and policy initiatives that contribute to improving quality of life for Indigenous Australians.

The RAP was reviewed in June 2008, and a report was provided to Reconciliation Australia. The review found that the Department was on track to achieve the commitments in the RAP.

Achieved targets included the establishment of the Indigenous Policy Unit, support for the Council of Australian Governments trial of service delivery mechanisms in the East Kimberley, and involvement in the whole-of-government approach to Indigenous affairs.

In July 2007 the Department celebrated NAIDOC Week with a range of high-profile speakers and events to celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Attendance at cross-cultural awareness training was included in the performance agreements of all staff working with, or developing services for, Indigenous employees or members of the wider Indigenous community. Approximately 42 staff members working in divisions dealing with Indigenous policy and programs attended cross-cultural awareness training in 2007-08.

The Department provided sponsorship for youth activities through Heywire, a leadership program for rural and regional young people. In February 2008, 35 winners of the 2007 Heywire program attended the Heywire Youth Issues Forum held in Canberra. The Heywire initiative brings together a motivated group of young people, helping them build the skills they will need to continue voicing their ideas and opinions in the future.

Working with state/territory/local governments, non-government and community organisations, and contractors, raising awareness of their responsibilities and encouraging improvement in responses to cultural diversity.

The OTS consulted with other service providers and different levels of government to ensure coordination of services appropriate to clients' needs. Where appropriate, the OTS included people from diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds in decision-making and advisory bodies, so that a broad range of views could be brought to bear on some key decisions.

The Department continued to manage the National Awards for Local Government, which recognise and promote local governments' achievements in improving services to their communities. The awards highlighted council projects that showcased innovation and best practices in their chosen categories, and will enable other councils to adapt these practices to their local areas and launch similar initiatives.

The winners of the 2007 National Awards for Local Government were announced early in 2008. Awards were provided in 15 categories, including increasing women's participation in local government, strengthening Indigenous communities, planning for an ageing community, youth engagement, and community participation and partnership. The awards were publicised in national print publications and on the Department's website at www.infrastructure.gov.au/local/awards/index.aspx.

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