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Monday, 22 August 2011
Page: 5121

Defence: Staffing

(Question No. 617)


Senator Siewert asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 21 March 2011:

With reference to the department and the agencies within the Minister's portfolio:

(1) What is the total number of staff currently employed.

(2) What is the total number of staff with a disability currently employed.

(3) What policies or programs are in place to encourage the recruitment of people with a disability.

(4) What retention strategies are in place for people with a disability.

(5) What career pathways or plans are on offer for people with a disability; if none, why.

(6) Are there any specific targets for recruitment and retention; if not, why not.

(7) What policies, programs or services are there to support staff with a disability.

(8) Can details be provided of any policies, programs, services or plans currently under development within the department and its agencies, concerning the employment of people with a disability.


Senator Chris Evans: The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1)    Based as at 30 April 2011, total Defence personnel are 106,199 comprising:

14,204 permanent Navy personnel inclusive of 332 Reserve members on Continuous Full Time Service (CFTS);

30,376 permanent Army personnel inclusive of 626 CFTS members;

14,794 permanent Air Force personnel inclusive of 85 CFTS members;

22,216 Civilian personnel; and

24,609 Active Reserves (4,509 Navy, 16,524 Army, 3,576 Air Force)

Notes:

(a) Gap Year students are not included.

(b) Reserve members only include: Active, Specialist, High Readiness and Reserve Response Forces.

(2)    Based as at 30 April 2011, total Defence personnel with a disability are 825 comprising:

49 permanent Navy personnel inclusive of 1 CFTS member;

1 38 permanent Army personnel inclusive of 1 CFTS member;

33 permanent Air Force personnel inclusive of 1 CFTS member;

528 Civilian personnel; and

77 Active Reserves (24 Navy, 47 Army, 6 Air Force)

Note: the reporting and subsequent recording of a person ' s disability on the Defence HR system is entirely voluntary and is dependant on the person wanting to divulge that information . The figures may understate the actual numbers.

Defence notes that under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (DDA) there is no legal obligation for employees to disclose disability unless it impacts on their ability to undertake the inherent requirements of the job.

In accordance with the DDA, disclosure of disability in Defence is not mandatory . Reporting is conducted through voluntary disclosure on Defence's human resources system (Personnel Management Key Solution (PMKeyS)).

ADF members with disability can be more readily identified than their APS counterparts, as ADF members with acquired disabilities are managed under the Medical Employment Classification (MEC) System.

The State of the Service Report 2009-10 identified that 14,393 employees, accounting for 68.97% of Defence APS employees, have not completed this data field on PMKeyS . Defence is presently developing mechanisms to encourage employees to complete diversity data.

(3) For ADF Members. The Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (DDA) recognises that in some workplaces, the inherent requirements of a role may preclude some people, such as those with a disability, from being employed in those roles. Service in the Australian Defence Force (ADF) has medical and fitness requirements that are inherent to the performance of duties, and an exemption is provided in s53 of the DDA regarding the recruitment of individuals with a disability to the ADF.

For APS Employees. The following information is relevant for Defence Australian Public Service employees.

Disability Action Plan

The Defence Disability Action Plan includes objectives regarding the recruitment of people with disability . Specific objectives and details of activities are outlined below.

Objective 2: Flexible recruitment strategies that are accessible to applicants with disability

Diversity statement in Information Packs for all advertised positions . Defence includes a diversity statement in Information Packs for all advertised APS vacancies . This statement reads:

The range and nature of work in Defence requires a workforce that reflects our diverse society. We welcome applications from Indigenous Australians, people from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds and people with disability. We are committed to providing an environment that values diversity and supports all staff to reach their full potential.

Training for recruitment panels . To be eligible to participate on a panel, Defence personnel must undertake the training course, Merit Selection and Recruitment . Satisfactory completion of this course is based on achievement in the proficiency assessment . This course includes an explanation of merit and discrimination .

Recruitment and Disability Fact Sheet . Defence personnel have access to the Fact Sheet, Disability and Recruitment . This Fact Sheet provides guidance on reasonable adjustments that may be required by applicants to enable an equitable process.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on Defence Recruitment website . The Defence Recruitment website includes FAQs specific to disability to provide guidance to applicants. Disability specific FAQs are:

I have a disability does it matter?

Do I have to tell Defence about my disability?

What is reasonable adjustment?

Accessibility of e-recruitment . In June 2010, the Australian Government Information Management Office released the Web Accessibility National Transition Strategy. This strategy seeks to implement the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines version 2.0 (WCAG 2.0).

WCAG 2.0 is designed specifically to address navigation and design issues which limit a user's ability to review Web content due to disability. For example, there must be a text equivalent for all non text content and colours which do not confuse users who are have a vision related disability.

The Federal Government has mandated compliance to WCAG 2.0 for Federal government departments and agencies to the AA Standard by Dec 2014. Defence is working towards AA Standard compliance for the eRecruit Candidate Portal. Activities towards compliance are:

Conducting an audit of the eRecruit Candidate Portal; and working with the eRecruit service provider to ensure the AA standard compliance is met before 2014.

Objective 3: Accessible training, cadetship and mentoring opportunities for people with disability.

Work experience programs for tertiary students with disability . Defence participates in the Stepping IntoProgram in partnership with the Australian Network on Disability. Stepping Into is a paid work experience program which is designed to provide university students with disability with practical skills and experience to assist them to obtain long term employment within their chosen profession.

Objective 4: Special employment measures to employ people with an intellectual disability.

Support of Koomarri . Defence has a contract with Koomarri to provide office services. Through this contract Defence supports the employment of 15 people with intellectual disability.

(4) For ADF Members. Due to the importance placed on the health and wellbeing of ADF personnel, Defence is committed to ensuring that for those who become wounded, injured or ill, their recovery, rehabilitation and return to work is a priority. Discharge from the ADF is a last resort. The following tri-Service initiatives that have implications for members with an acquired disability.

The Australian Defence Force Rehabilitation Program (ADFRP) provides an occupational rehabilitation and return to work service. It aims to support their return to work in current or different duties or trade or, if this is not possible, they will be rehabilitated, medically discharged and supported to transition to the civilian environment.

A high priority for Defence and the Department of Veterans ' Affairs in 2011 will be implementing the Support to Wounded Injured or Ill Project (SWIIP), which aims to achieve a more coordinated and integrated approach across welfare, rehabilitation, compensation and transition programs to improve outcomes for ADF members and their families, and better support commanders in meeting their responsibilities .

The implementation of the revised Defence Instruction (General) PERS 15-16 Australian Defence Force Medical Employment Classification System which includes new provisions for extended rehabilitation and extended transition. This will benefit ADF members who are temporarily unfit and require a 12 to 24 month recovery and rehabilitation period, and those who need up to three years to support their transition from the ADF.

In addition, the ADF Paralympic Sports Program has been established to support serving ADF members with acquired disability, such as permanent loss of limb function, to adopt an active lifestyle, regain their physical fitness and participate in adaptive sport right through to elite Paralympic sport .

Within Army, Defence Instruction (Administrative) PERS 33-11 Army Casualty Administration and Support Framework is the primary document that outlines the management of soldiers with an acquired disability.

For APS Employees. Through normal day to day management, supervisors of employees with a disability have the opportunity to discuss matters that are affecting the employee's desire to remain in Defence, and these are formalised through performance exchanges, which must be conducted at least twice each year. These matters include the identification and provision of necessary workplace equipment or reasonable workplace adjustments to accommodate a person's disability (refer to question 8 for further information).

(5) For ADF members. Career management for ADF members with acquired disability is managed in accordance with the Medical Employment Classification policy - in other words, the ADF must make all reasonable efforts to retain and provide appropriate employment opportunities for service personnel where their classification is downgraded during their service.

ADF members with an acquired disability are rehabilitated to achieve optimal recovery. Then we assess their functional capacity and identify fitness for alternate military duties and their vocational options with the ADF. Discharge from the ADF is a last resort. However, if return to work in current or different duties or trade is not possible, they will be rehabilitated, medically discharged and supported to transition to the civilian environment.

For APS Employees. Defence does not use organisational level career pathways or plans for people with disability. Career plans and pathways for all employees are undertaken at the local level through the Performance Feedback and Development Scheme (PFADS). The scheme facilitates consideration of individual training and career development activities and career development.

PFADS is supported by the Mutual Responsibilities enacted in the Defence Collective Agreement 2009 . Under the mutual responsibilities, employees' responsibilities include:

participate in performance exchanges within PFADS;

participate in identified training and development, and

continually update their work skills .

Supervisors also have responsibility to support employees, including employees with disability . Supervisor specific responsibilities include:

have a current performance agreement with each employee;

support employees in achieving life balance;

embrace flexible work practices, such as part-time and home based work to maximise workplace participation;

guide develop and mentor employees; and

maximise learning and development opportunities for employees.

(6) For ADF members . Refer to the responses provided for Questions 3 and 4.

For APS Employees . Defence does not have specific targets for the recruitment and retention of people with disability. Recruitment and promotion are conducted on a merit basis. Merit means that from a field of applicants, Defence selects the best person for the job.

Defence has not adopted targets for recruitment and retention of people with disability based on advice from the Management Advisory Committee Report No. 6 (2006) - Employment of people with disability in the APS (MAC 6 Report). The MAC 6 Report noted that targets for recruitment of people with disability posed a risk of focusing on targets rather than effective steps to address underlying issues.

Defence has developed the Defence Disability Action Plan to directly align with the recommendations of the MAC 6 Report, which did not include targets.

Recruitment and retention activities are supported by Defence policies specifically to support people with disability see Question 7.

(7) In addition to the items advised in question 4, Defence supports employees with disability through the policies (for APS employees):

Defence Personnel Instruction (DPI) 2/2002 - Department of Defence Access and Disability Policy . This policy provides coverage of access to buildings, car parking spaces, facilities, equipment, information, education and training programs.

Defence Personnel Instruction (DPI) 6/2004 Procedures for the Provision of Assistive Technical Office Equipment for the Department of Defence Employees with Disabilities. This policy outlines procedures to apply for centralised support for specialised equipment to assist APS employees with disability.

The Disability Action Plan (refer to question 3 for further information).

(8) Presently, Defence is developing a number of initiatives to support the employment of people with disability.

For ADF members

There is a Training Rehabilitation Wing under the School of Military Engineering in Sydney focused on injured/ill trainees and a Solider Recovery Unit being trialled in Townsville that focuses on Townsville based injured/ill soldiers.

For APS Employees

Guide to Reasonable Adjustment. This guide will assist commanders, managers and supervisors to undertake reasonable adjustments for people with disability.

Mechanisms to facilitate recruitment of people with disability using Australian Public Service Commission Circular 2010 /2—Engagement of people with disability through Disability Employment Service Providers. These mechanisms will facilitate engagement of people with disability who are assessed by a Disability Employment Service (DES) Provider as being unable to compete on merit. Mechanisms may include:

processes to facilitate advertising, selection and engagement with DES providers;

guidance to support commanders, managers, supervisor and human resource practitioners; and

partnership arrangements with Disability Employment Service Providers.

Mechanism to improve data collection of diversity data. Defence notes that voluntary data collection is problematic and is seeking to develop mechanisms to encouraging reporting of disability.