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Thursday, 16 June 2011
Page: 3205

Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government: Staffing

(Question No. 615)


Senator Siewert asked the Minister representing the Minister for Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government, upon notice, on 27 April 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 Sherry: The Minister for Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

The Department will respond to the Senator's question for the Department of Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government and its portfolio agency, the National Capital Authority.

(1) Department of Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government

As at 2 May 2011, the Department of Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government (the Department) had a headcount of 358 employees engaged under the Public Service Act 1999.

National Capital Authority

As at 30 April 2011, the National Capital Authority (NCA) had a headcount of 67 employees.

(2) Department of Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government

As at 2 May 2011, the Department had 3 staff who identified as having a disability.

National Capital Authority

As at 30 April 2011, the NCA had 1 employee who identified as having a disability.

(3) Department of Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government

Since its establishment in September 2010, the Department has been developing a full range of human resource strategies, policies and plans. A Diversity plan and Disability Employment strategy are expected to be completed in the second half of 2011.

National Capital Authority

Recruitment decisions in the NCA comply with all Commonwealth requirements including; the Public Service Act 1999, Public Service Commissioner's Directions 1999, Disability Discrimination Act 1992 and the Fair Work Act 2009.

The NCA has a Workplace Diversity Policy and Workplace Diversity Plan to assist in giving effect to the APS Values contained in section 10 of the Public Service Act 1999.

The Workplace Diversity Plan is based on the following principles:

the behaviours and conduct of all employees should be in accordance with both the APS Values and Code of Conduct;

staff profile should reflect the diversity of the community, recognising the positive advantages and strengths this brings to the workplace;

workplace structures and conditions should enable all employees to develop their potential while taking into account personal commitments consistent with the organisation meeting its responsibilities;

decisions affecting employees should take into account individual needs, be based on fairness, merit, and without discrimination; and

communication should recognise our diverse workforce and value the cooperation and input from employees.

As part of its commitment to be a model employer, which complies with all relevant laws and the Commonwealth Disability Strategy, the NCA has implemented the following policies and practices to encourage the recruitment of people with a disability:

Selection criteria are limited to the inherent requirements of the job.

Decisions relating to engagement or promotion are based on merit, which is:

an assessment is made of the relative suitability of the candidates for the duties, using a competitive selection process;

the assessment is based on the relationship between the candidates' work related qualities and the work related qualities genuinely required for the duties;

the assessment focuses on the relative capacity of the candidates to achieve outcomes related to the duties; and

the assessment is the primary consideration in making the decision.

Recruitment information for potential job applicants is available in accessible formats on request.

The NCA's Application Cover Sheet, provide sections where the applicant may:

identify as a person with a disability; and

note any special arrangements the applicant might require for interview.

Selection Advisory Committees and recruitment agencies (where applicable) apply the principles of 'reasonable adjustment' during the selection process.

Principles of 'reasonable adjustment' are applied in the workplace.

(4) Department of Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government

Since its establishment in September 2010, the Department has been developing a full range of human resource strategies, policies and plans. A Diversity plan and Disability Employment strategy are expected to be completed in the second half of 2011.

National Capital Authority

The NCA makes use of the following retention strategies:

Encouraging flexible working arrangements such as home based work, job sharing, part-time work, flexible working hours, and purchased leave arrangements (including 48/52 leave), which incidentally benefit their employees with disability;

An assessment of the access requirements of the employees with a disability to ensure the reasonable adjustments they require to premises and to the workplace are being met;

Premises and the work related communications and information employees need to carry out their duties are accessible to employees with a disability, including the use of adaptive technologies where reasonable;

Providing of a workstation assessment on commencement and reassessments when required to ensure a safe, productive and an appropriate workplace has been provided;

Ongoing access to learning and development opportunities relevant to the career goals of employees with a disability which identify:

learning and development required in order to carry out current duties/tasks for the current financial year;

professional development that relates to the employee's current work and/or work of the business unit; and

future career development

Encouraging employees to undertake formal study in fields which are directly linked to the skills, knowledge or learning required to assist the NCA achieve its corporate outcomes - assistance may be in the form of paid leave to attend classes or exams and/or the reimbursement of compulsory fees or other than HECS fees; and

Providing access to a confidential, professional counselling service (Employee Assistance Scheme) at no cost to employees and their families to help resolve both personal and work-related problems.

(5) Department of Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government

As a relatively new Department, HR framework strategies and policies are being developed. Of these, the Diversity plan and Disability Employment strategy are a priority.

National Capital Authority

The NCA is a small APS agency of approximately 52 full-time equivalent staff with its statutory and regulatory functions defined under the Australian Capital Territory (Planning and Land Management) Act 1988.

The NCA requires a diverse range of skills from its workforce, primarily in the professional areas of urban planning, architecture, engineering, landscape architecture, corporate business and finance.

Because the NCA has an ongoing need to maintain a minimum level of specialised professional staff to perform its statutory responsibilities under the relevant legislation, it does not have a traditional career pathway for any of its employees, including opportunities for potential employees with a disability or our current employees with a disability that exists in larger APS agencies.

The NCA will continue to promote the agency as an employer who is committed to upholding the APS Values of providing a workplace free from discrimination and promoting equity in employment.

It will also continue to support the immediate and longer term career goals of its existing employees with a disability by providing access to ongoing learning and development needs and study assistance.

(6) Department of Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government

Once it is developed the Department's Workplace Diversity plan and Disability Employment strategy will help determine appropriate specific targets

National Capital Authority

The NCA does not have any specific targets for recruitment or retention.

The NCA's employment practices are designed to ensure continual compliance with the law, government policies which provides that all NCA staff, including those who suffer from a disability, have the opportunity to effectively contribute their skills and full potential to the workforce.

(7) Department of Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government

Since its establishment in September 2010, the Department has been developing a full range of human resource strategies, policies and plans. A diversity plan and disability employment strategy are expected to be completed in the second half of 2011.

National Capital Authority

As noted above, the NCA supports employees with a disability through:

flexible working arrangements;

changes to premises or work stations to assist the employee carry out their duties, including the use of adaptive technologies where reasonable;

ongoing access to learning and development opportunities and study assistance; and

access to the Employee Assistance Scheme.

(8) Department of Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government

The Department diversity plan and disability employment strategy are currently being developed.

National Capital Authority

The NCA does not have any policies, programs, services or plans currently under development concerning employment of people with a disability.

The NCA will be reviewing its Workplace Diversity Policy and Workplace Diversity Plan in 2011-12.