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Annual Report 2007-08 Management and Accountability


Chapter 8 Corporate governance

Corporate governance refers to the processes by which the Department is directed, controlled and held to account and encompasses the authority, accountability, leadership, direction and control exercised within the Department.

The governance framework

The governance framework in the Department consists of a number of separate components, including the Executive Committee, the Audit Committee, the integrated performance management system, risk management framework, business continuity plan and fraud control arrangements.

The Executive Committee

The Executive Committee comprises the Secretary, two deputy secretaries, three general managers, the Executive Adviser and an executive member (a female at the Senior Executive Service Band 1 level, nominated by the Secretary). The role of the Executive Committee is to set the strategic direction for and maintain a general oversight of the Department’s performance. The Executive Committee considers and decides on matters of corporate and governmental significance subject to any specific legal obligations imposed on the Secretary.

Executive appointments

Secretary
Robert Cornall AO

Deputy Secretaries
Ian Govey
Civil Justice and Legal Services Group

Miles Jordana
National Security and Criminal Justice Group

General Managers
Jan Blomfield (acting)
Corporate Services Group—until November 2007

Sue Chapman
Corporate Services Group—since November 2007

Graham Fry
Information and Knowledge Services Group—until April 2008

Peter LeRoy (acting)
Information and Knowledge Services Group—since April 2008

Sue-Ellen Bickford
Financial Services Group

Executive Adviser
Katherine Reimers—until March 2008

Paul Pfitzner (acting)—since March 2008

Executive Member
Katherine Jones—until February 2008

Alison Playford—since February 2008

Left to right: Peter LeRoy, Alison Playford, Sue Chapman, Robert Cornall, Miles Jordana, Ian Govey, Paul Pfitzner and Sue-Ellen Bickford. 

Left to right: Peter LeRoy, Alison Playford, Sue Chapman, Robert Cornall, Miles Jordana, Ian Govey, Paul Pfitzner and Sue-Ellen Bickford.

Audit Committee

The Department’s Audit Committee is appointed by, and is responsible to, the Secretary. It advises the Secretary on the Department’s:

  • systems of internal control
  • risk management
  • financial reporting and control of public money and assets
  • compliance with relevant laws, rules, regulations and directions, and
  • internal and external audit matters.

It is established in compliance with section 46 of the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997 and Order 2.1 of the Financial Management and Accountability Orders 2005.

The Committee comprises a chair, who is external to the Department, and four members, one of whom is external to the Department. The Audit Committee met five times during the financial year. The Secretary, the General Manager Corporate Services Group, the Chief Financial Officer, the Chief Audit Executive, representatives from the internal auditor and of the Australian National Audit Office were represented at all meetings.

Since 1 July 2002, the internal audit and evaluation function has been performed by Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu under an outsourced arrangement overseen by the Audit Committee and the Chief Audit Executive. That arrangement was renewed from 1 July 2007 for a further three-year period following an open tender process.

Activities of the Audit Committee

The wide range of internal audit reports considered by the Audit Committee in 2007–08 included:

  • internal audit of the Register of Legislative Instruments
  • point-in-time system control internal audit of the AusCheck IT System
  • internal audit of the integration of the Office of Film and Literature Classification
  • internal audit of IT governance, and
  • internal audit of physical security.

The Department uses a database to monitor progress on implementing audit report recommendations and the Audit Committee uses the database to assess the nature and timeliness of action on audit recommendations.

Information technology governance

The Executive manages information technology using a formal governance framework, based on the internationally recognised CobiT standard. The Information Technology Executive Committee (ITEC) monitors IT activities from a business perspective. ITEC membership comprises senior management from the Information and Knowledge Services Group, members of the Department’s executive, and a senior executive selected from one of the non-corporate divisions. The Committee met four times during the year, in accordance with the ITEC charter.

Accountability framework—integrated performance management

The strategic priorities for the Department in 2007–08 are identified in the Attorney-General’s Portfolio Budget Statements (PBS). The PBS is consistent with the Australian Government’s accrual-based outcomes and outputs framework and its performance management principles.

The Executive Committee undertakes a performance review of each division twice a year. These reviews focus on organisational performance against business and operational plans and publicly stated performance objectives.

Under the Department’s Program for Performance Improvement each staff member has an individual performance agreement in place. Performance against these agreements is reviewed twice a year, with a salary advancement being linked to a satisfactory or higher rating.

Conduct and ethics

The Attorney-General’s Department Agreement 2007 also contains a commitment by the parties to uphold the Australian Public Service (APS) Values and to comply with the APS Code of Conduct. The Department continues to offer online training on the Values and Code of Conduct, which is available to all staff. All new staff are encouraged to complete the online training module and to access the APS Commission induction module Your guide to working in the Australian Public Service. All people who join the Department as employees are provided with a copy of the APS Values and Code of Conduct, as well as relevant excerpts from the Crimes Act 1914. They are required to sign a statement that they have read and understood these provisions before beginning employment with the Department.

All new employees are expected to undertake the Understanding your Accountabilities as a Public Servant internal training program, which sets out the proper conduct and ethical behaviour expected of staff. During 2007–08, 188 employees attended this program. Since the introduction of the program, 1,171 employees have attended.

All Senior Executive Service (SES) employees are provided with a copy of the publication APS Values and Code of Conduct in practice: a guide to official conduct for APS employees and agency heads.

The APS Values, Code of Conduct, Chief Executive’s Instructions (CEI) and other material relevant to ethical conduct are incorporated, as appropriate, into relevant departmental policies, guidelines and instructions and are available on the intranet. The CEI internal training program, which was introduced this year, was attended by 194 employees.

SES remuneration

Most SES employees of the Department have their remuneration and other conditions of employment established by Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs) made under the Workplace Relations Act 1996. Following the introduction of the Australian Government Employment Bargaining Framework in February 2008, which precluded further use of AWAs, the Department moved to common law agreements to provide for SES remuneration and other employment conditions for new appointments. Further information about SES remuneration appears under Workplace agreements.

Risk management

Risk management in the Department is the responsibility of every employee. The Department has a number of mechanisms for managing risk including the risk management plan, business continuity planning processes and project management frameworks.

Risk management plans

The Department has a risk management plan in place which contains a broad range of operational risks that are common to each division of the Department. Each division is required to provide their own treatment strategies and residual risk ratings using the AS/NZS 4360:2004 risk assessment methodology.

The plan has been reviewed twice yearly since its introduction in November 2006. In 2008–09, in addition to the biannual review process, the Executive Committee will monitor strategic risk every quarter in an effort to increase risk awareness.

The Department has participated in Comcover’s risk governance benchmarking program and uses it to identify opportunities to improve the robustness of the risk management framework.

Business continuity management

The Department has a comprehensive business continuity plan in place, which also has sub-plans for every division. Following a desktop test of the plan in March 2007, a further test focusing on the roles and responsibilities of the crisis management team took place in March 2008. This was the second time the crisis management team had been involved and the second exercise explored weaknesses identified in the previous test. The success of these two exercises has enabled the Department to progress to the next level of testing. A simulated exercise with the crisis management team to be held later this year at the Crisis Management Centre will deal with a ‘real’ situation for the team to manage.

Review of information and communications technology infrastructure risk

The Department has recently reviewed and updated the information and communications technology (ICT) disaster recovery plan. A proposed test of the plan against identified risks has been scheduled for later in 2008. There will be an ongoing annual testing regime of the plan going forward, and where possible, testing will be carried out in conjunction with operational areas.

The ICT disaster recovery plan covers:

  • regular and systematic backup of data, stored both on and off site
  • disaster recovery kits secured and stored at three separate off-site locations
  • a backup site away from the main computer centre in Robert Garran Offices
  • validation of, and training in, disaster recovery procedures through a series of rolling exercises
  • risk management procedures and templates, compliant with AS/NZS 4360: 2004, for ICT projects and activities, and
  • additional emergency/backup power in the form of generators and battery packs for critical systems.

Fraud control

The Department reviewed its fraud control plan in 2007 to ensure that it fully complies with the Commonwealth Fraud Control Guidelines. The plan was endorsed by the Audit Committee and the Department has met all its reporting obligations under the plan.

Those risks in the plan that have a residual rating of high or greater are reviewed twice a year in conjunction with the review of the risk management plan, aligning the fraud control plan and the risk management plan, and integrating the risk governance framework.

Fraud awareness training was provided as part of the Understanding your accountabilities as a public servant training course on 16 occasions during the year.

No instances of fraud were detected during the year.

CERTIFICATION OF DEPARTMENTAL FRAUD CONTROL ARRANGEMENTS

I, Robert Cornall, certify that I am satisfied that for the financial year 2007–08, the Attorney-General’s Department has had:

  • appropriate fraud risk assessments and a fraud control plan prepared that complies with the Commonwealth Fraud Control Guidelines
  • appropriate fraud prevention, detection, investigation and reporting procedures and processes in place, and
  • annual fraud data that has been collected and reported in compliance with the Commonwealth Fraud Control Guidelines.

Robert Cornall 

Robert Cornall AO
Secretary

29 August 2008

Service charters

The Department’s service charter articulates the nature and level of services provided to its clients and provides a reference point against which clients can comment on the Department’s performance. The service charter also refers clients to information about how to make complaints or comment on performance. The service charter is available on the Department’s website http://ag.aglink.ag.gov.au. The Department reviewed and updated the service charter in 2007–08.

The charter is supplemented by charters covering the activities of the International Family Law Section of the Civil Justice Division, and the Trade Measures Review Officer.

A report of service charter operations is at Appendix 4.

Reconciliation Action Plan and Reconciliation Committee

In May 2007, the Department released its Reconciliation Action Plan, identifying 27 strategies under three key objectives.

The Reconciliation Committee was established and members, who were nominated from a range of areas across the Department, included employees who identify as Indigenous. The Committee is chaired by the General Manager Corporate Services Group, who ensures that all areas of the Department fulfil their responsibilities under the action plan.

The Department has achieved significant results in each of the three key objectives. Some of these achievements are listed below.

Objective 1: to deliver high quality and culturally inclusive services

Five of the seven strategies identified in the Plan are now in progress. The main strategy for Objective 1 is to deliver the Australian Government law and justice programs for Indigenous Australians. One of the major achievements of that strategy relates to the development and implementation of a Community Legal Education program in 15 of the 31 Family Violence Prevention Legal Services units across Australia. The program was designed by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission to target Indigenous Australians needing legal services in rural and remote communities.

Objective 2: to develop and foster a culturally inclusive workplace

In 2007–08, 11 strategies for recruiting, training and retaining Indigenous employees were developed and begun. A number of policies and guidelines have now been amended. The most significant achievement has been the development and implementation of a mentoring program for Indigenous employees.

Objective 3: to promote an understanding of Indigenous culture

The nine strategies identified for this objective relate to creating cultural and sensitivity awareness across the Department. The Committee has achieved excellent results through its facilitation of various events. These have included a presentation from Reconciliation Australia during Reconciliation Week in April 2008, in which staff gained an understanding of personal reconciliation journeys and the significant impact that this initiative has on Indigenous Australians, and the purchase of Indigenous artwork, including the painting United Journey, by Jandamarra Cadd, on display in the Robert Garran Offices and featured on the cover of this Annual Report.

The Reconciliation Committee continues to implement the strategies identified in the Plan. In 2008–09, the Committee will build on the strategies and develop new solutions and initiatives to foster reconciliation.

Corrections to errors

The following statements in the 2006–07 Annual Report were identified as incorrect:

  • On page 136, in the administered item ‘Payments for the provision of legal aid for Indigenous Australians’ some of the information reported was incorrect. The information should have been reported as follows:
     

    Incorrect detail

    Correct information

    Number of services by type against targets:
    Information, initial legal advice, minor assistance and referral 69,137 68,896
    Duty lawyer assistance 32,504 30,903
    Legal casework representation and assistance targets on:
    Criminal Law matters 67,903 61,160
    Family Law matters 2,600 2,295
    Civil Law matters 4,070 3,004
  • On page 139, in the administered item ‘Payments for the provision of community legal services’, the number of services provided against target was reported as 282,459. That figure should have been 287,670.
  • On page 172, it was stated that 166 decisions had been made in the category ‘Minister decisions relating to federal sentencing administration’. The decisions made in this category were 147. Those decisions included decisions made by a delegate of the Attorney-General.
  • On page 172, it was stated that no international agreements were concluded during 2006–07. As noted at page 161, three treaties were signed, and two treaties entered into force.
  • On page 385, in Appendix 8, ‘Staff achievements’, the following information should have been included: Kym Duggan, Assistant Secretary, Family Law Branch, was awarded a Public Service Medal on 26 January 2007 for outstanding public service in the development and implementation of major reforms to the family law system.

Chapter 9 External scrutiny

The Department’s operations are subject to external scrutiny by a number of external organisations.

Reports by the Australian National Audit Office

Review of the National Action Plan to Eradicate Trafficking in Persons

Following a recommendation from the Parliamentary Joint Committee on the Australian Crime Commission, the Auditor-General agreed in June 2007 to undertake a performance review of the first three years of operation of the National Action Plan to Eradicate Trafficking in Persons. The Criminal Justice Division has worked closely to assist the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) audit process. The review is due to be tabled in Parliament in December 2008.

Report on Emergency Management Australia

The purpose of the audit was to assess how well Emergency Management Australia (EMA) is meeting its objective of providing national leadership in the development of measures to reduce risk to communities and manage the consequences of disasters.

The ANAO has made five recommendations focused on assisting EMA achieve its strategic vision:

  1. In order to assist management decision making and to inform Parliament about performance, EMA develop and report appropriate measures for its key emergency management activities and outcomes.

    Response—Measures were linked to key activities and outcomes reviewed (these are now reflected in the 2008–09 Portfolio Budget Statements).

  2. In order to maximise the benefit of emergency management training activities, EMA periodically reviews its approach to delivering individual training courses, to ensure the most appropriate delivery mechanism is used commensurate with training objectives.

    Response—A major review of education courses and the role of the Emergency Management Australia Institute in supporting the States and Territories is now underway.

  3. That EMA maintain the EMA internet site to ensure that material is appropriate, current and readily accessible for users.

    Response—The EMA website is being reviewed and updated.

  4. To ensure that grant conditions are satisfied, EMA enhance procedures to monitor the progress of projects and follow up those behind schedule or not fulfilling funding agreement requirements.

    Response—Closer scrutiny is being applied to projects with the cooperation of jurisdictions.

  5. To facilitate EMA’s response to requests for assistance in overseas emergency management situations, a statement of the broad principles, responsibilities and performance expectations to apply when EMA is involved in overseas operations be developed and agreed between EMA, DFAT, AusAID and other relevant stakeholders.

    Response—A statement of the broad principles, responsibilities and performance expectations when EMA is engaged in international operations is being developed.

The audit was conducted by the ANAO in accordance with the authority contained in the Auditor–General Act 1997.

The report, titled Emergency Management Australia (ANAO Audit Report No. 27 2007–08), can be found at www.anao.gov.au; was tabled in Parliament on 16 April 2008.

Judicial decisions

Mokbel v Attorney-General of the Commonwealth of Australia [2007] FCAFC 161

In July 2007, Australia requested Tony Mokbel’s extradition from Greece. Following his arrest in Athens, Mr Mokbel made an application to the Federal Court of Australia challenging the validity of Australia’s extradition request. That application and an appeal to the Full Federal Court were dismissed. On 14 December 2007, the High Court refused Mr Mokbel’s application for special leave.

The decisions of the Federal Court and High Court are significant. They confirm that the Minister for Home Affairs can exercise the powers of the Attorney-General under the Extradition Act 1988. They also confirm, consistent with the international rule of comity, the principle of non-adjudication: that the courts of one country will not sit in judgment on acts that the government of another country does within its own territory.

Zentai v Republic of Hungary and Others [2008] HCA 14

The High Court’s decision in Zentai, handed down on 23 April 2008, confirms the power of State magistrates to conduct proceedings under the Extradition Act.

Charles Zentai alleged that the Extradition Act invalidly imposed a duty on State officials under Commonwealth legislation without State legislative approval. In dismissing the challenge, the High Court held that the Extradition Act conferred a power or a function on State magistrates rather than imposing a duty and therefore it was unnecessary to decide in this case whether State legislative approval was required. The decision is significant as it upholds the validity of Australia’s extradition arrangements.

Dunn v Australian Crime Commission and Others [2008] FCA 424

On 24 April 2008, the Federal Court upheld the validity of a mutual assistance request made to Switzerland in support of an Australian Crime Commission investigation known as Operation Wickenby.

Gregory Dunn, and Strachans SA, an accounting firm, challenged the validity of the mutual assistance request arguing, among other things, that the request was made by a delegate and not by the Attorney-General, as required by the Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Act 1987. They also argued that the request was invalid as it failed to disclose relevant facts and that the prosecuting agency was improperly involved in preparing the request. The Federal Court dismissed the challenge on all grounds and upheld the validity of the mutual assistance request. That judgment is currently the subject of an appeal to the Full Federal Court.

This matter demonstrates significant cooperation between the Attorney-General’s Department, the Australian Crime Commission and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

NSW Council for Civil Liberties v Classification Review Board and Attorney-General

On 10 July 2006, the Classification Review Board refused classification to two publications (Defence of the Muslim Lands and Join the Caravan written by Sheikh Abdullah Azzam). The review had been sought by the former Attorney-General, The Hon Philip Ruddock MP.

On 7 August 2006, the New South Wales Council of Civil Liberties (NSWCCL) sought judicial review of the Classification Review Board’s decisions in the Federal Court under section 5 of the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act 1977. Justice Edmonds dismissed the NSWCCL’s application on 14 June 2007. Justice Edmonds found against the NSWCCL on all the grounds on which it claimed the Review Board had erroneously applied the provisions of the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995 and the National Classification Code. In summary the grounds were (1) error of law, (2) no evidence and (3) invalidity due to the implied freedom of political communication.

On 5 July 2007, the NSWCCL lodged an appeal to the Full Federal Court. Following discussions between the Commonwealth and the NSWCCL, consent orders were made on 25 and 29 October 2007. The orders are that the appeal be discontinued and there be no order as to costs in the appeal matter and that there be no order as to costs in the first instance matter. This means that the judgment at first instance in the Federal Court stands and the decision of the Classification Review Board has been upheld.

Adultshop.com Ltd v Members of the Classification Review Board

Adultshop.com Ltd ran this litigation as a test case, seeking to argue that the Guidelines for the Classification of Films and Computer Games are out of step with community attitudes relating to the acceptability of depictions of actual sex between consenting adults. Under the existing guidelines, such depictions are generally not permitted in R18+ films. The film at the centre of the litigation, Viva Erotica, explicitly depicts men and women participating in sexual conduct. It was classified X18+ by the Classification Board and the Classification Review Board.

Adultshop applied to the Federal Court under the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act 1977 for a review of the Classification Review Board’s decision. The Attorney-General was second respondent to the litigation to provide a contradictor, the Review Board having submitted to jurisdiction under the Hardiman principles (R v Australian Broadcasting Tribunal; Ex parte Hardiman (1980) 144 CLR 13). The Australian Family Association and the NSWCCL were also joined as amicus curiae for the purpose of making submissions.

On 29 November 2007, Justice Jacobson dismissed each of Adultshop’s grounds of review. On 20 December 2007, Adultshop filed a notice of appeal. On 31 January 2008, the Minister for Home Affairs replaced the Attorney-General as the contradictor in the proceedings, as the Minister is now responsible for classification issues. On 21 May 2008, the Full Federal Court, in a unanimous decision, dismissed Adultshop’s appeal and awarded costs to the Minister for Home Affairs. The Full Court found that the Classification Review Board had correctly applied the Classification Act, the National Classification Code and the Guidelines in classifying Viva Erotica X18+. The Full Court’s decision effectively upholds the existing operation of the National Classification Scheme as it relates to the classification of depictions of actual sex.

Thomas v Mowbray

On 2 August 2007, the High Court, by a 5:2 majority (Kirby and Hayne JJ dissenting), upheld the validity of Subdivision B of Division 104 of the Criminal Code Act 1995 that allows the making of interim control orders to protect the public from terrorist acts. The Court held that those provisions are supported by the defence power and do not infringe the separation of powers doctrine, as required under Chapter III of the Constitution. Jack Thomas challenged the validity of the control order legislation after a control order was made in relation to him in August 2006. Mr Thomas is currently being re-tried in the Supreme Court of Victoria for the offences of receiving funds from a terrorist organisation and falsifying a passport.

Lodhi v The Queen & Anor

On 24 June 2008 the High Court refused an application for special leave brought by Faheem Lodhi. Mr Lodhi was seeking to appeal a decision of the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal which, among a number of other matters, upheld the constitutionality of subsection 31(8) of the National Security Information (Criminal and Civil Proceedings) Act 2004. That subsection concerns the weight to be given by a court to national security when making orders in relation to certificates issued by the Attorney-General under the Act.

Mr Lodhi was convicted in 2006 of a number of offences relating to the possession and creation of documents connected with preparation for a terrorist act and providing false or misleading answers under warrant.

These and other court decisions involving the application and operation of the counter-terrorism laws continue to be closely monitored by the Department to determine whether there might be cause to recommend modifications to the laws.

Operation Pendennis

In September 2006 and April 2007, as a result of national investigations associated with Operation Pendennis, 13 individuals in Victoria and nine in New South Wales were charged with terrorism offences.

On 27 May 2008, in a matter related to these prosecutions, the NSW Supreme Court upheld the constitutional validity of section 18 of the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979. Section 18 of the TIA Act enables a carrier of communications to give conclusive evidence in writing of acts and things done to enable an interception to occur. This matter has been appealed.

Reports by parliamentary committees

Joint Standing Committee on Treaties

In August 2007, the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties (JSCOT) tabled its report Review into treaties tabled on 13 June 2007 (Report No. 87). JSCOT recommended binding treaty action be taken on the Treaty between Australia and the Kingdom of Thailand on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters, Kuala Lumpur, 27 July 2006, and the Protocol between the Government of Australia and the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China Amending the Agreement for the Surrender of Accused and Convicted Persons of 15 November 1993, Hong Kong, 19 March 2007. The Hong Kong protocol has now entered into force, and the Government will be taking action to implement the treaty with Thailand.

In June 2008, JSCOT released a report dealing with the Treaty on Extradition between Australia and the State of the United Arab Emirates and the Treaty between Australia and the State of the United Arab Emirates on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters. It recommended binding treaty action be taken and made a number of other recommendations relating to future treaty negotiations, proposed monitoring and reporting requirements and arrangements for the exchange of information between Australia and other countries. The Department is consulting other government agencies on these recommendations.

Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee

In 2007–08, the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee reported on two Bills amending the TIA Act.

The Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment Bill 2007 completed the transfer of law enforcement and national–security related provisions from the Telecommunications Act 1997 to the TIA Act. In its report on the provisions of the Bill, the Committee commented on several aspects of the Bill, including certain definitions, and recommended a formal review of the TIA Act every five years.

The Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment Bill 2008 included an extension of the sunset date for network protection provisions, and amendments to the regime for device-based named person warrants. As a result of the Committee’s report, the Government introduced amendments to remove the provisions relating to device-based warrants, pending a more detailed consideration of the issues.

Joint Committee on the Australian Crime Commission

In September 2007, the Parliamentary Joint Committee on the Australian Crime Commission tabled the report of its inquiry into the future impact of serious and organised crime on Australian society. The report made several recommendations in relation to the availability of telecommunications information under the TIA Act for the purposes of criminal law enforcement, including the costs associated with access to telecommunications data, the availability of telecommunications interception powers for Queensland law enforcement agencies and enhancements to the legal capacity of the Australian Customs Service to access information under the TIA Act. The Government is considering its response to these recommendations.

Joint Standing Committee on the National Capital and External Territories

On 19 February 2008, the Minister for Home Affairs, The Hon Bob Debus MP, asked the Joint Standing Committee on the National Capital and External Territories to inquire into and report on the role of the National Capital Authority. This report is scheduled for completion in July 2008, with the Government’s response to follow.

The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner’s Native Title Report 2007

The Department responded to the recommendations in the Native Title Report 2007 in relation to the Native Title Respondent Funding Scheme, and will continue to monitor, assess and report outcomes for that scheme.

Chapter 10 Financial management

Analysis of financial performance

In 2007–08, the departmental outputs appropriation increased by $4.231 million or two per cent to $216.933 million, our departmental capital appropriation increased by $7.668 million or 27 per cent to $35.782 million, and actual administered program expenses at $806.759 million were 59.6 per cent higher than in the previous financial year. The increase in both financial and associated staffing resources in 2007–08 is due to new measures announced by the Government in the 2007–08 Budget and Additional Estimates and the staged implementation of some measures announced in the 2006–07 Budget. In addition, functions and funding were transferred to the Department under the Administrative Arrangements Order of 3 December 2007.

The Department’s operating result for 2007–08 was a deficit of $11.692 million compared to an approved budgeted deficit of $13.272 million published in the 2008–09 Portfolio Budget Statements. The deficit was primarily due to changes in the timing of implementing programs and a write-down of assets. Total departmental income increased by $9.211 million or four per cent to $241.221 million, and total departmental expenses increased by $35.021 million or 16 per cent to $252.913 million. The increase reflects additional funding and activity levels for new measures and existing programs. The Department’s net assets increased by $26.621 million or 20.6 per cent to $155.830 million due to the deficit operating result and capital funding for measures.

The transfer of services to Territories and natural disaster mitigation and relief functions has significantly increased the administered revenue, expenses and assets and liabilities compared to the previous financial year.

Figure 5: Departmental income and expenses 2006–07 and 2007–08

Departmental income and expenses 2006–07 and 2007–08 

Figure 6: Administered expenses 2006–07 and 2007–08

Figure 6: Administered expenses 2006–07 and 2007–08 

Australian National Audit Office access clauses

During 2007–08, the Department had no contracts to report over the value of $100,000 that did not provide for the Auditor-General to have access to the contractor’s premises.

Exempt Contracts

There were no contracts over the value of $10,000 exempted from being published in AusTender by the Secretary of the Department on the basis that to do so would disclose exempt matters under the Freedom of Information Act 1982.

Consultancy services

A consultant is defined as an entity—whether an individual, a partnership or a corporation— engaged to provide professional, independent and expert advice or services. The key characteristics of a consultancy are that the services involve the development of an intellectual output that assists with the Department’s decision making, and that the output reflects the independent views of the service provider.

During 2007–08, 34 new consultancy contracts were entered into, involving total actual expenditure of $882,418. In addition, 15 ongoing consultancy contracts were active during the year involving total actual expenditure of $675,137.

The main categories of purposes for which consultants were engaged were:

  • reviews of processes and mechanisms
  • independent assessments, analysis, advice, and application of high level expertise, and
  • research into, studies of, and modelling of activities.

Information on expenditure on contracts and consultancies is also available on the AusTender website www.tenders.gov.au.

Further information about consultancy services appears at Appendix 5.

Advertising and market research

The Department is required to disclose expenditure made to specific types of organisations under s 311A of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918. The categories of organisations are advertising agencies, market research organisations, polling organisations, direct mail organisations and media advertising organisations. Details of payments are provided at Appendix 6.

Legal services expenditure

Paragraph 11.1(a) of the Legal Services Directions 2005, issued by the Attorney-General under the Judiciary Act 1903, requires chief executives of departments and agencies to ensure that legal services expenditure is appropriately recorded and monitored. Chief executives must also ensure that their agencies make records of their legal services expenditure for the previous financial year publicly available by 30 October in the following financial year.

The expenditure on external legal services for 2007–08 was $9.012 million. A more detailed breakdown of both internal and external legal expenditure is at Appendix 7.

Discretionary grants

Discretionary grants are payments where the portfolio minister or paying agency has discretion in determining whether a particular applicant receives funding. They may or may not impose conditions on the making of the grant.

The Department has 12 programs or areas for which it provides discretionary grants:

  • grants to Australian organisations
  • the National Community Crime Prevention Programme
  • the National Emergency Volunteer Support Fund
  • the Local Grants Scheme
  • Legal Aid for Indigenous Australians Program
  • Law and Justice Advocacy Development Program
  • Prevention, Diversion, Rehabilitation and Restorative Justice Program for Indigenous Australians
  • family violence prevention legal services for Indigenous Australians
  • services to Indian Ocean Territories
  • Secure Schools Program
  • the Safer Suburbs plan, and
  • the Family Relationship Services Program.

Purchasing

The Department’s approach to the procurement of all property and services is consistent with the requirements of the Commonwealth Procurement Guidelines. The Commonwealth Procurement Guidelines are applied to procurement activities through the Chief Executive’s Instructions and the Financial Guidance and Procedure Manual.

A financial management learning and development program was established during 2007 and includes modules on procurement and contract management as well as the Chief Executive’s Instructions, authorisations and delegations.

A procurement advice unit within the Department provides advice to staff involved in procurement activities. In addition the unit undertakes monthly quality assurance testing of procurement activities undertaken across the Department.

The procurement advice unit periodically reviews all procurement related documentation and training material to ensure consistency with the Commonwealth Procurement Guidelines and other policies that interact with procurement. As part of the most recent review the Department’s contract for service templates has been significantly improved. The Request for Tender and other procurement templates are currently being reviewed.

Assets management

The Department’s fixed assets infrastructure has increased significantly in value and complexity due to transfers of functions under the Administrative Arrangements Order of 3 December 2007. Asset management now covers more diverse and geographically dispersed property, plant and equipment.

The departmental asset base consists mainly of office fit-out, internally developed software, commercial off-the-shelf software, including the electronic document management system, information systems for managing human resources and finances, and centrally held library materials.

The administered asset base now includes the infrastructure associated with the various Territories locations. These assets bring with them responsibility for maintaining and replacing essential services equipment in isolated locations.

An asset stocktake was conducted during the year to maintain the accuracy of asset records.

Updated asset management guidance and procedures were released, as part of the financial guidance and procedure manual, during the year and the divisional asset managers were provided with training on their roles and responsibilities.


Our people

Procedures to help staff manage financial and procurement matters

Left to right: Deryk Bartlett, Legal Services and Personal Property Securities Division, Emma Kavanagh and Jennifer Buchan, Financial Services Group
Left to right: Deryk Bartlett, Legal
Services and Personal Property
Securities Division, Emma Kavanagh
and Jennifer Buchan, Financial
Services Group.

The Financial Guidance and Procedure Manual, launched online in July 2007, provides staff with a hands-on guide to Commonwealth financial and procurement procedures as well as covering all areas of financial management.

In managing a project of this magnitude, maintaining project momentum has been a critical part for Jennifer Buchan as project manager.

‘It is a sizeable project to coordinate from both content and personnel perspectives, as it involves all areas of FSG and divisional business managers contributing to the 21 sections of the manual,’ Jennifer explained.

‘What I liked about managing a project of this size was the sense of accomplishment that came out of having new procedures released every few weeks.’

Project team leader Emma Kavanagh said that the procedures affect all staff with financial or procurement related responsibilities.

‘The procedures are relevant to activities as simple as requesting payment of an account or as complex as undertaking a major procurement.’

‘This type of project work was an opportunity for me to further develop my editing skills and increase my organisational skills. It also gave me a chance to learn more about financial management and the range of activities undertaken within the Department.’

Business manager Deryk Bartlett, who commenced with the Department late in 2007, said he found the Financial Guidance and Procedure Manual which is accessible on the Department’s Intranet, a useful reference tool in performing his duties.

Every project has its challenges, and this one was no exception.

‘One of the challenges was producing a document in a short timeframe that met the expectations of key staff,’ Emma said.


Chapter 11 Human resource management

Overview

As at 30 June 2008, the Department had a total workforce of 1,554 employees, of whom 1,353 were ongoing employees. Departmental staff numbers for the past five years are shown in figure 7 and table 4.

During the year the Department negotiated a replacement collective agreement and Senior Executive Service (SES) Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs), reviewed associated human resource (HR) policies, established new industrial arrangements to comply with the new Australian Government Employment Bargaining Framework and integrated Territories and Natural Disasters staff as part of the Machinery of Government changes. We continued to enhance our workforce capability by developing strategies to attract and retain employees, continuing to develop our leadership capability and conducting a further staff survey. In response to demand, we also expanded our participation in a range of Indigenous employment initiatives and increased the frequency and scope of our in-house training programs.

Further details on important initiatives progressed during the year are outlined below.

A replacement collective agreement was negotiated and finalised in September 2007. New SES AWAs were also finalised in September 2007. Fifteen HR policies updated to reflect the new workplace agreements were finalised between October 2007 and March 2008.

The Department established new employment arrangements following the introduction of the new Australian Government Employment Bargaining Framework in February 2008, disallowing the use of AWAs. This involved developing a range of common law agreements and a determination under section 24 of the Public Service Act 1999.

The machinery of government changes, following the change of government, resulted in the Department taking on the Territories and natural disasters functions from the then Department of Transport and Regional Services. This involved the integration and induction of about 150 employees, including 85 non-APS employees on Christmas Island employed under a unique set of terms and conditions.

The Department considered and developed a number of options to improve the attraction and retention of employees. Those options included streamlining recruitment processes and establishing an Attorney-General’s Department alumnus (for former employees), and both initiatives will be launched in 2008–09. Management reporting was also improved, with greater focus on the reporting and analysis of HR data.

An open tender process was conducted to establish a panel of recruitment services providers, to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the Department’s recruitment processes. The panel will be operational early in 2008–09.

The Department conducted a further staff survey as a follow-up to the surveys in 2005 and 2006. The results revealed that the Department is more people focused and has better work practices than identified in previous surveys.

As part of the Department’s continued commitment to building staff capability, a new suite of leadership development programs were developed. These programs are aimed at potential, developing and existing leaders, and tailored to staff at APS5/6, EL1 and EL2 levels.

In conjunction with the Financial Services Group, we also continued to implement a suite of financial management learning and development programs.

The Department successfully placed three participants under the Indigenous Australian Contract Management Development Program run by the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, three participants under the Australian Public Service Commission’s (APSC’s) Indigenous Entry Level Program and one Indigenous graduate under the APSC Graduate Initiative.

The Department’s Workplace Diversity Program was reviewed during the year and a new program developed.

Improvements were made to the Department’s online performance appraisal system to make it more user friendly for staff.

Staff profile

Figure 7: Departmental staff numbers from 2003 to 2008 as at 30 June 2008

Figure 7: Departmental staff numbers from 2003 to 2008 as at 30 June 2008 

Table 4: Staffing trends 2002–03 to 2007–08
 

2002–03

2003–04

2004–05

2005–06

2006–07

2007–08

TOTAL STAFF 760 846 941 1,146 1,329 1,544
Ongoing 666 720 824 936 1,135 1,353
Non-ongoing 61 88 78 164 160 148
Irregular/intermittent/casual 33 38 39 46 34 43
Average age 39 39 38 37 36 38
Average length of service (years) n/a n/a n/a 4.2 3.7 3.7
Proportion female (%) 58.3 59.7 59 60 58.4 64.0
Proportion male (%) 41.7 40.3 41 40 41.6 36.0
Proportion part-time (%) 4.9 5.7 6.05 5 6.3 7.7
SES 62 58 63 69 80 78
EL1 and EL2 equivalents 284 311 343 449 514 608
APS 1–6 equivalents 381 439 496 582 701 858
Total, excluding casuals 727 808 902 1,100 1,295 1,501

Key: n/a not available

Staff Group Photo 

Workforce planning

In order to better equip line areas to undertake workforce planning activities, the Department initiated a number of activities, which will continue to be developed and implemented throughout 2008–09.

Activities undertaken as a part of the workforce planning process have included:

  • refining workforce metrics provided to the Executive and to business areas, including more tailored reporting and analysis
  • improving the Department’s exit survey, which has seen a 23 per cent increase in participation and more useful information
  • continuing to enhance and refine the Department’s People Development Strategy
  • developing a streamlined recruitment project to increase and strengthen candidate fields and shorten the length of recruitment processes (to be implemented in 2008–09), and
  • planning a mature-aged workers strategy.

Staffing retention and turnover

During 2007–08, the Department’s employee-initiated turnover rate was 19.4 per cent. This is based on the number of employee-initiated separations in 2007–08 (including resignation from the APS, movement to another APS agency, retirement and voluntary early cessation of a non-ongoing contract) divided by the number of staff at 30 June 2008.

However, the Department’s ongoing separation rate for 2007–08 was 7.1 per cent. This includes all ongoing separations, including terminations, redundancies, resignations and retirements, but does not include permanent transfers to other APS agencies. More than half of the Department’s ongoing separations in 2007–08 were as a result of staff moving to other parts of the APS. The Department supports the concept of the APS as a career service.

Staff recognition

The reward and recognition program is an important component of the Department’s approach to recognising and celebrating the outstanding efforts and contributions of employees and for promoting departmental values and behaviours.

The annual Secretary’s Award recognises individuals and teams who have demonstrated excellence in achieving outcomes above and beyond general expectations. Other awards for excellence are presented by the deputy secretaries and general managers.

Examples of excellence recognised during 2007–08 include:

  • the high level of dedication and professionalism demonstrated by staff in coordinating the Department’s involvement in the Northern Territory Emergency Response
  • outstanding initiative, dedication, self-motivation and professionalism by staff in compiling Australia’s Common Core Document, which forms part of Australia’s reporting obligations under international human rights treaties, and
  • outstanding dedication and focus by staff in the establishment of the Intercountry Adoption Branch to help ensure a nationally consistent and strategic approach to developing and managing intercountry adoption in Australia.

Other awards presented include the Australia Day Awards and the Academic Achievement Awards. The full list of award recipients is at Appendix 9.

Work–life balance

The Attorney-General’s Department Agreement 2007 and, where applicable, employees’ Australian Workplace Agreements and common law contracts, provide for flexible working arrangements to assist employees to balance their work and other responsibilities.

The Department’s employment conditions policies detail the following flexible working arrangements that can be accessed by staff:

  • part-time work (including guaranteed access to part-time work for a period of three years following the date of birth or adoption of a child)
  • job sharing
  • home-based work
  • flextime and other flexible working hour arrangements, and
  • flexible leave arrangements, including 14 weeks paid maternity and adoption leave, two weeks paid parental leave (for non-primary carers of a newborn or adopted child), and the option of purchasing additional leave or taking leave at half pay.

Additional policies and initiatives that support flexible working arrangements include:

  • health and wellbeing program
  • carer’s room guidelines
  • guidelines for exchange of legal staff between the Department and the Australian Government Solicitor
  • study assistance, and
  • return to work from injury or illness.

Workload survey

In accordance with requirements outlined in the Attorney-General’s Department Agreement 2004, the Department implemented a periodic workload survey as part of its commitment to achieving a work–life balance. The Workload Survey 2008 indicated that on average employee working hours are equal to the standard working week outlined in the Attorney-General’s Department Agreement 2007.

During the year the Department consulted with staff in relation to the survey’s effectiveness and as a result will investigate alternative methods for monitoring overall workloads in the future.

Workplace diversity

The Department completed a review of its existing Workplace Diversity Program and has finalised the new Workplace Diversity Program 2008 to be launched in early 2008–09. The new Workplace Diversity Program strengthens existing strategies and incorporates actions contained within the Department’s Reconciliation Action Plan, including:

  • becoming an employer of choice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, people with a disability, and people from non-English speaking backgrounds by:
    • ensuring all new agencies within the portfolio are aware of the Department’s diversity commitments and policies
    • developing guidelines for managers to support them in making reasonable adjustment to accommodate the needs of staff with a disability, and
    • better targeting recruitment by advertising employment opportunities in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander media such as the Koori Mail and the National Indigenous Times, and
  • promoting an understanding of Indigenous culture by ensuring cultural awareness training is available for all staff and is required for those staff working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

Commonwealth Disability Strategy

The Australian Government is committed to bringing about a society in which people with disability can participate fully as valued and equal citizens in the community.

In 1994, the Commonwealth Disability Strategy was introduced to provide a planning framework to help Australian Government organisations meet their obligations under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992.

Under the strategy, agencies are obliged to remove barriers that prevent people with disabilities from having access to these policies, programs and services. This means ensuring that people with disabilities have the same access to buildings, services, information, employment, education, sport and recreational activities as everyone else in the community. The reporting framework for the strategy incorporates five key roles that government may play in implementing the strategy: policy adviser, regulator, purchaser, provider and employer. Of these roles the Department reports on its role as a policy adviser in Appendix 10 and its obligations under the employer role are reported through the Australian Public Service Commission’s State of the Service report.

Throughout 2007–08, the Department continued to meet its responsibilities under the Commonwealth Disability Strategy by making reasonable adjustments to meet the needs of the approximately 1.66 per cent (as at 30 June 2008) of staff who have identified themselves as having a disability. The Department also continued to assist people with disabilities during recruitment processes, including by providing them with alternative ways in which to submit job applications.

The Department is committed to equity in employment and the elimination of harassment in the workplace. The Department’s workplace diversity program incorporates our obligations under the Commonwealth Disability Strategy and outlines actions the Department is taking to continue to meet its obligations, including by:

  • reviewing its recruitment and selection processes to ensure that diversity principles are being considered and applicants receive fair and equitable consideration
  • developing new guidelines for managers to support them in making reasonable adjustment to accommodate the needs of staff with disabilities, and
  • ensuring that training and development programs include information on relevant disability issues.

In 2007–08, there were no formal grievances relating to the Department’s obligations under the Commonwealth Disability Strategy. The Department provides mechanisms, such as the Harassment Contact Officers network, to receive feedback and grievances from existing employees and external parties.

Occupational health and safety

As a result of improved injury prevention and management strategies since 2004–05, the Department’s workers’ compensation premium for 2008–09 is 0.45 per cent of payroll, down from 0.75 per cent of payroll for 2007–08. This performance compares extremely favourably with the average premium rate for all Australian Government agencies of 1.36 per cent of payroll (see Table 5).

Table 5: Five–year premium rate comparison

Premium rates

2004–05

2005–06

2006–07

2007–08

2008–09

%

%

%

%

%

Attorney-General’s Department 1.79 1.31 1.45 0.75 0.45
All agencies 1.67 1.77 1.77 1.77 1.36

In addition, the Department received a reduction of $118,491 in the premium for 2007–08 because of its improved performance in injury management, incident reporting, risk management and safety training.

March 2007 amendments to the Occupational Health and Safety Act 1991 required employers to develop, in consultation with employees, written health and safety management arrangements. These arrangements provide a framework for managing health and safety within the workplace. During 2007–08, as required by the OH&S Act, the Department developed, implemented and revised the health and safety management arrangements, which comprise:

  • a revised occupational health and safety policy
  • new guidelines addressing the membership and operation of the Health and Safety Committee, variation of designated work groups, and appointment of health and safety representatives, and
  • new guidelines for the resolution of health and safety disputes.

The Department continued regular workplace safety inspections throughout 2007–08. Reports recommending improvements to health and safety were provided to division heads and there was continued improvement across the Department, with divisions displaying an ongoing commitment to eliminating OH&S hazards.

The number of workers’ compensation claims continued to decline during 2007–08. Five claims were accepted by Comcare in 2007–08, compared to six in 2006–07 and 16 in 2005–06. The decline in the number of workers’ compensation claims in the past three years is attributable to prevention programs such as ergonomic workstation assessments and early intervention strategies for injuries within the workplace. Non-compensable illnesses also benefited from early intervention.

Injury prevention and management activities carried out involved improvements to injury prevention, incident reporting, risk management and safety training procedures. Online incident reporting was introduced, the workstations of 492 employees were assessed, 10 health and safety representatives were appointed and trained, and 546 employees received influenza vaccinations.

Information on the Department’s OH&S performance, as required under the OH&S Act, is at Appendix 10.

Workplace agreements

Collective agreement

The Attorney-General’s Department Agreement 2004 reached its nominal expiry date on 1 August 2007. The Department made a new union collective agreement, which was lodged with the Workplace Authority and took effect on 24 September 2007. The new agreement, called the Attorney-General’s Department Agreement 2007, has a nominal expiry date of 23 July 2010.

At 30 June 2008, the Department had 1,460 employees covered by the Attorney-General’s Department Agreement 2007.

Key features of the new agreement include:

  • a 4.5 per cent per annum base salary increase in each of the three years of the agreement
  • an increase in the rate of employer superannuation contribution for employees who exercise ‘superannuation choice’ to match the rate paid for membership of the PSS Accumulation Plan
  • an increase from 12 weeks to 14 weeks paid maternity leave
  • the introduction of 14 weeks paid adoption leave
  • an increase in supporting partner leave (in the event of birth or adoption) from five days to 10 days
  • enhancement of the purchased leave scheme, which currently allows up to four weeks, to enable the purchase of up to eight weeks leave a year
  • movement from the two-tiered system (which had some Executive Level employees working under the flextime system and others working less formal flexible working hours arrangements) to a common flexible working hours arrangement for Executive Level employees
  • the option to elect to take annual leave at half pay, and
  • reversion to a credit-based personal leave arrangement for ongoing employees from the previous sick and carer’s leave arrangements, which were not credit based.

Australian Workplace Agreements

The Department renewed all SES employee Australian Workplace Agreements in September 2007. The earlier AWAs had reached their nominal expiry date on 30 June 2007. All AWAs were developed within the framework of the Department’s SES remuneration policy.

The main features of the policy include:

  • a set of principles upon which remuneration is based, including accountability, flexibility, equity, reward for excellence and encouragement of individual growth
  • a salary band for each SES classification
  • superannuation coverage under the Commonwealth Superannuation Scheme, the Public Sector Superannuation defined benefits scheme, or the Public Sector Superannuation Accumulation Plan and, for eligible employees, the option of choice of superannuation fund
  • access to a Commonwealth-leased privately plated vehicle or cash-in-lieu, and an office car park, and
  • access to salary packaging arrangements.

Key changes to the SES AWAs were the same as the changes made in the replacement collective agreement outlined above, with the exception of the change to Executive Level classification working hours arrangements, which were not applicable to the SES.

At 30 June 2008, the Department had 72 SES employees and 50 non-SES employees covered by AWAs.

Non-SES AWAs primarily cover specific casual employees and provide penalty rates for unusual hours of employment, and are used to provide additional employment conditions such as overseas posting allowances, enhanced remuneration rates for specific work or skills, or variation to normal leave conditions for non-SES employees.

Non-SES AWAs were also renewed in September 2007, involving, for non-casual employees, the same key changes that applied under the replacement collective agreement. Casual employees received a 4.5 per cent pay increase for each year of operation of the new AWAs.

Subsection 24(1) Determination

Following the introduction of the Australian Government Employment Bargaining Framework in February 2008 the Department ceased using AWAs. The Department now uses a combination of Determinations made under subsection 24 of the Public Service Act 1999 and common law agreements to settle terms and conditions of employment for employees where AWAs would have formerly been used.

The Department has made one subsection 24(1) Determination since February 2008. This Determination covers the conditions for casual employees working on the National Security Hotline who commenced work after 10 April 2008. The Determination mirrors the conditions that were formerly contained in AWAs.

It is intended that the conditions for casual National Security Hotline employees will be incorporated in the next Attorney-General’s Department collective agreement due to be finalised in 2010 and the Determination will be revoked at that time.

Common law agreements

The Department has made four common law agreements with new SES employees since February 2008. These agreements have the same content as the former SES AWAs except that they contain a different dispute settlement procedure because the Australian Industrial Relations Commission does not have jurisdiction to deal with disputes arising under common law agreements.

The Department has made six common law agreements with non-SES employees since February 2008. These agreements operate in conjunction with the Attorney-General’s Department Collective Agreement 2007 and are used for the purpose of providing additional employment conditions such as overseas posting allowances, enhanced remuneration rates for specific work or skills, or variation to normal leave conditions.

Non-salary benefits provided to employees

The Department, through its industrial agreements with employees, permits employees to flexibly package their remuneration to combine both monetary and non-monetary benefits. The key non-salary benefits an employee can choose to salary sacrifice for include:

  • a motor vehicle acquired through novated lease arrangements
  • laptop or notebook computers used primarily for business purposes
  • additional superannuation, and
  • employer-based child care.
Table 6: Salary ranges under the Attorney-General’s Department Agreement 2007, Australian Workplace Agreements, common law contracts and subsection 24(1) Determination as at 30 June 2008

Classification

Salary range under the CA ($)

Salary range under AWAs and common law contracts ($)

Subsection 24(1) Determination (NSH casual operators) ($)

SES Band 3   187,551–204,318  
SES Band 2   152,686–175,352
SES Band 1   121,474–148,808
Executive Level 2 89,299–107,300 94,208–133,133
Principal Legal Officer 89,299–107,300 107,300–181,328
Executive Level 1 77,426–94,208 88,905–121,474
Senior Legal Officer 77,426–94,208 101,500
APS Level 6 60,687–71,280 69,713
APS Level 5 56,190–59,582 56,190
APS Level 4 50,376–54,697 53,331 50,376–54,697
Legal Officer 45,200–71,280 n/a  
APS Level 3 45,200–48,783 n/a
Graduate APS 44,866–45,986 n/a
APS Level 1–2 35,767–44,886 35,767
Cadet APS (practical training) 35,066–38,753 n/a
Cadet APS (full-time study) 19,130 n/a

Key:
n/a not applicable
NSH National Security Hotline

Table 7: Salary rates for Department employees on Christmas Island and Cocos (Keeling) Islands 2007–08

Classification

Salary rates under
Christmas Island* CA ($)

Salary rates under
AWAs ($)

Salary rates under
Determinations** ($)

ASO1 36,139    
ASO2 39,758   39,758
ASO3 42,878   42,878
ASO4 47,102    
ASO5 50,460   50,460–60,000
ASO6 57,694   69,587
SOGC 63,629    
GSO2 32,413   32,413
GSO3 34,357    
GSO4 35,675
GSO5 37,769
GSO6 39,121
GSO7 41,725
GSO8 44,674
GSO9 47,604
GSO10 56,338
GSOPA4 44,675
GSOPA5 46,679
GSOPA6 48,121
GSOPA7 50,725
GSOPA8 53,674
GSOPA9 56,604
GSOPA10 65,338
DON 78,731
RN1.1 38,740
RN1.2 40,188
RN1.3 41,342
RN1.4 42,789
RN1.5 44,237
RN1.6 45,685
RN1.7 47,129   47,129
RN2.1 48,577    
RN2.2 49,543
RN2.3 50,507
RN2.4 51,346 62,327  
RN3.1 53,284    
RN3.2 54,506
RN3.3 55,727
RN3.4 56,950
RN4.1 63,458
RN4.2 68,206
RN4.3 72,946
RN5 78,371
EN1 36,722
EN2 37,450
EN3 38,638
ASEN1 41,922
ASEN2 43,851
Dental Practitioner   140,000  
Dental Therapist 85,000
Director of Nursing and Community Health 90,000
Manager IOT Health Service 100,000
Manager IOT Power Authority 85,000
Medical Officer 215,000
Medical Scientist 60,000
Nurse Manager—Cocos (Keeling) Islands IOT Health Service 70,447

* ‘CA’ refers to Christmas Island Administration Collective Agreement 2007.

** Determinations made under either the Territory of Christmas Island Administration Ordinance 1968 or the Territory of the Cocos (Keeling) Islands Administration Ordinance 1975.

Key:
ASEN Advanced Skill Enrolled Nurse
ASO Administrative Service Officer
DON Director of Nursing
EN Enrolled Nurse
GSO General Service Officer
GSOPA General Service Officer Power Authority
IOT Indian Ocean Territories
RN Registered Nurse
SOGC Senior Officer Grade C

Performance pay

Performance pay is not available to non-SES employees under the Attorney-General’s Department Agreement 2007. Access to performance pay is available to SES employees covered by an AWA or common law agreement and may be available to non-SES employees under arrangements negotiated for inclusion in an AWA or common law agreement.

For employees with access to performance pay, the Secretary may determine that an employee is entitled to a performance bonus of up to 15 per cent of their salary. Performance pay, if awarded, is available after the final performance appraisal for the year under the Program for Performance Improvement. All decisions concerning performance pay are based on achievement against agreed performance criteria.

Details of performance pay made in 2007–08 are shown in Tables 8. and 9. Tables 8 reflects payments relating to performance in 2006–07. Tables 9 reflects payments relating to performance in 2007–08. Classifications are grouped to ensure that payments to individuals can not be identified.

The aggregate performance payment made by the Department for 2006–07 was $774,650. The aggregate payment relating to performance during 2007–08 was $840,863.

Table 8: Performance payments in 2007–08 for performance in 2006–07

Classification level

Non-SES and
SES Band 1

SES Bands
2 and 3

Number of employees eligible 48 17
Number of employees receiving payment 37 17
Aggregated amount of payments $472,480 $302,170
Average bonus payment $9,843.33 $17,774.70
Range of payments $2,406–$17,836 $9,454–$23,462
Table 9: Performance payments for performance in 2007–08

Classification level

Non-SES and
SES Band 1

SES Bands
2 and 3

Number of employees eligible 56 19
Number of employees receiving payment 42 18
Aggregated amount of payments $512,424 $328,439
Average bonus payment $12,200.57 $18,246.64
Range of payments $3,570–$17,307 $8,486–$24,518

Training and development

The Department recognises that the skills and knowledge of its employees are critical to its ability to meet its objectives. The People Development Strategy provides a framework for learning and development opportunities across the range of Attorney-General’s Department generic capabilities and the Australian Public Service Commission’s Integrated Leadership System.

The People Development Strategy focused on five main development areas.

  • Management and leadership at the APS 5 to SES levels
    • continue to implement integrated leadership and management programs which target the Department’s leaders
    • continue to develop SES management and leadership
    • continue to sponsor places for staff in programs offered by organisations such as the Career Development Assessment Centre and the Australia and New Zealand School of Government
  • People management skills
    • focus on the development of people management and interpersonal skills through existing programs and by developing new programs
  • Project management
    • provide development options that support and contribute to the project work undertaken in the Department
  • Policy development
    • develop policy programs targeted to the Department’s needs
  • Writing skills
    • develop writing skills, with a focus on ministerial writing skills, and on grammar and clear writing.

As part of the People Development Strategy, a range of financial management learning and development courses have been developed. These courses aim to enhance knowledge and skill in financial management across the Department, raise awareness generally and to ensure greater accountability, reliable decision making, consistency in processes, and compliance with external and internal financial requirements.

Staff from the Territories and natural disaster mitigation functions transferred to the Department as a consequence of the AAO were provided with a comprehensive specially tailored Induction Training Program to facilitate their integration into the Department.

In 2007–08, there were 148 People Development Strategy training courses conducted (including the Financial Training courses), with 1,800 attendances.

IT training

Training in IT assists the Department’s staff to make the best use of technology. There were 2,839 attendances at the Department’s IT Training Centre in 2007–08. Training was provided on a range of IT-related topics, including desktop applications, IT security awareness, IT for new starters, electronic document and records management and web writing.

IT training was also provided to the staff from the Territories and disaster mitigation areas to support their integration into the Department in early 2008.

The Department partnered with Microsoft in a pilot project to develop an online training manual in Office OneNote for the New Starters’ course.


Our people

Bringing youth and fresh ideas into the Department

Natalie Rose, Human Resources Branch and graduate, Nick Webb
Natalie Rose, Human Resources Branch
and graduate, Nick Webb.

 

The graduate program offers the Department the opportunity to attract fresh talent. Graduates from a diverse range of disciplines bring with them new ideas, different perspectives and the latest academic thinking and research.

Nicholas Webb joined the Department as a graduate at the beginning of 2008. He sees the program as an excellent opportunity to contribute to the key priorities of the new Government.

‘I am truly enjoying my time at the Attorney-General’s Department,’ Nick commented. ‘So far I have worked in two exciting areas, public affairs and national security policy development. Both areas have given me an insight into the intricate workings of Australian society and our political system.

‘I found that graduates are held in such high regard here, and there is no shortage of opportunities for graduates to make a real contribution to the work of the Department,’ he explained.

Since the graduate program was introduced in 2000, 204 graduates have joined the Department. The program has steadily grown, with the 2008 intake of 55 graduates the largest yet.

Natalie Rose, Team Leader of the Graduates, Traineeships and Summer Clerks Team, attributes a number of factors to the success of the program.

‘We offer competitive salaries, a flexible work environment so that graduates can balance work and their personal lives, and the opportunity for graduates to have input into the selection of their work placements. Balancing these preferences with business needs can be very challenging.’

For Nick, the highlights of the program have been the diverse work placements and the training and development.

‘The department encourages a positive atmosphere and supports me in expanding my knowledge and skills,’ Nick said.

‘Seeing graduates develop throughout the program and go on to bigger and better things, makes my job very satisfying,’ Natalie added.


Chapter 12 Information and knowledge management

The Information and Knowledge Services Group (IKS) provides the Department with IT services, communication systems, electronic information services, knowledge management and library services. It also provides secure interagency communications between Australian Government and State and Territory agencies during a crisis.

IT infrastructure

The Department’s wide area network links 24 Canberra locations, the Emergency Management Australia Institute in Mount Macedon and offices in Sydney and Perth, Christmas Island, Cocos (Keeling) Islands, Norfolk Island and Jervis Bay. With the Department’s growth, the number of locations has almost doubled during the past 12 months.

In 2008, IKS introduced Microsoft Team Foundation Server to reduce the average time taken to deliver software development projects and to be more responsive to business requirements. This also builds on our success with Rapid Application Development techniques and Service-Oriented Architecture, which we introduced in 2007.

The Information Communications and Technology Branch successfully completed major upgrades and enhancements to the Department’s data network, email system, electronic data storage facilities, electronic document management system and active directory environment. This has resulted in increased performance and reliability in the Department’s ICT infrastructure.

A technology refresh of the Department’s desktop and laptop computers, standard operating environment and telephone system is scheduled for 2008–09, coinciding with the Department’s move to new offices in 2009.

Pacific ‘twinning’

Officers from IKS worked in Samoa and Tonga from 18 April to 4 May 2008 as part of a Pacific Governance Support Program sponsored by AusAID. The program’s objective was to increase the effectiveness of legal information management and research in ‘twinned’ agencies in Tonga and Samoa. The Lionel Murphy Library has been ‘twinned’ with law office libraries in the South Pacific since 1992.

Information Services Branch staff provided Word, Excel, internet and legal research training to law and justice sector employees. The team also assessed and provided advice on the record-keeping practices of the Samoan Office of the Attorney General.

Other key outcomes

IKS delivers more than 100 projects a year to support the Department’s program areas. For example, this year IKS services and infrastructure contributed directly to the management of natural disaster responses, family crisis centres, the Equine Influenza Inquiry and the Clarke Inquiry into the case of Dr Mohamed Haneef, the National Security Hotline, international prisoner exchange, grants management, and a range of interagency collaboration exercises, including the Australian Disaster Information Network (AusDIN).

Government communications in a crisis

Six projects were funded in the 2006–07 Budget to improve government communications during a crisis. The Information and Knowledge Services Group is responsible for the following projects:

  • the Secure Gateway Project, which will improve interconnectivity between networks for secure communications during a crisis by delivering secure email and voice communication links between secure government networks, and
  • the National Security Website Failover Infrastructure Project, which will improve the resilience of the National Security website in the event of failures in the Australian internet infrastructure.

Our people

AGIS—32 years in service and better than ever

Karyn Gladwish, Library Services, Information Services Group
Karyn Gladwish, Library Services,
Information and Knowledge Services Group.

In March 2008, the Secretary, Robert Cornall, marked the latest milestone for the Attorney-General’s Information Service: the redevelopment of the premier law indexing and abstracting service into a comprehensive and integrated online database.

Karyn Gladwish, Library Services Director, provided the vision and strategic direction for the redevelopment project.

‘The AGIS database has continued to expand and now contains more than 126,000 records. We are excited that for the first time a fully integrated service is available for staff from their desktops.’

‘I came on board in 1982 and in this time I have seen AGIS grow to become an essential service used by a wide range of people, including lawyers, academics, students and librarians. What’s more, it is continuing to grow and improve.’

When AGIS first began in 1975 it indexed an average of 60 articles each fortnight. Since then AGIS has seen extraordinary growth and today that average is 250. AGIS comprehensively indexes more than 140 journals from Australia, New Zealand and the Asia-Pacific region, and selectively indexes for Australian content, as well as interest from a range of international law and related journals.

Karyn received the Australian Law Librarian of the Year Award in September 2007 in recognition of her involvement in the development of AGIS, and furthering the law library profession and making legal information more accessible.

AGIS has become one of the great success stories of the Department. Once a purely legal indexing service, AGIS now also covers emergency management, information technology, social policy, knowledge management, terrorism, and classification and security issues; providing a one-stop shop for research.


Chapter 13 Social equity impacts

Social justice

In pursuing its mission of achieving a just and secure society, the Department is working on an extensive social justice agenda. This agenda is founded on the principles of access and equity and the rights of all citizens to live in a just and secure society. It accords with the Charter of public service in a culturally diverse society.

A key responsibility of the Department is the maintenance and development of a federal system of justice that serves individuals, families, business and the community. The Department is undertaking numerous initiatives to progress particular social justice objectives, which are documented in the performance reports section of this report. The objective of promoting social justice more generally is supported by many of the programs and activities undertaken by the Department.

Rights for people with disabilities

The Department (together with other departments and the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission) has worked on a range of projects that will enhance the rights of people with disability, provide greater access to services and facilities and assist in gaining better access to employment and educational opportunities. For example, the Department (together with the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government) has overseen the independent review into the efficiency and effectiveness of Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport. These Standards, which have been in operation for more than five years, set out minimum accessibility requirements that public transport operators need to meet in accordance with a staged compliance timetable.

The Department has also worked with the Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, industry and the disability sector to finalise an approach to Disability Standards for Access to Premises. Once finalised, the Standards will provide greater certainty to the building and property industries on the level of access they are required to provide for people with disabilities.

Those projects will make a significant positive impact on the rights of people with disability to access essential community services and infrastructure.

Family law

Services under the Family Relationship Services Program, including Family Relationship Centres, are required to provide accessible services to all families who need them. Applicants for funding are required to show how they will make their services accessible to Indigenous and culturally diverse communities and, where relevant, how they will deliver services to regional and rural communities in the areas covered by them. The Department also assists by providing information and training to service providers on accessible service delivery as part of its training and program development forums.

Family Relationship Centres with significant Indigenous communities in their area receive additional funding to employ Indigenous advisers. In November 2007 and March 2008, the Department organised meetings of the Indigenous advisers to enable them to discuss service delivery issues and share strategies for ensuring Indigenous families are able to access the centres.

The Family Relationship Advice Line provides an alternative access to services. The Advice Line provides information and advice and, since July 2007, telephone dispute resolution. It is particularly useful for people in rural and remote locations, in Indigenous communities (particularly through its Indigenous staff), and people overseas or in correctional institutions. It is also very useful for people who, for other reasons, have difficulty accessing face-to-face services, such as those who need to use the National Relay Service or interpreter services.

Indigenous, culturally diverse and rural communities are also able to access information about relationship issues and services through Family Relationships Online. This website has information designed for Indigenous audiences and for culturally and linguistically diverse audiences, with materials available in 15 community languages.

In the 2007–08 Budget, the Government provided $700,000 in additional funding to the Family Court of Western Australia for an Indigenous liaison pilot program, which is improving the delivery of family law services and access to justice for Indigenous families in Western Australia. Two consultants have now been employed and provide information and assistance on cultural issues to judicial and court staff, assist in the provision of dispute resolution services, and consult with Indigenous communities and organisations to help with issues of family breakdown.

The Family Law Amendment (De Facto Financial Matters and Other Measures) Bill 2008 will apply equally to same-sex and heterosexual de facto couples. This initiative addresses issues of possible discrimination against same-sex couples relating to property issues on relationship breakdown.

Intercountry adoption

The Intercountry Adoption Strategic Plan, available on the Department’s website, outlines the strategic approach Australia takes to managing new and existing intercountry adoption programs. This approach focuses on the best interests of the child and ensures that the principles and standards set out in the Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption are upheld.

To improve communication between the public and the Australian Government about our work, and to provide greater access to information on intercountry adoption issues more generally, the Department launched a comprehensive Intercountry Adoption website and is working towards the development of a national intercountry adoption database.

The Attorney-General established a National Peak Overseas Adoption Support Group in March 2008. This Group will enable the Government to hear directly from representatives of the intercountry adoption community.

The Department will continue with implementing the accepted recommendations of the Overseas Adoption in Australia report.

National Community Crime Prevention Programme

The National Community Crime Prevention Programme (2004–05 to 2007–08) provided practical support to grassroots projects that aimed to enhance community safety and crime prevention by preventing or reducing crime and antisocial behaviour, improving community safety and security, and reducing the fear of crime.

The fifth and final round of National Community Crime Prevention Programme grants were awarded by the then Minister for Justice and Customs in September 2007. Seventy projects, targeting one or more of the following target areas, were approved:

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
  • ethnic communities
  • people with disabilities
  • elderly people
  • community groups
  • children (0–12 years)
  • youth (13–18 years)
  • families
  • homeless people, and
  • victims of crime.

This round of grants also introduced a Small Grants Programme. This enabled community organisations to apply for grants of up to $5,000 to purchase small items of equipment, or undertake small-scale projects to help prevent crime. The number of projects funded was 417 at a total cost of more than $1.7 million.

Safer Suburbs plan

A $15 million commitment to the Safer Suburbs plan was announced during the 2007 election campaign. The plan will address crime and antisocial behaviour by funding important community safety measures such as closed circuit television systems and improved street lighting.

During 2007–08, the Minister for Home Affairs announced funding totalling $9.5 million to 10 state and local governments.

Federal parole system and international transfer of prisoners scheme

The federal parole system and international transfer of prisoners scheme support the rehabilitation of prisoners and their reintegration into the community by ensuring that they are supervised while in custody and on release, and that they have access to relevant programs and family and social networks.

Improving crisis management

In 2007–08, the Attorney-General’s Department continued to implement projects under the National Action Plan to Build on Social Cohesion, Harmony and Security, which is led by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship. These projects contributed to ongoing productive and mutually beneficial relationships between Muslim communities and the Commonwealth and State and Territory Governments, including on national security issues.

The Attorney-General’s Department held the inaugural National Security for a Diverse Community Forum in August 2007; established a password-protected website to continue the conversation between Muslim communities and the Government in September 2007; held a National Security and Crisis Management Planning workshop in Adelaide in November 2007; and funded three Muslim community representatives to attend the annual Security in Government conference.

Inclusive emergency management with culturally and linguistically diverse communities

During 2007–08, Emergency Management Australia continued to implement its four-year program on inclusive emergency management, as a component of the Department of Immigration and Citizenship’s National Action Plan to Build on Social Cohesion, Harmony and Security. EMA remains focused on enhancing the abilities of culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities to prepare for, respond to and recover from incidents, crises and other emergencies in Australia. An integral part of the program has been the development and strengthening of mutual trust within and between communities and with the Government.

The Guidelines for Emergency Management in Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Communities were reviewed and published as part of the Emergency Management manual series. The Guidelines were launched at the Diversity in Emergency Services Conference in Melbourne on 1 November 2007 by EMA’s Director-General.

Seven jurisdictional working groups, comprising representatives from the CALD community and emergency management sectors, have developed community project plans. These projects aim to enhance the resilience of communities to the effects of disasters by increasing the engagement between the two sectors.

A web-based school resource for teachers and students in years 8–10 has been developed following national consultations. It comprises a teacher guide, lesson plans and comprehensive curriculum links. It is designed to enhance students’ understanding of emergency management and their role in building cohesive and resilient communities. It is available on EMA’s schools website www.ema.gov.au/schools.

Workshops to enhance the cultural diversity of volunteers in emergency management have been held in Mount Macedon, Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide and Perth. Volunteer managers and coordinators were invited to identify strategies to increase the recruitment and retention of volunteers from CALD backgrounds. Participants have been offered support and mentoring to assist them to implement some of these strategies within their respective organisations.

National Forum on Emergency Warnings to the Community

Established in 2006, the National Forum on Emergency Warnings to the Community is a three-year project to bring key stakeholders together to build partnerships, share information and consider new technologies and best practice approaches in the dissemination of emergency warnings to the community. The Forum is one of the 12 projects under the Government Communications during a Crisis project.

The National Forum on Emergency Warnings to the Community aims to:

  • identify, link and share strategies for engaging and educating the public on community warnings systems
  • promote the development of emergency warning systems which are accessible to people with disability, and people from CALD or geographically diverse communities, and
  • identify issues impeding the delivery of emergency warnings to target audiences.

Access to justice

Access to justice is fundamental to the recognition of every Australian’s social, cultural, economic and political rights. The Department administers a range of legal and financial assistance programs that provide disadvantaged Australians with access to representation, advice and information to address legal issues.

These programs seek to remove barriers to justice such as socioeconomic disadvantage and geographical remoteness. The Department also provides financial assistance through legal aid and financial assistance schemes to those experiencing hardship in relation to matters involving Commonwealth law. Those programs and services seek to promote equal access to justice for all parties before the law.

Legal aid program and financial assistance

The Department administers the Commonwealth legal aid program through which the Australian Government funds legal aid commissions in each State and Territory. Legal aid provides a more equitable justice system by enabling disadvantaged Australians to access legal assistance and representation in the court system in matters arising under Commonwealth law. In matters involving Commonwealth law where legal aid is not available, we administer 21 statutory and six non-statutory financial assistance schemes for people needing help.

Regional Innovations Program for Legal Services

The Regional Innovations Program for Legal Services was implemented during 2007–08 to assist people in regional, rural and remote Australia to access legal services. Through this program, the Government is funding legal aid commissions in New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania.

The funding focuses on the delivery of capacity building initiatives that better enable disadvantaged people, in particular those facing family breakdown, to access local legal aid services. These initiatives include providing assistance to country firms to employ lawyers and supporting country graduates to complete practical legal training in regional Australia.

Community legal services

As part of the Australian Government’s contribution to legal aid in Australia, the Department administers the Commonwealth Community Legal Services program, which supports and funds 127 community legal centres.

Community legal centres are community-based, independent, and non-profit organisations that provide a range of assistance, such as advice, referrals, information, advocacy and legal representation to people on low incomes and those with special needs. The community legal centres provide assistance on legal and related matters, such as domestic violence, financial assistance, and housing and accommodation.

The program provides funding for generalist as well as specialist community legal services. Specialist services include those that provide assistance for women (including Indigenous and rural women), youth and children in areas covered by environment law, the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 and welfare rights.

Victorian Court Information and Welfare Network

We provide funding and support for the Victorian Court Information and Welfare Network to operate a non-legal court support service throughout Victoria and Melbourne.

A network of approximately 300 volunteers offer assistance to people attending court by providing information on court procedures and processes, moral support, and referral services.

National Pro Bono Resource Centre

The Department provides funding and support for the National Pro Bono Resource Centre. The Centre is an independent, non-profit organisation that promotes pro bono legal services to the legal profession, community organisations and the general public. It provides support to lawyers and law firms to assist them to provide high quality pro bono legal services and works with the profession and the community sector to match services with the clients and groups most in need of assistance. This includes working closely with community legal centres to broker and encourage pro bono partnerships with private law firms.

State-type services to the Indian Ocean Territories

The Australian Government provides State-type services to the Indian Ocean Territories (Christmas Island and Cocos (Keeling) Islands) consistent with those of comparable communities in Western Australia. This administered program ensures that these remote and isolated communities are afforded the same benefits as their mainland counterparts.

Indigenous-specific programs and services

The Department is committed to working with Indigenous people to support safer communities. We administer a range of programs and services that address sexual abuse, family violence, petrol sniffing, substance abuse and community violence.

In order to create safer communities, the Department’s programs seek to assist people who have become victims of harm and to provide alternative opportunities for people identified as being at risk of causing harm.

Northern Territory Emergency Response

In 2007, the Australian Government implemented a package of measures known as the Northern Territory Emergency Response (NTER) designed to protect children from abuse, as reported in the Little Children are Sacred report, and build the basis for a better future for Indigenous Australians. The NTER legislation is the responsibility of the Minister for Indigenous Affairs, The Hon Jenny Macklin MP. The Department has been working closely with other Australian Government agencies and the Northern Territory Government to coordinate the development and implementation of the various measures included in the NTER.

Interpreter services

To assist Indigenous people who have contact with the criminal justice system, additional funding has been used to expand legal aid services ($2 million) and the Northern Territory Aboriginal Interpreter Service ($0.562 million). Indigenous community members have been recruited and trained as interpreters for the service, thus providing employment opportunities for local Indigenous people.

In addition, there have been translations of Australian law into the main languages of the Northern Territory. The translated material has enabled Indigenous Australians in traditional communities to increase their knowledge of and confidence in accessing the justice system. The initiative has also resulted in greater awareness of their rights and obligations.

Night patrols

The Department has provided $12.4 million to ensure that night patrol services are established in each of the 73 NTER identified communities.

The night patrol services play an important role in establishing safer communities by assisting people at risk of either causing harm, or becoming the victims of harm, to break the cycle of violence and crime in communities. The night patrols do not replace police and do not have policing powers.

The night patrols provide basic services, such as:

  • safe transportation of individuals to a place where their immediate needs can be addressed
  • referral of individuals to other services
  • diversion of individuals from contact with the criminal justice system, and
  • intervention to prevent disorder in communities.

The night patrols are run by community members and provide employment opportunities for local Indigenous people.

Restricting the availability of pornography

The Little Children are Sacred report found that pornography posed a risk to children. The Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and Other Legislation Amendment (Northern Territory National Emergency Response and Other Measures) Act 2007 amended the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995 to ban the possession and control of prohibited material in prescribed areas and the supply of prohibited material in and to those areas.

A sunset clause has been included in the Classification Act so that the bans will cease to be in effect after five years.

In addition to developing restrictions on the availability of pornography, the Department has worked with the Department of Family, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs on educative materials to raise awareness about prohibited material in the Northern Territory.

The Australian Government established an independent review body to assess which parts of the NTER are working and which parts need to be changed. The review will be conducted by the Northern Territory Emergency Response Review Board and will present its findings to the Government in late 2008.

Indigenous legal aid program

Indigenous legal aid in Indigenous-specific courts

The Department provided one-off funding to increase the capacity of Indigenous legal aid service providers to deliver services at Indigenous-specific courts. Community courts, including circle sentencing, Nunga, Murri and bush courts, are an expanding feature of all Australian jurisdictions.

Trevorrow case

The Department supported a stolen generations test case that promoted the recognition of Indigenous Australians’ social, cultural, economic, legal and political rights through litigation. The judgment in favour of Bruce Trevorrow, in the matter of Trevorrow v State of South Australia in relation to his unlawful removal from his family as a child, may also benefit those Indigenous South Australians who were removed from their families in similar situations.

Advocacy

A number of national meetings of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services were funded by the Law and Justice Advocacy Development (LJAD) Program. These meetings advocated the advancement of the legal rights of Indigenous Australians and supported a national approach to discussing law and justice issues impacting on Indigenous Australians and service delivery.

The LJAD Program provided funding to Indigenous legal aid service providers to employ an officer or lawyer to undertake law reform and to progress the recommendations made in the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody.

National legal advocacy training for field officers employed by Indigenous legal aid service providers was funded by the LJAD Program. The program also provides annual funding to publish the Indigenous Law Bulletin and the Australian Indigenous Law Reporter to provide access to current, relevant and useful information to raise awareness and facilitate the advancement of the legal rights of Indigenous Australians.

Petrol sniffing strategy

The Department continues to be involved in the Australian Government’s Petrol Sniffing Strategy, to address the negative effects of substance abuse and petrol sniffing in Indigenous communities.

This is a comprehensive approach that includes education, justice, community support and health initiatives. Our role in the Strategy is to support alternative activities for youth and to strengthen communities. This is currently occurring in the Central Australia region (Northern Territory, Western Australia, and South Australia), the East Kimberley region of Western Australia and the Mornington Island region of Queensland.

Restorative justice projects

Restorative justice initiatives aim to involve families, communities, victims and offenders in developing mechanisms for early dispute resolution as alternatives to conventional sentencing procedures.

Those initiatives have the potential to build greater community ownership of crime and safety issues and to develop a greater understanding of the causes of crime among community members. This approach strengthens the ability of Indigenous community members to provide sustainable responses to antisocial behaviour, through a community-owned justice framework that is locally driven and supported by the justice sector.

The Wiltanendi Restorative Justice Project, in northern metropolitan Adelaide, is a good example of restorative justice initiatives. A restorative justice officer was employed to coordinate restorative justice initiatives, including by piloting a dispute resolution program aimed at youth substance abuse issues and providing a sensitive cultural link between Indigenous communities, justice-based agencies, the families of the youth involved and the Wiltanendi program.

Family violence prevention legal services

Through the expansion of service delivery area and program types, Indigenous Australians now have improved access to programs that reduce family violence, including sexual assault, in remote and rural locations.

In 2007–08 there were 31 operational Family Violence Prevention Legal Services units. The units are located predominantly in regional and remote areas of Australia. Each unit aims to provide culturally inclusive assistance to Indigenous adults and children who are victims/survivors of family violence and sexual assault or abuse.

The units function primarily to provide legal assistance, casework, counselling and court support. Units also provide an information support and referral service. In some instances, services are delivered by outreach, with units visiting remote communities; for example, as part of regular court circuits by magistrates.

Community Legal Education

During 2007–08, Community Legal Education (CLE) was funded to operate in 10 of the 31 Family Violence Prevention Legal Service locations, and 13 workers provided CLE services to 10 remote and rural locations. Two additional workers will start in the CLE early in the 2008–09 financial year.

CLE aims to lower the level of family violence in Indigenous communities by providing legal education adapted to suit local communities, educating and mentoring Indigenous youth and women, and encouraging community members to speak out about family violence. The program is mostly locally delivered, with the majority of workers being Indigenous Australians.

Early Intervention and Prevention Programs

In 2007–08, Early Intervention and Prevention Programs were funded in an additional 13 Family Violence Prevention Legal Service locations, bringing the total to 13. The programs aim to:

  • break the cycle of family violence by focusing on the prevention of self-harm, suicide and substance abuse
  • strengthen community resolve against family violence
  • encourage youth to achieve personal goals
  • address elder abuse, and
  • stop family violence recidivism.

The Sisters Day Out program is an example of a successful initiative running in Victoria. It aims to address family violence in Indigenous communities by providing entertainment for children and various beauty treatments for women, such as massage and hair styling, in an informal setting. Family violence is discussed with the women in a way that seeks to break the silence and shame associated with it and to promote their self-confidence and empowerment.

Another initiative is the Sister Girls program which runs in Kempsey, New South Wales. The program is for high school girls aged 12 to 16 years and aims to build self-esteem and provide a space for friendships to develop.

Indigenous policy

The draft National Indigenous Law and Justice Framework

The unacceptable level of Indigenous disadvantage, which is directly influenced by adverse engagement with the justice system, is being addressed through the development of the draft National Indigenous Law and Justice Framework.

The framework will provide a national foundation for a combined government response to the many law and justice issues facing Indigenous communities. Those responses include reducing the over representation of Indigenous people in the criminal justice system and enhancing community safety. Of particular concern is the recent growth in the incarceration rates of Indigenous women, which have significant negative impacts in the communities concerned, particularly in the areas of child rearing and social cohesion.

The framework will also will revisit the recommendations made in the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody.

The Council of Australian Governments Working Group

In March 2008, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) asked the Working Group on Indigenous Reform to bring forward a sustainable reform proposal on basic protective security from violence for Indigenous parents and children. The reform proposals are part of the Government’s Closing the Gap agenda, which focuses on addressing gaps between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians in relation to life expectancy, child mortality, education and employment outcomes.

The Department has been leading the development of content for the proposal in consultation with State and Territory governments and relevant Australian Government agencies, and it will be tabled in the second half of 2008.

Native title

Native title is critical to the agenda of Closing the Gap in opportunities and outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. The resolution of native title issues enhances spiritual wellbeing and cultural identity, provides recognition of people’s ongoing connection to land, and facilitates reconciliation with the wider community. More particularly, native title processes create tangible economic development opportunities. Native title rights and interests enable Indigenous people to negotiate with governments and proponents of activities on land to achieve practical benefits and real outcomes. The Native Title Act 1993, the Indigenous Land Fund and Social Justice Package were the three components of the Keating Government’s response to the Mabo (No 2) decision.

Emergency management for remote Indigenous communities

EMA continues to facilitate Australian Government support for the implementation of the National Emergency Management Strategy for Remote Indigenous Communities: Keeping Our Mob Safe.

The strategy was launched by the Attorney-General in July 2007 at Bidyadanga, an Indigenous community south of Broome in Western Australia. The Bidyadanga community demonstrates the improvements in community safety that can result from the strategy’s coordinated and collaborative approach to emergency management at local, State, Territory and national levels.

The strategy recognises not only that communities are remote and located in areas more likely to suffer natural disasters but also that they may be dealing with a wide range of urgent issues, such as low rates of literacy and numeracy, health and medical problems, unemployment, substance abuse and family violence. Because communities need to focus attention and resources on those urgent issues, their capacity to prepare for, respond to and recover from emergencies engendered by natural or man-made hazards and disasters is often limited.

The Australian Government is working in partnership with remote Indigenous communities, State, Territory and local governments to address those higher priority issues and enhance the capacity and capability of communities more broadly.

An example of this approach is the Kiwirrkurra Flood Documentary project being undertaken by EMA in partnership with the Fire and Emergency Services Authority of Western Australia. The documentary will visually document and report on the experiences of community members involved in the evacuation and recovery of the Kiwirrkurra community in March 2001.

The strategy is available online on the EMA website at www.ema.gov.au.

Chapter 14 Ecologically sustainable development

The Department is required to report on a number of matters under section 516A of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. These matters relate to the manner in which the Department’s activities accord with the principles of ecologically sustainable development and its outcomes contribute to ESD, and the effect of the Department’s activities on the environment.

The Department’s activities are consistent with the first of the ecologically sustainable development principles that ‘decision making processes should effectively integrate both long-term and short-term economic, environmental, social and equitable considerations’. Its activities have less direct relevance to the remaining principles. (For more information on these principles, see the Department of the Environment and Water Resources website at www.environment.gov.au)

A number of strategies have been implemented by the Department to address environmental management issues, including

  • educating staff in ways to reduce energy consumption
  • recycling paper and toner cartridges
  • promoting double sided printing and photocopying where possible
  • turning equipment off after hours
  • downrating fluorescent tubes, and
  • buying energy efficient equipment.

The Department’s electronic document management system minimises the need to print and retain paper copies of most documents. This reduces the use of paper, toner and other consumables.

The Department uses LCD computer monitors that use less power and create a lower heat load, providing savings in air-conditioning costs.

An environmental management system has been developed identifying ways to improve the environmental performance of buildings occupied by the Department. Despite the age of some of the buildings currently leased by the Department and difficulty in improving their environmental performance, the Department has piloted a number of initiatives and encouraged building owners to improve energy performance.

Any new leases entered into by the Department are subject to the Government’s energy policy. The Department recently occupied a 4,600 square metre purpose built premise in Symonston that was designed to a 4.5 star energy rating for the base building and fit-out. A new 20,000 square metre building at 3–5 National Circuit, Barton, will be completed in April 2009. The lease for this building was the first Australian Government green lease to be negotiated.

The coordination activities and leadership role of Emergency Management Australia significantly contributed to minimising the environmental and economic effects of disasters, including natural disasters, and to the recovery of individuals, communities and businesses affected by disasters.

Phosphate mining on Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean Territories is a major part of the Island’s economy and has been the principal industry and employer for more than 100 years. Phosphate Resources Limited has held the current mining lease since 1990. Under this lease they are required to pay a conservation levy and to comply with an environmental management plan for their mining sites.

The levy, collected by the Department, is used to fund the work undertaken by Parks Australia North in rehabilitating mining sites on Christmas Island. All rehabilitation work is reviewed by the Christmas Island Rain Forest Rehabilitation Group, chaired by the Department and made up of representatives from both Australian and State Government agencies and industry groups. This group has the aim of ensuring that best practice rain forest rehabilitation is undertaken on Christmas Island.

The Attorney-General’s Department participated in Earth Hour 2008 on Saturday 29 March in an effort to send a powerful message about the need to fight climate change head on. This activity raised awareness among our staff about ways they can assist the fight against global warming.

The Robert Garran Offices on Saturday 29 March before the start of Earth Hour 2008 

The Robert Garran Offices on Saturday 29 March before the start of Earth Hour 2008.

The Robert Garran Offices after the lights had been turned off