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 About the department

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What we do

We are the central policy and coordinating department of the Attorney-General's portfolio. In 2012–13 the department focused on the following priority areas:

  • supporting the Attorney-General as the First Law Officer of the Commonwealth
  • adapting law and law enforcement in the digital economy
  • promoting equity and efficiency to improve access to justice
  • protecting people's rights
  • combating serious and organised crime and corruption
  • protecting national security and building resilient communities.

The department continues to work closely and cooperatively with its portfolio agencies, other government agencies, advisory bodies, businesses, professional associations, community organisations and citizens in achieving its objectives. Further, it continues to strengthen its relationship with citizens, its capacity to provide strategic policy, the efficiency, quality and agility of its services, and its ability to look forward and proactively position itself to address the challenges facing the nation in coming years.


The free DisasterWatch phone application, developed by the department, aims to improve communication with, and education of, people about the risk of disaster.

The DisasterWatch app contains news and information about disaster events in Australia via direct feeds from authoritative sources nationally. The aim of the app is to provide a basic, reliable service, with consistent, national, all-hazard coverage to increase risk awareness and help users make informed decisions.

DisasterWatch has been downloaded and installed on nearly 30,000 devices and now includes 40 feeds from 25 agencies. A survey conducted by the department indicated that over 50 per cent of users use the app all the time or regularly and around 70 per cent of users think the app is effective in providing information during emergency events.

Improvements have been made to the app on a regular basis since it was launched in response to user feedback. The most significant update for the app was in late September 2012 when Twitter feeds were added, reflecting greater use of Twitter as a means of broadcasting information.

Organisational, outcome and program structure

The Australian Government seeks to achieve benefits for the community (outcomes) primarily through programs delivered by agencies. The department's outcome is:

  • Outcome 1 — A just and secure society through the maintenance and improvement of Australia's law and justice framework and its national security and emergency management system.

The department's programs are the primary vehicle by which we achieve our outcome. This year, the department's program structure was amended by the addition of a new program — Program 1.8 — following the establishment of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. The department's programs are:

  • Program 1.1: Attorney-General's Department Operating Expenses— Civil Justice and Legal Services
  • Program 1.2: Attorney-General's Department Operating Expenses — National Security and Criminal Justice
  • Program 1.3: Justice Services
  • Program 1.4: Family Relationships
  • Program 1.5: Indigenous Law and Justice
  • Program 1.6: National Security and Criminal Justice
  • Program 1.7: Australian Government Disaster Financial Support Payments
  • Program 1.8: Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

The department is structured into three groups to deliver these programs effectively and efficiently against strategic aims and broader portfolio objectives:

  • Civil Justice and Legal Services Group: responsible for access to justice, social inclusion policies and programs, civil law, and international law and human rights.
  • National Security and Criminal Justice Group: responsible for national security resilience policy and capability development, emergency management and disaster relief, national security law and policy, criminal justice, and international crime cooperation.
  • Strategic Policy and Coordination Group: responsible for whole-of-department priorities and coordination, finance and property services, constitutional policy development and legal advice, freedom of information, business planning and governance, human resources, and information technology.

The department's outcomes, programs and performance targets are set out each year in the Portfolio Budget Statements and the Portfolio Additional Estimates Statements. This Annual Report responds directly to the performance measures set out in these documents, giving a clear indication of the department's intended and actual performance for the year.

Figure 1.1: Organisational structure at 30 June 2013

Figure 1.1: Organisational structure at 30 June 2013. Secretary is Roger Wilkins AO. Deputy Secretary for Justice and Legal Services Group is David Fredericks. Deputy Secretary for Strategic Policy and Coordination Group is Elizabeth Kelly. Deputy Secretary for National Security and Criminal Justice Group is Tony Sheehan. 

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