Go to top of page

Commencing in the APS

This chapter considers four aspects related to Indigenous employees’ experiences of commencing in the APS:

  • their employment status immediately prior to joining the APS
  • the type of employment process used to recruit them
  • the classification level at which they were engaged
  • whether they were required to leave home to take up a position in the APS.

Employment status prior to joining the APS

Indigenous employees were most likely to enter the APS from the private sector, from study, or from employment in state/territory or local government (see Figure 1):

  • just over one-third of Indigenous employees entered the APS from the private sector (36%)
  • just under one-fifth were students (19%) or employed in state/territory or local government (18%) prior to joining the APS.

Figure 1: Employment status prior to joining the APS

Base: All respondents

2005 2009
Employed in the private sector 31.17 35.51
Student 21.11 18.86
Employed in State or local government public sector 16.66 17.79
Unemployed (looking for work) 12.48 10.60
Employed by an Indigenous community organisation 10.97 7.56
Employed in the Commonwealth public sector (non-APS) 4.42 5.71
Employed by a non-government organisation (NGO)/charity 2.99 5.37
Not in the labour force (not looking for work) 3.93 4.38
Self-employed 2.19 2.69
Employed under the CDEP program 3.34 2.45
Other 0.678 0.63

Figure 1 also shows that the employment status of Indigenous employees prior to joining the APS was broadly similar in 2009 and 2005. The main change involved a slightly higher likelihood that Indigenous employees were previously employed in the private sector in 2009 (36% in 2009 compared with 31% in 2005), and a slightly lower likelihood that they were previously employed in an Indigenous community organisation (8% in 2009 compared with 11% in 2005).

The employment status of Indigenous employees prior to joining the APS showed some variation based on the classification level of the employee:

  • Employees at the EL1 level and above were less likely to have been unemployed prior to joining the APS (5%) and more likely to have been employed in state/territory or local government (23%) than employees at more junior classification levels (11% and 17% respectively).
  • Employees at the APS 5 level and above were more likely to have been students prior to joining the APS (24%) than APS 1–4 level employees (13%), but less likely than apprentices/trainees/cadets/graduates (53%).

The survey results suggest that private sector organisations and educational institutions are two key areas where recruitment efforts for Indigenous employees should be focussed. For recruitment to more senior levels in the APS, targeting recruitment from the private sector and state/territory or local governments may be beneficial.

Processes used to recruit Indigenous Australians into the APS

Although most Indigenous employees were recruited through Indigenous-specific recruitment processes, there was a strong increase in the proportion of Indigenous employees recruited through general recruitment processes amongst staff who entered at higher classification levels.

Figure 2 shows that 54% of Indigenous employees were recruited to the APS through a general recruitment process, while 37% were recruited through an Indigenous-specific recruitment process. This is a very similar recruitment profile to that shown in the 2005 Indigenous Census.

Figure 2: Method of recruitment to the APS

Base: All respondents

The chart shows that a general recruitment process is the most common

A general recruitment process An Indigenous-specific recruitment process Not sure Other
2009 54.12 37.12 5.36 3.40
2005 52.73 37.38 3.97 5.92

Indigenous employees who entered the APS at higher classification levels were less likely to have been recruited through Indigenous-specific recruitment processes than those who entered the APS at lower levels. Increasing the use of specific recruitment processes at higher levels may contribute to increased senior representation in the APS. Figure 3 shows that:

  • the proportion of Indigenous employees recruited through Indigenous-specific recruitment processes varied from 66% for those who entered the APS at apprentices/ trainees/cadets/graduates level to 0% for those who entered at the EL2/SES level
  • the proportion of Indigenous employees who were recruited through general recruitment rounds varied from 29% for those who entered the APS at the apprentices/trainees/ cadets/graduates level to 100% for those who entered at the EL2/SES level.

Figure 3: Method of recruitment to the APS by classification level on joining the APS

Base: All respondents

Chart shows how different recruitment methods work at different levels

An Indigenous-specific recruitment process A general recruitment process Not sure Other
Training classifications 65.73 28.81 4.58 0.88
APS 1-2 35.29 56.49 4.57 3.64
APS 3-4 24.93 67.84 3.28 3.95
APS 5-6 20.46 71.62 2.95 4.98
EL 1 19.46 77.46 0 3.08
EL 2/SES 0 100 0 0

Classification level on joining the APS

The survey showed that the vast majority of Indigenous employees (86%) entered the APS at the APS 4 level or below. Indigenous employees were most likely to enter the APS at the APS 1–2 level (36%), APS 3–4 level (26%) or the trainee/graduate level (23%).

Between 2005 and 2009, the proportion of Indigenous employees who entered the APS at the APS 1–2 level declined from 44% in 2005 to 36% in 2009, while the share who entered at the APS 3–4 level increased from 19% to 26% over the same period. This may in part be due to the general decline in the number of APS 1–2 level positions across the APS.

Figure 4: Classification level on joining the APS

Base: All respondents

Training classifications APS 1-2 APS 3-4 APS 5-6 EL 1 EL 2/SES
2009 23.29 36.39 25.85 7.87 1.45 0.77
2005 25.43 44.30 18.48 6.66 0.92 0.54

The level at which Indigenous employees entered the APS varied based on their educational qualifications and whether they were located inside or outside the ACT:

  • Indigenous employees with graduate qualifications were more likely to enter the APS as a cadet or graduate (31%) and less likely to enter at the trainee level (5%) or the APS 1–2 level (18%) than those without graduate qualifications.
  • Indigenous employees who were based in the ACT at the time of the survey were more likely to have entered the APS as a cadet or as a graduate (20% compared with 5% located outside the ACT) and less likely to have entered at the APS 1–2 level (24% compared with 40% located outside the ACT).

Examples of the comments provided by employees in relation to commencing in the APS include:

Entering the APS through the Indigenous Graduate Program gave me an opportunity I would not normally have been able to achieve.

I would like to see more opportunities available for mature-age Aboriginal people to enter the APS, through mature-age traineeships for example.

There needs to be a targeted employment strategy particularly for agencies to recruit Indigenous people at all levels, Apprentices, Cadets and Graduates.

The recruiting, inducting and management of the 12 month Indigenous traineeship was poorly done. There was a lack of communication of the processes and requirements.

Requirement to leave home location to take up a position in the APS

Just under one-quarter of Indigenous employees (23%) reported having had to leave their home location or extended family to take up their position with the APS, down slightly from 25% in 2005. More than half of those who entered the APS at graduate (68%) or cadet (52%) levels have had to move away from their home base.

The proportion of Indigenous employees at other classifications who had to leave their extended family varied from 16% of those who entered as trainees/apprentices to 66% of those who entered as EL2/SES employees.

Indigenous staff employed in the ACT were much more likely to have had to leave their home location or extended family to take up their APS position (40%) than those located outside the ACT (18%).

Key chapter findings

The way that Indigenous employees enter the APS has remained fairly stable between 2005 and 2009:

  • Indigenous employees were most likely to have entered the APS from the private sector, although study and the state/territory or local government public sectors were also key pathways.
  • Employees who entered the APS at higher levels were more likely to have been previously employed in state/territory or local government and less likely to have been unemployed than those who entered at more junior levels.
  • While just over half of Indigenous employees entered the APS through general recruitment processes, almost two-fifths were recruited through Indigenous-specific processes.
  • Those who entered the APS at higher classification levels were less likely to have been recruited through Indigenous-specific recruitment processes than those entering at lower levels.
  • The majority of Indigenous employees entered the APS at the APS 4 level or below. Employees with graduate qualifications and those located in the ACT were more likely to have entered the APS as a cadet or graduate than other employees.
  • Just under one-quarter of Indigenous employees had to leave their home or extended family to take up employment with the APS.
  • Those who entered the APS at higher levels or who were located in the ACT were more likely to have had to leave their home or extended family to take up their position.
  • It appears that the higher the classification, the less likely it is that there are relevant positions outside the ACT. Agencies with a presence in regional, rural or remote Australia may be in a position to consider addressing this issue as well as how to improve recruitment outcomes outside of the ACT more generally; for example, only 5% of Indigenous employees outside of the ACT had entered the APS as a graduate.