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Commissioner's review

The Australian Public Service (APS) has again in 2015–16 demonstrated that it is discharging its responsibilities capably. Many public servants at all levels embrace the challenge of doing their best to serve the Australian community. They do this in a professional and efficient manner against a backdrop of constantly evolving expectations, changing priorities and increasing levels of complexity.

Results from the 2016 employee census show that high levels of employee engagement continue across the APS. Engagement allows the APS to respond well to current challenges, including reducing red tape, improving efficiency, and engaging with innovation and digital transformation.

Employees with new enterprise agreements tend to show higher levels of engagement than employees in agencies still bargaining.

The APS can improve performance. During 2015–16, a review of APS workforce management identified a number of areas in which the APS can improve workforce practices.1 Driving high performance and increasing workforce flexibility are key priorities.

An inclusive and diverse workforce is a healthy and productive workforce. The APS generally does well in this area but we can do better. In 2015–16, three strategies were launched aimed at improving our gender equality practices, Indigenous employment participation rates, and employment of people with disability. 2

The years 2017 and beyond present a number of additional areas that will require attention. Some of these are addressed in this report, including ongoing reforms to workforce management, and upgrading performance and talent management capabilities.

Finally, the assessment of the state of the service is underpinned by comprehensive data collected each year on the APS workforce. This year marks the 50th anniversary of collecting APS employment data.

Much has changed in the APS since 1966. The final chapter of this report explores some of these changes. For example, in 1966, 15 per cent of ongoing APS employees were based in the Australian Capital Territory, compared to 39 per cent in 2016. Women accounted for a little over 23 per cent of the permanent workforce in 1966 compared to 58 per cent now. The data from 1966 records 1,619 women retiring because of marriage.

That the APS has such rich data to draw upon is a testament to the forethought and commitment of many members of the APS over 50 years. I thank those members who have contributed to this robust data source.

The Honourable John Lloyd PSM
Australian Public Service Commissioner
28 November 2016


1 Australian Public Service Workforce Management Contestability Review 2015, Unlocking potential: If not us, who? If not now, when? Australian Public Service Commission, Canberra

2 Australian Public Service Commission 2016, Balancing the future: the Australian Public Service Gender Equality Strategy 2016–19; Australian Public Service Commission 2015, Commonwealth Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Employment Strategy; Australian Public Service Commission 2016, As one: making it happen—APS Disability Employment Strategy 2016–19.