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The low rate of employee disclosure in relation to diversity status continues to be an issue for the APS. Of the data provided by agencies to the APS Employment Database (APSED) at the end of June 2013, Indigenous status was not available for 23.3% (38,979) of all employees and disability status was not available for 30% (50,135).2 This leaves a large gap in the available APS workforce diversity data.

The provision of some diversity status information by APS employees to their agency is voluntary. Consequently, as with any large voluntary data collection, APSED tends to under-represent the number of Indigenous Australians and people with disability. To improve the collection of diversity data from employees, amendments to the Australian Public Service Commissioner's Directions from 1 July 2013 require agencies to ask all employees for diversity information while providing a ‘choose not to give this information’ option. It is expected that these amendments will improve the quality of diversity data.

In the 2013 APS employee census (employee census), 2,630 respondents identified as Indigenous, representing 2.6% of those who responded to the question, compared with 2.3% reported in agencies' human resource (HR) systems. The majority of Indigenous census respondents (80%) reported they had disclosed this information to their agency, while 7% chose not to inform their agency, 3% reported they had never been asked for this information, 4% said no for another reason and 6% were unsure whether they had disclosed the information.

Of the 6,869 employee census respondents who identified as having some form of disability (6.8% of those who responded to this question, compared with 3.3% in agencies' HR systems), 53% reported they had disclosed this information to their agency, 15% chose not to inform their agency and 13% indicated they had never been asked for the information.

The higher numbers of APS employees identifying as either Indigenous or with disability in the employee census suggests that the information collected through agency HR systems continues to underestimate actual representation. The changes to data collection will ensure the information in agency HR systems is more complete, but for some employees disclosing this information will remain an individual and personal decision.


2 Each year APS agencies provide workforce data, including diversity data, to APSED. Once an employee's data is provided to APSED, it is stored permanently unless the employee subsequently chooses to remove it. If the employee moves to another agency that has not provided this information to APSED, the previous data is retained in APSED.

Last reviewed: 
29 March 2018