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The geographic distribution of the APS

APS employees work in diverse geographical locations. There are national and regional offices across the country and a small number of employees are based overseas. This permits the delivery of services where they are needed most, the implementation of policies where they

are most relevant and the sustainability of services to the public.

Figure 7.1 shows the changing distribution of the APS workforce between the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) and other Australian states and territories. Over the past decade there has been a trend increase in the share of the workforce employed in the ACT. This has levelled out in the past two years at about 40%.

Figure 7.1 Distribution of the APS workforce, 2003 to 2013

Source: APSED

At June 2013, there were 167,257 APS employees, with 60.9% (101,904) located outside the ACT. Of the states and territories, New South Wales (NSW) had the highest number of employees (31,347; 18.7%), followed by Victoria (Vic) (26,737; 16.0%) and Queensland (QLD) (18,038; 10.8%). South Australia (SA) had 9,830 (5.9%) employees followed by Western Australia (WA) (7,628; 4.6%), Tasmania (Tas) (4,238; 2.5%) and Northern Territory (NT) (2,628; 1.6%). A total of 1,458 (0.9%) APS employees were working overseas. Table 7.1 shows the location of the APS workforce according to the GCCSA boundaries. As can be seen, outside of Canberra, the highest proportion of employees were located in Melbourne (23,074; 13.8%) followed closely by Sydney (21,692; 13.0%).

ABS GCCSA boundaries">
Table 7.1 Location of the APS workforce based on ABS GCCSA boundaries, 20134
City/region APS employees Percentage of total APS
Source: APSED
Canberra 65,069 38.9
Sydney 21,692 13.0
Regional NSW 9,939 5.9
Melbourne 23,074 13.8
Regional Vic 3,663 2.2
Brisbane 12,213 7.3
Regional QLD 5,825 3.5
Adelaide 9,420 5.6
Regional SA 410 0.2
Perth 6,500 3.9
Regional WA 1,128 0.7
Hobart 3,649 2.2
Regional Tas 589 0.4
Darwin 2,133 1.3
Regional NT 495 0.3
Overseas 1,458 0.9

Remoteness of APS workplaces

One other way to define the location of APS employees is through the remoteness of their location to major cities. ASGS remoteness areas divide each state and territory into several regions on the basis of their relative access to services.5 Table 7.2 shows the distribution of the APS workforce according to ABS remoteness areas boundaries.

ABS remoteness areas boundaries in 2013">
Table 7.2 Location of the APS workforce based on ABS remoteness areas boundaries, 2013
Region Cities Inner regional Outer regional Remote Very remote Overseas
Source: APSED
Total APS (at 30 June) 144,131 14,004 6,317 586 760 1,458

Figure 7.2 shows the location of the APS workforce across Australia. Fifty-eight agencies (55.8%, covering 86.2% of the total APS workforce) employ all personnel in major cities. Fifteen agencies (14.4%) had employees in very remote areas of Australia, including the Department of Immigration and Citizenship; Department of Human Services (DHS); and the Torres Strait Regional Authority. Another 14 agencies (13.4%) had APS employees in remote locations, including Aboriginal Hostels Limited; Australian Customs and Border Protection Service; and DHS.


Figure 7.2 Location of the APS workforce, 2012–13

Source: APSED

Department of Human Services—a department that reaches all Australians

DHS touches the lives of most Australians and in 2012–13 delivered nearly $150 billion in payments on behalf of government. To achieve this significant level of activity, staff help Australians all day, every day, through online and self-service capabilities, smart centres and through front line service centres.

As at 30 June 2013 services were being delivered through 598 service centres as well as regular visiting services in 1,264 locations, many of which are in regional and remote areas where permanent offices are not accessible by customers.

One way DHS delivers these services is through Australian Government Mobile Service Centres that have staff travelling the country to regional and rural areas. The teams are equipped with tailored services to meet the specific needs of each community and are regularly used to help communities affected by natural disasters. DHS also uses remote servicing teams to travel to the remotest parts of our country to visit small communities where it is not possible to access service centres.

With such a significant capability for supporting all Australians, it is no surprise that more than 85% of staff are located outside of the ACT. This compares to 61% for the APS as a whole.


4 Data included in this table is based on ABS GCCSA definitions of area and may differ from other published data on states and territories due to some postcodes that overlap state and territory borders.

5 Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australian Statistical Geography Standard, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, (2011), http://www.abs.gov.au.

6 Figure compiled using geocoding of APSED postcode data as latitude and longitude. Postcodes by their nature may cover very large areas of country, especially in remote areas. As a result, the locations of public servants represented in this map are approximations only.

Last reviewed: 
29 March 2018