A message from the APS Commissioner
The Australian Public Service, through its 104 agencies, and more than 170,000 staff, undertakes diverse work which affects all Australians.
The foundation for this, and the requirements of our jobs – what we do, and how we do it – is set out in law, especially the Public Service Act and the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act. As public servants, we serve the Government, the Parliament and the Australian people. The way we do this must be in keeping with the APS Values and the APS Code of Conduct.
As intended under the Public Service Act, this State of the Service Report contributes to the transparency of the APS. It draws on a range of sources, especially the APS Employee Census and the Agencies Survey. We are committed to balance in this report – showing what we are doing well, and where we need to improve.
Australian Public Service Commissioner Dr Gordon de Brouwer
Image: Australian Public Service Commission
This report covers inquiries and other key issues for the APS over the past year, and how we are responding to them. Whether it is agencies considering the findings of major reviews, like the Robodebt Royal Commission, or an individual employee reflecting on a wrong call, what matters is that the APS is a workplace where people can provide frank, evidence-based advice, and change course when needed.
While I will focus here on some key issues relating to the people of the APS, I am pleased that the report also includes content on the work of the APS – the context we operate in, some of the big policy initiatives that will affect how we do things in future and some excellent stories of how agencies are delivering important services by working closely with partners in other sectors and the community.
It is encouraging to see that engagement remains high, with 76% of staff feeling that the work they do gives them a sense of accomplishment (2023 APS Employee Census). APS employee perceptions relating to role and purpose are impressive, with 92% agreeing that they understand how their role contributes to achieving an outcome for the Australian public, and 84% agreeing that they believe strongly in the purpose and objectives of the APS (2023 APS Employee Census).
These positive sentiments are consistent with the responses of staff to APS Reform initiatives including the work on stewardship, where more than 1,500 submissions were received from staff and around 90% of respondents confirmed that they do see themselves as stewards in their workplace. For these staff, stewardship means taking care of the APS for the long-term and future generations, maintaining knowledge and responsible management.
Yet there are negative aspects of our workplaces that must be addressed, including unacceptable behaviours. In 2023, 10.4% of respondents to the APS Employee Census indicated they had been subjected to harassment or bullying in the workplace in the last 12 months, up from 9.7% in 2022. Reported rates of perceived harassment or bullying are higher for some APS agencies, and this is shown in a new agency benchmarking section in this report. We must have a culture of zero tolerance for any form of unacceptable behaviour in the APS, and work together to bring this about.
It has been an important year for policies relating to First Nations, people with disability, and women in the APS, with a number of new initiatives being introduced. In the past year we have gained greater insights into APS staff who identify as LGBTQIA+, or consider themselves to be neurodivergent, through the APS Employee Census and the valued contributions of staff-led networks.
APS employment data tells us that, at 30 June 2023, 24% of APS employees were born outside Australia. This is comparable with the Australian workforce, yet we know that greater representation of employees with diverse backgrounds is needed at the senior levels of the APS. Secretaries Board is overseeing a new Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Employment Strategy that will provide practical ways to increase representation of CALD people at all levels of the APS and foster inclusive workplaces that provide opportunities for all. The strategy is being developed with extensive consultation. It is essential, not just so that the APS represents the Australian people in their entirety, but so that the richness in backgrounds brings diversity of insight and experience in how we do our jobs.
Consistent with the Government’s APS Reform agenda, there is detailed information in this report about how our Senior Executive Service leaders are performing. In the past year, the focus on SES behaviours has continued to deepen, as well as on the results they achieve.
According to the APS Employee Census over the last three years, areas of strength for our SES include contributing to the strategic direction for the agency and APS, and clearly articulating the direction and priorities for a work area. Critical areas requiring improvement are for SES officers to work well as a team within and between agencies, and to communicate effectively with each other and with other employees. This year agencies will publish their APS Employee Census results along with action plans to tackle the issues identified.
The COVID-19 pandemic, and other recent challenges, have shown us that we are at our best when we support each other. For those of you currently serving in the APS, please take the future of the APS personally and consider the impact you want to have, as well as how you can help others to achieve what they are trying to do.
For those who may be considering joining the APS, it is an exciting time to do so. Take a close look, with more than 239 job roles in 596 locations and growing opportunities to work flexibly and remotely, a rewarding APS career has never been more achievable. All are welcome, bring who you are and what you know, to your workplace.
I would like to acknowledge the significant contribution of Mr Peter Woolcott AO, who was APS Commissioner until 10 May 2023. Peter’s achievements during his five-year tenure include overseeing the surge reserve during the COVID-19 pandemic, delivering the first APS Workforce Strategy, strengthening talent management of senior APS officers, and launching the APS Academy, the Professions Model and capability reviews.
I am honoured to have been appointed Commissioner from 11 May 2023. My vision over the next five years will be to deliver a world-leading service for Government and the Parliament, an APS that is a great place to work with rewarding careers for our people, and an unwavering focus on integrity and capability which are so essential for public trust. Across the APS we each have a role to play. I am immensely proud of public servants, their deep commitment to serving our community and the contribution they make. The APSC looks forward to supporting them over the coming years.
Dr Gordon de Brouwer PSM
Explore the report
The Executive summary covers how the Australian
Public Service is delivering on its legislative mandate,
repositioning itself as a model employer, shaping a
culture with integrity at its core, working with
partners to identify and respond to needs and
aspirations around the country.