Communique No 5 - 20 September 2017

Communique No 5 - 20 September 2017

PM&C Secretaries Equality and Diversity Council
Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet

1. The Secretaries Equality and Diversity Council met in September 2017 to consider Australian Public Service workplace responses to Domestic and Family Violence.

2. The Council recognises that Domestic and Family Violence (DFV) is a workplace issue, with both victims and perpetrators present within the Australian Public Service (APS).

  • The Council also recognise that DFV is a crime that impacts women at a significantly higher rate than men.

3. The Balancing the Future: APS Gender Equality Strategy 2016-2019 outlines the need for agencies to develop clear policies relating to DFV. The Council’s discussions focused on progress and lessons learned through implementation of DFV policies across the public service.

4. Secretaries shared areas in which DFV policies had been beneficial to staff and noted that it was likely that staff members seeking support for these issues represented only the ‘tip of the iceberg’ of those impacted. Council members noted:

  • The importance of seeking appropriate advice before taking action, to safeguard victims from retaliatory actions after seeking help.
  • The complexity of measuring the success of workplace responses to DFV.
  • The behavioural consequence of DFV for victims (i.e. being withdrawn and not wishing to engage with colleagues or being regularly absent from the workplace) can be misinterpreted as performance issues or a lack of interpersonal skills and commitment.

Council members also shared experiences of responding to DFV when the victim and accused perpetrator were both employed in the same agency.

5. Deputy Secretary Roxanne Kelley updated the Council on work to respond to DFV within the Department of Defence and Australia’s armed forces.

  • Defence’s DFV responses have been developed as part of a broader cultural change program designed to reset staff understanding of respectful and acceptable behaviours.
  • Defence staff are encouraged to take a supportive and empathetic approach to responding to staff impacted by DFV, and to report suspected DFV offences.

6. The Council agreed that APS workplace responses to DFV could be advanced to provide a more nuanced approach to engaging with staff who use or may use violence.

  • At present, APS DFV policies provide guidance on engaging with accused perpetrators when they are involved in the judicial system.
  • The Council is clear that domestic and family violence is an inexcusable offence, which should never be trivialised.
  • The Council discussed the deep and engrained (often gendered) behavioural roots of this issue, and agreed that there was scope to consider additional early intervention initiatives to support behaviour change.

7. The impact of DFV on APS staff who directly or indirectly witness DFV incidents was also discussed.

  • Council members agreed that the Working Group should consider how an existing protocol for staff operating in challenging environments could be adapted to ensure that staff are supported appropriately.

8. In concluding their discussions on this matter, the Council agreed that as leaders, they play an essential role in demonstrating and setting expectations about respectful workplace behaviours.

9. The Council reflected on the broad range of equality and diversity matters that had been considered since the Council’s inception.

  • It was agreed that the Council would discuss the impact of these initiatives and their interdependencies at a future meeting.

10. The Council agreed to adopt the Law Council of Australia’s National Model Gender Equitable Briefing Policy. Adopting the policy includes setting targets for Commonwealth agencies briefing women barristers and is consistent with the representation goals for women in the public service noted within the Balancing the Future: APS Gender Equality Strategy 2016‑19.

11. As a final order of business, the Council endorsed in principle the design of an Indigenous Talent Council. The Indigenous Talent Council will consult with other talent council pilots to gain an insight into issues involved in talent development initiatives. The Indigenous Talent Council will create opportunities for a pipeline of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander APS leaders, by:

  • acknowledging and valuing the unique work styles and strengths of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders
  • building on the success of the Australian Public Service Commission’s talent development programs for leaders.

The Indigenous Talent Council will ready participants to progress into Senior Executive Service roles across the APS.