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People management

The Department of Veterans' Affairs (DVA) supports managers and staff with a full range of people management services to achieve DVA's purpose.

Workforce planning

Since 2017, the Department has been implementing an ambitious agenda of veteran-centric reform to transform the delivery of services to the veteran community and the way in which we operate. In recognition of this transformation, significant work was undertaken to create the DVA Workforce Strategy 2018–2023.

The strategy is updated biannually to ensure that DVA is continually working towards attracting, retaining and developing a workforce that is capable of delivering high-quality and connected services to all generations of veterans and their families and the wider veteran community.

To effectively support the Department's long-term operational objectives, the Workforce Strategy summarises what we are doing now, what our next priorities are, and how we measure our progress.

The strategy defines five key themes:

  • Our people, our processes
  • Building our future
  • High performing DVA
  • Inclusive, valued and innovative
  • Capable and empowered

All workforce-related initiatives, policies, strategies and actions are reflected under one of the key themes.

The Department's effectiveness in attracting, retaining and developing our workforce is measured in the annual performance statements.

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Staff feedback

The Department listens to feedback provided by its people through the Australian Public Service (APS) State of the Service employee census, organisational health checks and cultural assessments. The contextual feedback is linked with other workforce data to build a robust picture of DVA's current state, identify priorities and actions, and measure our progress over time.

The results of the employee census are shared with staff and used in developing branch action plans. Staff are encouraged to elaborate on the results, and to partner with their senior management teams to find ways to further improve positive findings or to address concerns.

In 2018, DVA staff members' participation in the employee census increased by 5 percentage points to 74 per cent, and for the first time included our contracted workforce.

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Workforce profile

At 30 June 2018, DVA had a total of 1,885 employees, a decrease compared with 1,938 at 30 June 2017. Non-ongoing employees made up 10.8 per cent of DVA's total workforce at 30 June 2018, an increase from 8.3 per cent at 30 June 2017. Detailed staffing statistics are in Appendix A.

In 2017–18, the turnover rate of ongoing employees was 7.6 per cent, a decrease from 10.5 per cent in 2016–17. Table 8 shows the reasons for commencements and cessations among ongoing and non-ongoing employees in 2017–18.

Table 8: Employee commencements and cessations 2017–18
Employment type Commencements Cessations
APS = Australian Public Service
Ongoing Promoted within APS 12 Promoted or transferred within APS 61
Transferred within APS 47 Died 1
Changed from non-ongoing to ongoing 8 Dismissed/annulled 2
Joined APS 34 Accepted voluntary redundancy 35
Appointed as statutory office holder 1 Accepted involuntary redundancy 2
    Resigned or retired 132
Total 102 Total 233
Non-ongoing   140   101
All   242   334

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Employment arrangements

All employee remuneration and benefits are provided under the DVA Enterprise Agreement 2015–18, individual flexibility agreements, or determinations under section 24(1) of the Public Service Act 1999. DVA does not have any Australian workplace agreements in place.

The DVA Enterprise Agreement 2015–18 came into effect on 13 January 2016. The nominal date of expiry is three years from the commencement date.

The enterprise agreement contains provisions allowing the Secretary and an employee to make an individual flexibility agreement varying the effect of the terms of the enterprise agreement. At 30 June 2018, DVA had in place 25 individual flexibility agreements providing enhanced individual remuneration or benefits.

DVA also had in place 31 determinations made under section 24(1) of the Public Service Act delivering remuneration and conditions for Senior Executive Service (SES) employees.

Information on the salaries available to staff is in Appendix A. Performance pay is not available to DVA employees.

Non-salary benefits provided to SES employees and a small number of high-performing employees may include parking facilities at the workplace or an allowance in lieu of $1,550 per year, and airline lounge membership. Medical Officers have access to up to five days paid leave per year to undertake professional development activities, and are able to claim up to $4,500 per year reimbursement for costs associated with their professional development.

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Learning and development

The Department is committed to developing its workforce to be capable and empowered to deliver on DVA's objectives, now and in the future. The Department's approach is defined in the Learning and Development Strategy, which focuses on four key learning and development areas:

  • Leadership — DVA's leaders are focused on the wellbeing of veterans and their families, value people, promote a culture of respect and positivity, have shared and common goals, and demonstrate inspiring and brave leadership
  • Experience — 70 per cent of capability building happens in the workplace through the experience of day-to-day tasks, challenges and opportunities
  • Social — 20 per cent of capability building happens in social settings through coaching, mentoring, networks and collaboration
  • Education — 10 per cent of capability building happens through attending structured courses and programs, and reading or listening to online lectures, podcasts or other educational sources.

Leadership is targeted through the Leadership Pathways Program and the Leadership Talent Management Program. Pilot programs undertaken in 2017–18 included the Talent Management Program pilot (and subsequent Executive Level 2 Talent Management Program), and the Leading Transformation pilot.

Experience is targeted through on-the-job tasks and problem solving, appropriate delegations, stretch assignments, opportunities to supervise, participation in transformation groups and activities, and our Intra-Agency Network Program.

Social learning is targeted through the Performance Feedback Scheme, job shadowing, opportunities to work with role models (including our formal Mentoring Program and one-on-one coaching initiatives), and our updated Induction Program that aims to build trust and a sense of belonging in our new starters. In 2018, we are trialling a new program that uses neuroscience to help improve engagement and motivation through meaningful conversations between managers and staff.

Education is targeted through structured activities. The DVA Enterprise Agreement 2015–18 allows employees access to at least five days of structured education activities per year. New courses in 2017–18 included the client induction program (Serve), and workshops on building and leading high-performance teams, mental health first aid, digital transformation, and raising awareness of domestic and family violence. Other key courses were delivered on understanding and applying legislation; systems and processes; claims and case management; health policies and frameworks; and professional development.

The Department evaluates the effectiveness of our learning and development strategies through evaluation surveys, the APS employee census, and the Performance Feedback Scheme. These evaluation methods help DVA to target its strategies to secure the skills and knowledge required and ensure that learnings are applied in the workplace.

Figure 4 summarises the Department's expenditure on learning and development over the past five years.

Figure 4: Expenditure on learning and development 2013–14 to 2017–18

This figure shows expenditure on learning and development 2013–14 to 2017–18.

Note: Expenditure is based on a combination of face-to-face and online learning opportunities.

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The Department's Graduate Program is a structured, 11-month development program designed to give graduates exposure to the broad range of important work that the Department undertakes. The program prepares graduates for successful careers within the APS.

The program is based in Canberra and provides networking opportunities to encourage collaboration and excellence within the Department and across government. Those activities are complemented by training and on-the-job development which ensures that graduates acquire practical skills in a supportive and challenging environment.

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The Department is committed to reflecting the diversity of the Australian community in its workforce and building an inclusive culture in which employee backgrounds, skills and views enrich our working environment and quality of work.


The DVA Diversity Strategy 2018–23 was developed in 2017–18 and will be updated biannually to ensure that DVA is a workplace that is inclusive, values diversity and innovates.

The strategy identifies five key areas of focus:

  • Gender equality
  • Disability and carers
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
  • Culturally and linguistically diverse
  • Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer/questioning and allies.

A dedicated Diversity Officer drives diversity initiatives, with the support of the Diversity Champion, the Indigenous Champion, and the Cultural and Linguistic Champion. The Diversity and Inclusion Staff Network was established in early 2018 to support the implementation of the Diversity Strategy.

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The Department's activities to promote diversity in the workplace in 2017–18 included:

  • offering an annual program of cultural awareness training for all staff
  • participating in government initiatives for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, such as
    • the APS Indigenous Employees Staff Network and an Australian Public Service Commission (APSC) Memorandum of understanding in relation to funding for the APS Indigenous Employment Programs 2016–2019, relating to Turning Up the Volume on Indigenous Employment 2017–18
    • the APSC's Indigenous Graduate Recruitment Program, the Indigenous Mentoring Program, the Indigenous Apprenticeships Program, Jawun, and excELerate
  • attracting, supporting and developing staff with disability, through the application of the APS RecruitAbility scheme to all advertised positions, provision of accessible workplaces and membership of the Australian Network on Disability
  • hosting events to promote awareness and understanding of the importance of diversity within the workplace, on occasions such as International Women's Day, Harmony Day, Reconciliation Week, NAIDOC Week, the International Day of People with Disability, White Ribbon Day, Wear It Purple Day, and the International Day against Homophobia, Biphobia, Intersexism and Transphobia
  • maintaining corporate memberships of Diversity Council Australia and Pride in Diversity.

All actions of Galumbany 2017–18, the Reconciliation Action Plan, were implemented. On 30 June 2018, the Department had 22 ongoing staff members and one non-ongoing staff member(1.2 per cent of total staff) who identified as Indigenous, which was similar to the 2016–17 result of 29 ongoing staff members and two non-ongoing Indigenous staff members (1.6 per cent of total staff).

The Department also continued to implement its Gender Equality Action Plan 2017–19. On 30 June 2018, 63 per cent of staff identified as female and 37 per cent as male, similar to the 2016–17 result of 62 per cent female and 38 per cent male.

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