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Annual Report 2007–2008 » Chapter 3: The portfolio

Executive Summary

Part one

The portfolio

Changes to the portfolio

New Ministerial arrangements

With the change in government we welcomed two new Ministers and a Parliamentary Secretary with responsibilities for this portfolio:

Administrative Arrangements Order

Significant changes to the portfolio arose from the Administrative Arrangements Order (AAO) of 3 December 2007, revised on 25 January 2008.

Two agencies joined FaHCSIA’s portfolio from the former Employment and Workplace Relations portfolio: Indigenous Business Australia and the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency. The Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS) and responsibility for Family Impact Statements were transferred from FaHCSIA to the portfolio of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. FaHCSIA gained responsibility for the Disability Support Pension, which is included under Output Group 2.2—Support for people with disability; and the Community Development Employment Projects (CDEP) program, which is included as part of Output Group 1.2—Services for Indigenous Australians.

Most of FaHCSIA’s programs and functions relating to early childhood policy and child care policy and programs were transferred to the new portfolio of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations. This includes the whole of the former Output Group 3.3—Child care support, as well as a number of other functions across Outcome 3.

The transferred early childhood and child care functions include: Child Care Benefit; Jobs, Education and Training Child Care Fee Assistance; Child Care Tax Rebate; Child Care Management System; Child Care Support Program; National Child Care Accreditation Council; Australian Government Accreditation Review Council; Australian Early Development Index; Home Interaction Program; Support for Child Care Specific Purpose Payment and Children’s Services Local Government Area.

The majority of youth programs and policy functions have also been transferred to the portfolio of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations. These include income support policies and programs. FaHCSIA retained Reconnect and the Newly Arrived Youth Support Services programs, which are included under Output Group 2.4—Addressing youth homelessness.

The youth functions that were transferred include: the Source website, the Transition to Independent Living Allowance, Mentor Marketplace, the National Youth Affairs Research Program, the National Youth Roundtable, the Ship for World Youth Program, YouthLinx and the Youth Bureau.

Table 1.2 below shows the functions transferred from the former Department of Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs to other departments.

Table 1.2  Outcomes / functions transferred from the former Department of Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs
Outcomes / functions Gaining agency / department
The Australian Institute of Family Studies. The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.
Early childhood and child care programs and policy functions under Output Group 3.3 and other functions across Outcome 3. Programs and functions that have transferred include: Child Care Benefit; Jobs, Education and Training Child Care Fee Assistance; Child Care Tax Rebate; Child Care Management System; Child Care Support Program; National Child Care Accreditation Council; Australian Government Accreditation Review Council; Australian Early Development Index; Home Interaction Program; Support for Child Care Specific Purpose Payment; and Children’s Services Local Government Area. The Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR).
Youth programs and policy functions under Output Group 2.4, including: the Source website, the Transition to Independent Living Allowance, Mentor Marketplace, the National Youth Affairs Research Program, the National Youth Roundtable, the Ship for World Youth Program, YouthLinx and the Youth Bureau. DEEWR.

Table 1.3 below shows the functions transferred to the Department of Families, Housing Community Services and Indigenous Affairs from other departments.

Table 1.3  Outcomes / functions transferred to the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs
Outcomes / functions Former Agency / department transferred from
Indigenous Business Australia. The former Department of Employment and Workplace Relations (DEWR).
Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency. The former DEWR.
Disability Support Pension. Transferred to FaHCSIA Output Group 2.2—Support for people with disability, from the former DEWR, from Outcome 1: Efficient and effective labour market assistance, Output Group 1.1—Working age payments.
Community Development and Employment Projects. Transferred to FaHCSIA Output Group 1.2—Services for Indigenous Australians from the former DEWR, Outcome 3: Increased workforce participation, Output Group 3.2—Labour market strategies.

FaHCSIA Executive

FaHCSIA Executive

Dr Jeff Harmer, Secretary

Dr Jeff Harmer, SecretaryJeff Harmer was appointed Secretary of the Department of Family and Community Services in October 2004. Following the election in November 2007 and subsequent to machinery of government changes, the Department was renamed the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA). He was previously Secretary of the Department of Education, Science and Training, and before that Managing Director of the Health Insurance Commission (now Medicare Australia). He has held a range of high‑level policy advising positions in the Australian Government.

As Secretary, Jeff is responsible for the administration and the corporate and strategic directions of the Department and portfolio. He provides senior policy counsel on major and sensitive policy issues to the portfolio Ministers and Parliamentary Secretary.

Jeff represents the Department in a variety of government, industry and business sector forums. Through these, he develops and maintains high‑level relationships with the Department’s key stakeholders. Jeff sits on the boards of the Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth, and the Melbourne Institute Advisory Board. He is also a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Management and the Institute of Public Administration Australia.

Jeff Harmer’s review of 2007–08 can be found in this report.

Glenys Beauchamp, Deputy Secretary

Glenys Beauchamp, Deputy SecretaryGlenys Beauchamp was appointed Deputy Secretary in FaHCSIA in January 2006. In addition to assisting the Secretary with the directions and outcomes for the Department, she has responsibility for outcomes covering families, including child support reforms and welfare payments reform; women; early childhood; disability and carer issues; mental health and community programs.

Glenys commenced in FaHCSIA at the end of 2002, after holding a number of Senior Executive positions in the ACT Public Service. Since that time, she has oversighted a number of functions in the Department. She is also a member of the Australian Institute of Family Studies Advisory Board and the Australian Statistics Advisory Committee.

‘The 2007–08 financial year was a time of substantial change and reform for the Department. The year began with the Department taking the lead on the Northern Territory Emergency Response and with most areas in the Department providing input into implementing the response. After the Federal Election in November 2007, the change of government required us to move quickly to implement the Government’s key election commitments, and focus on major areas of reform, such as Commonwealth–state relations, the social inclusion agenda and a range of other key policy themes.

‘There has not been much time for reflection for many of us over the past 12 months, but the Department can be very proud of its achievements and this is a great complement to all staff who have risen to the challenge.’

Geoff Leeper, Deputy Secretary

Geoff Leeper, Deputy SecretaryGeoff Leeper joined the Department as Deputy Secretary in January 2007. Prior to that time, he was Deputy Secretary in the Department of Human Services (2005–07), and Deputy Chief Executive Officer in Medicare Australia (2001–05).

Geoff assists the Secretary in managing the Department, with special focus on Housing, the Indigenous Remote Services Delivery, and Legal and Compliance Groups. He is the Chair of the Risk Assessment and Audit Committee and is the Commonwealth Director on the Board of the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute.

‘A key focus for the Department in 2007–08 was working with the incoming Government to ensure that the Department positioned itself quickly to provide the support needed for its two new Ministers. This required significant briefing and coordination across the Department and has also presented some challenges, such as keeping up with the significant increases in the levels of ministerial correspondence.

‘The Department has also worked hard to support the arrangements set out by COAG. Both the Housing Group and the Indigenous Remote Services Delivery Group have been heavily involved in the first six months of 2008 through the COAG Housing Working Group to implement the new Government’s election commitments and to develop a new National Affordable Housing Agreement.

‘In the risk and audit area our Audit Committee has continued its excellent work in providing assurance to the Secretary around financial management and compliance controls and during the course of the financial year further significant and welcome progress was made in remediating Category B and Category C findings from the Australian National Audit Office.

‘The Department’s staff at all levels have responded magnificently to the challenges and pressures that arose during the financial year and I am very grateful to the staff in my groups for their committed, dedicated and professional service throughout the financial year.’

Bernie Yates, Deputy Secretary

Bernie Yates, Deputy SecretaryBernie Yates has been Deputy Secretary in the Department since January 2006 following the integration of the Office of Indigenous Policy Coordination into FaHCSIA. Bernie assists the Secretary with managing whole‑of‑government policy development in Indigenous affairs, and also carries responsibility for the Department’s network of over 30 offices around urban, regional and remote Australia.

‘This year has been incredibly significant for Indigenous affairs. The Northern Territory Emergency Response was a major focus from mid‑2007 and has involved a very different way of working across agencies and with Indigenous communities, including having Government Business Managers living in communities. An independent review at the 12‑month point is now underway.

‘The transition to the new Government in late 2007 saw some significant shifts in policy focus. The Department took a lead role in arranging the first ever Welcome to Country at the opening of the new Parliament, and provided support for events surrounding the historic motion of Apology led by the Prime Minister and passed by the Parliament in February. The Closing the Gap on Indigenous disadvantage strategy has been a key policy focus, extended by the support provided by COAG in December 2007 and the establishment of a COAG Working Group on Indigenous Reform chaired by Minister Macklin.

‘The Department has played a major role in assisting the development of the Closing the Gap strategy and a range of reform proposals through the working group for consideration by COAG during 2008, including on: Indigenous early childhood development; remote service delivery; economic participation; and community safety. These are aimed at progressing the six targets agreed as critical to overcoming Indigenous disadvantage, including closing the life expectancy gap between Indigenous and non‑Indigenous Australians within a generation.’

Robyn McKay, Acting Deputy Secretary

Robyn McKay, Acting Deputy SecretaryRobyn McKay joined the Department of Family and Community Services in early 1999 as Group Manager, Families and Children. From 2002–05, she was Minister-Counsellor, Social Policy, at the Australian Delegation to the OECD in Paris. She also led the Social Policy Group in FaHCSIA in 2006, prior to taking up her current role.

Robyn has had a long career in social policy, spanning employment programs, industrial relations and wages policy, higher education policy and program administration, health, families and income support policy and programs, and commercialisation and privatisation policy. Prior to joining FaHCSIA, she worked in senior executive positions in the Departments of Employment, Education and Training (1989–95) and Finance and Administration (1995–98), where she also led the Accrual Budgeting Project.

Robyn assists the Secretary in managing the Department and has particular responsibility for strategic policy, the Age Pension, social security relationships and compliance, research and international engagement, as well as the Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations, the Pensions Review Taskforce and the Community Programs Taskforce. She is chair of the Research and Evaluation Committee and jointly chairs the Budget Policy Committee with Bruce Hunter. She chaired the Australian Government Disaster Recovery Committee in 2007–08 and is the FaHCSIA representative on the Board of the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

‘The last year has been one of major change, with a new focus on cross‑cutting policy development, reflected in considerable review activity. We have been able to draw on our strong research base and investment in longitudinal data to make major contributions to work on social inclusion and income support.’

Bruce Hunter, Acting Deputy Secretary; Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer

Bruce Hunter, Acting Deputy Secretary; Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial OfficerBruce Hunter commenced as the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and Group Manager, Business and Financial Services with the Department in November 2006. On 10 June 2008, he commenced in the acting role of Chief Operating Officer at Deputy Secretary level, in addition to his CFO role.

Bruce has many years of experience in public and private sector management. Prior to joining FaHCSIA, Bruce held the position of Executive Director Corporate for the Family Court of Australia, where he was responsible for providing strategic leadership and management of the finance, property, human resources, security, contract management and secretariat functions at a national level for the Court.

Bruce assists the Secretary in managing the Department and has responsibility for Business and Financial Services, Corporate Support and Information Management and Technology Groups. He is the chair of the Remuneration Committee, People Committee, Information Communication and Technology Committee, Project Investment Board and Senior Level Task Group, and jointly chairs the Budget Policy Committee with Robyn McKay.

‘The last year has been challenging and satisfying for corporate/enabling areas in supporting the Department to meet a range of new challenges, such as NTER, machinery of government changes and additional efficiency dividends.

‘As CFO, I am proud of FaHCSIA’s significant improvements in financial management. With my additional responsibilities as Chief Operating Officer, I am looking at ways to better integrate our corporate, finance and IT areas to ensure FaHCSIA is well positioned to meet future challenges.’

The Department’s structure

Figure 1.4  Organisational structure as at 30 June 2008

Description of Figure 1.4

Figure 1.4 Organisational structure as at 30 June 2008

Agencies and statutory bodies of the portfolio

Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs

FaHCSIA is a key source of advice to the Australian Government on social policy. The Department works in partnership with other government and non‑government organisations to manage a diverse range of programs and services designed to support and improve the lives of Australians.

FaHCSIA has whole‑of‑government responsibilities in relation to Indigenous affairs and women.

Aboriginal Hostels Limited

Aboriginal Hostels Limited (AHL) is an Australian Government company that provides temporary accommodation to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons through a national network of 138 hostels. AHL contributes to the portfolio’s goals by helping Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to improve their standard of living and achieve health, aged care, educational and employment‑related goals.

Indigenous Business Australia

Indigenous Business Australia (IBA) is a statutory authority established under the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Act 2005 that creates opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander individuals and communities to build assets and wealth.

IBA is an integral partner in the Government’s overarching Indigenous Economic Development Strategy. To achieve the strategy’s goals, IBA assists the Government in working with the private sector and local Indigenous people to encourage and foster Indigenous economic independence.

Indigenous Land Corporation

The Indigenous Land Corporation (ILC) is a statutory authority established under the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Act 2005. ILC assists Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons to acquire and manage Indigenous‑held land so as to provide economic, environmental, social and cultural benefits. ILC contributes to the portfolio by assisting in the delivery of sustainable benefits from land acquisition and by providing land management assistance.

Torres Strait Regional Authority

The Torres Strait Regional Authority is a statutory authority established by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Act 2005. It formulates, implements and monitors the effectiveness of programs for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in the Torres Strait and advises the Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs.

The Authority contributes to the goals of the Department by working to empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in the Torres Strait to determine their own affairs, based on the Ailan Kastom (Island Custom) of Torres Strait, which provides a source of unity and strength.

Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency

Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency (EOWA) is a statutory authority which administers the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Act 1999. EOWA contributes to portfolio goals by working with business to develop work practices that improve women’s workforce participation, in an environment free from discrimination.

Aboriginals Benefit Account Advisory Committee

The Aboriginals Benefit Account Advisory Committee, established under the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976, advises the Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs in connection with certain payments under the Account. The Committee Chair is appointed by the Minister.

Aboriginal Land Commissioner

The Aboriginal Land Commissioner is an independent statutory officeholder appointed by the Governor-General under the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976. The principal function of the Commissioner is to consider applications for claims to traditional land and to make findings to the Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs for the granting of land.

Executive Director of Township Leasing

The position of Executive Director, Township Leasing is a statutory office established under the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976, to enter into, on behalf of the Commonwealth, leases under section 19A of that Act; and to administer sub‑leases and other rights and interests derived from such leases.

The Executive Director enters into leases over townships on Aboriginal land in the Northern Territory in accordance with section 19A of the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976*, following approval from the traditional owners. The purpose of these arrangements is to facilitate certainty of land tenure for housing and commercial development in Indigenous townships.

* This function has recently been extended to include holding s19 leases. See Chapter 5, Outcome 1.

Northern Territory Land Councils

The Northern Land Council, the Central Land Council, the Anindilyakwa Land Council and the Tiwi Land Council are the four Northern Territory land councils established under the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976. Each of the four land councils is an independent statutory body and was established to represent Aboriginal interests in a range of processes under that Act.

Registrar of Indigenous Corporations

The Registrar of Indigenous Corporations is an independent statutory office holder who administers the Corporations (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) Act 2006 (CATSI Act) and provides Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, groups and organisations with a means of registration. The CATSI Act was passed by the Australian Parliament in October 2006, replacing the Aboriginal Councils and Associations Act 1976 (ACA Act).

Social Security Appeals Tribunal

The Social Security Appeals Tribunal (SSAT) is a statutory body under the Social Security (Administration) Act 1999 that conducts merit reviews of administrative decisions made under a number of enactments, in particular social security law, family assistance law, and child support law.

The tribunal has the power to review decisions independently of Centrelink, the Child Support Agency, the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, and FaHCSIA. It provides a review mechanism that is just, efficient, effective and informal. The SSAT contributes to the portfolio by ensuring that administrative decisions of the Department are consistent with the legislation.

Wreck Bay Aboriginal Community Council

The Wreck Bay Aboriginal Community Council is an independent statutory body established by the Aboriginal Land Grant (Jervis Bay Territory) Act 1986. The council holds title to land and provides services to the Aboriginal community of Jervis Bay.

Figure 1.5  Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs Portfolio structure and outcomes as at 30 June 2008*

Description of Figure 1.5

FaHCSIA Portfolio structure and outcomes as at 30 June 2008 - representation of above information

* Only Ministers, the portfolio Department and agencies of the portfolio are represented in this figure

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