Human Services a template for domestic violence support: Marise Payne

By Stephen Easton

Tuesday March 5, 2019

Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne has challenged all Australian Public Service bosses to put in place support for staff experiencing domestic violence, using the template developed in Human Services during her time as its minister.

Senator Payne called on all federal secretaries to adopt the Enough strategy after giving a speech on women in leadership to Canberra public servants this morning at Parliament House.

Devised in 2016 and due for an update soon, Enough is structured around six “strategic themes” to guide how DHS should respond when it is apparent that domestic violence is being suffered — or perhaps perpetrated — by either staff members or clients: provision of information; risk identification; referrals and support; staff training; a supportive and flexible work environment; and appropriate departmental systems and processes.

“It was a really significant effort by the Department of Human Services at the time, which was well placed because of the nature of its workforce — being the largest employer of social workers in the country for starters – but well placed to acknowledge that family and domestic violence occurs everywhere,” said Payne.

“It occurs in every department of the Commonwealth and in every state department in Australia. It occurs in our posts and missions overseas. It occurs in the [Australian Defence Force]. It occurs in every cohort.

“… There are really simple things that the public sector can do to change the way you support your staff and the template exists in Human Services… lets roll it out across the Commonwealth. It’s not hard, there’s a lot of secretaries in the room today and I’m throwing out a challenge, because Renee Leon and her team and the work that has been done before is there for you to take up.”

WATCH: Marise Payne says female leaders make the world more peaceful

Payne said she was publicly asking this of her current secretary, Frances Adamson, who reminded Payne the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade was already doing something very similar but promised to look at the DHS model to see if there was anything DFAT could learn from it. The minister’s point was that departments did not need to reinvent this particular wheel.

The breakfast function was held to mark International Women’s Day (this Friday). Arranged by the Institute of Public Administration Australia, it attracted the second largest audience of any event hosted by the professional body’s ACT division, and it was clear that very few men got out of bed early to attend.

In the speech, Payne said there had been significant progress towards enhancing women’s rights in Australia “but gender equality does remain elusive” and listed various statistics on the state of play.

Last month the Australian Bureau of Statistics reported the lowest ever full-time gender pay gap of 14.2%, down from 18.7% in November 2014, while the Workplace Gender Equality Agency reported the nation’s highest paid men in top-tier chief executive roles earn about $162,000 more than women who make it to the top, on average.

In APS average base salaries, the gap is about 8.4% and there is now a fairly even split in the upper levels, with women in the majority in the middle and lower pay grades, and in total. To eliminate the gender pay gap in the APS, either women need to occupy the majority of senior roles or more men need to work in lower level jobs and lower paid departments.

 “When women are included in peace processes there’s a 35% greater chance that an agreement will last at least 15 years.”

In the private sector, only about 17% of CEOs are women while in the APS there is already gender parity among secretaries. Payne credited the leadership of certain men like Martin Parkinson, the head of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and former Treasury secretary, for helping this come about. “But it’s also important to say the leadership of the women who filled those roles has also enabled this to come about,” she added.

In her current portfolio there is now gender parity among the various independent boards of directors. “Where we do need to do more is to increase female representation across chair and deputy chair positions and the senior executive service,” said Payne.

“We’re not alone in that. Across the public service, 44.8% of SES positions are now occupied by women. In DFAT, we sit at 39.5%, up from just over 33% in October 2015.”

Just over a third of chairs and deputy chairs of Foreign Affairs and Trade boards are women and there has been “significant progress” towards parity among heads of missions and overseas diplomatic posts, in the minister’s view, 42% being women at the end of last year. The proportion was 27% in 2015, when the department launched its women in leadership strategy, setting targets of 43% women in Senior Executive Service Band 1 roles and 40% for SES Band 2 by 2020.

The Foreign Minister and former Defence Minister also spoke about the value of gender equality in traditionally masculine areas like the military, national security and international relations, arguing that “women’s full and meaningful participation is essential to doing more to prevent conflict and create lasting stability after conflict and disaster”.

“When women are included in peace processes there’s a 35% greater chance that an agreement will last at least 15 years,” she told the gathering of public sector workers.

In Payne’s view, military women “improve operational effectiveness and act as role models” for women and girls around the world, encouraging them to seek their own rights in male-dominated societies, but they are still under-represented in both the ADF and the national security sector more generally. Having more around the table would leader to better outcomes, she said.

“It allows us to draw on a broader range of lived experiences, supports the contest of ideas and assumptions, and it brings a greater range of skills to the work of diplomacy and security and of development.

“Having women at the table is not the simple answer; it’s also about meaningful participation which is vital, about the valuing of voices of women around that table, and the listening.”

Adamson said a few weeks ago, the Secretaries Committee on National Security had equal numbers of men and women in the room and she thinks this is a first. “And it was, in tone, and I think to some extent in substance also, a different conversation,” added the DFAT secretary.

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