Qld public service finds new recruits among veterans, sheds staff in health and education


The Queensland government is recruiting ex-military personnel to public service jobs twice as quickly as planned, while its total workforce remained the same size over the final quarter of 2018.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk released figures from the state’s veteran employment program last week — one of several similar initiatives around the country — along with her latest public sector workforce figures.

“We committed to place 100 of our former service women and men in public sector roles within 12 months,” she said in a statement. “In just nine months, we’ve already found jobs for 166 veterans, and are always looking for more.

“Around 1,600 Queenslanders leave the ADF each year and many have difficulty finding work. We now have 166 valuable workers and they have the dignity of jobs and a new career.”

Following a virtual careers fair for veterans in November and seminars about making the transition back to civilian life, the majority of the 166 new public sector recruits are mostly based in Brisbane or the garrison city of Townsville, with some finding work in Mackay, Rockhampton, Cairns, Wide Bay and Toowoomba.

Nursing and teaching careers were the most popular but some of the group have taken up apprenticeships, while others have found their place as engineers, carpenters and rangers, as well as in fire safety and IT roles.

The Premier’s statement also quoted three veterans who have moved into government jobs. David Schembri, who served in Afghanistan and East Timor and now works for the Department of Transport and Main Roads, said it was “a fantastic program” and he was pleased to help spread the word.

Benjamin Knight, who served in Afghanistan in artillery, said he liked the idea of going on “serving the public” after leaving the Defence Force.

“I got out of the military six years ago and there wasn’t this level of support,” he said. “The transition from military life to civilian life is very difficult and the Queensland Government supports that.”

Another veteran, Ian Christie, agreed that working in government was “still serving but in a different way” and said most ex-ADF personnel would benefit from a steady job. “That stability is what they are looking for when they get out.”

‘Tis the season

The quarterly public sector workforce figures show a tiny contraction over the December quarter of 0.44% with the biggest reductions in the Department of Education, which shrunk by just over 565 full-time equivalents, and the Queensland Health, where the decline was just over 585.

The Department of Child Safety, Youth and Women added a bit over 200 FTE in the three-month period, while the Department of Communities, Disability Services and Seniors made do with the equivalent of 122 fewer full-time staff. The next biggest change was in TAFEs, a reduction of 60 FTE, and all other variations were well below 50.

According to Palaszczuk, the overall figures reflected “a seasonal decline in teacher numbers at the end of the school year” as well as a shift towards casuals and part-timers working in hospitals over the holiday period.

“It also reflects a ‘point in time’ calculation of more casual and temporary employees working in hospitals as full-time staff took leave over the Christmas-New Year period,” the Premier said.

She said the government was still committed to “growing frontline services in line with population growth” and had added 49 child safety officers, 29 youth workers, 11 child safety support officers and 33 support staff over the December quarter.

Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington challenged this narrative, however, arguing the figures showed an increase of over 500 “corporate public servants” including 14 new media advisers, while the number of doctors decreased.

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