The Department of Home Affairs has told uniformed Australian Border Force officers they must remove insignia flashes and hide tattoos.
The new rules have reportedly been published in an updated handbook, which also provides information on grooming standards.
Uniformed officers have been ordered to cover up their tattoos while working, with the agency enforcing the wearing of flashes — the insignia or emblem indicating an officer’s division — on just one shoulder. An ABF spokesperson told the Herald Sun this would ensure consistency in uniforms and help unify the agency.
“The Uniform Advisory Committee is consulting with ABF Commands in relation to those officers who are affected by this change and is working with them to design solutions to recognise the specialist nature of their roles in different ways beyond the use of flashes,” they said.
The Community and Public Sector Union has expressed concern over the decision, suggesting it could lower morale in the agency, which has already been a problem across the entire department.
“Insignia like patches reflect camaraderie and people’s pride in their work — why is the government bothering to mess with that when they could be solving real problems?” CPSU national vice-president Lisa Newman said.
Earlier this year, employee census survey results showed that only 25% of Home Affairs staff felt their work was valued. Just 39% of respondents thought the department cared about their health and wellbeing. However, as a departmental spokesperson told The Mandarin, the survey indicated morale levels were actually slowly improving. They acknowledged that more work still needed to be done.
A 2017 survey found Border Force personnel were even less satisfied than those in Immigration, which has turned out some of the worst employee census results across the public service since 2014.
In 2015, the department spent $6.3 million on 4500 new uniforms complete with insignia, name badges, buttons, and helmets for its ABF officers, after customs merged with parts of Immigration. The people who had to wear these new uniforms to work were reportedly not happy.