DEOPE activities and achievements

Improving diversity planning and evaluation

Section 145 of the EO Act requires public authorities to prepare and implement an EEO management plan. In May 2014, there were 264 public authorities in scope under this section of the EO Act and the DEOPE holds plans for 99% of these public authorities.3

Under s. 143 of the EO Act, the DEOPE is required to evaluate the effectiveness of EEO management plans in achieving the objects of Part IX of the Act. The objects relate to eliminating and ensuring the absence of discrimination in employment and promoting EEO for all persons in public authorities. In March 2014, the DEOPE undertook a project to consider how to better assess the effectiveness of EEO management plans and support public authorities to achieve improved diversity outcomes. This resulted in the development of the following key principles to underpin the DEOPE's evaluation of plans:

  • all public authorities are effectively supported to enable them to comply with the reporting requirements under the EO Act
  • feedback to public authorities is meaningful and its primary purpose is to assist them in achieving their equity and diversity outcomes
  • greater use is made of EEO data collected by the DEOPE to provide tailored feedback in relation to performance in diversity employment
  • extent of performance evaluation is proportional to the size of the authority in relation to the total relevant sector
  • feedback to public authorities is supportive, encouraging and recognises effort, investment and achievements
  • successful strategies reported to the DEOPE are shared across sectors to assist public authorities in achieving their equity and diversity outcomes.

In July 2013, the DEOPE collaborated with the Public Sector Commissioner to update Public Sector Commissioner's Circular 2013-04: EEO management plans and workforce planning in the public sector. The revised circular encourages public sector entities to develop an integrated workforce and diversity plan, and to continue moving from EEO planning to implementation. To date, 65% of public sector entities have provided an integrated workforce and diversity plan to the DEOPE and 32% have provided a standalone EEO management plan.4

Non-public sector authorities such as LGAs, public universities and other authorities (such as government trading enterprises, the Police Force and electorate offices), while not in scope for the Commissioner's circular, can elect to provide an integrated workforce and diversity plan to the DEOPE. However, the four public universities and 95% of other authorities have elected to retain a standalone EEO management plan at this time.5

Along with other resources, a range of templates are available on the Commission's website to assist public authorities in the preparation of their EEO management plans. For example, the DEOPE has made a short 'checklist' plan available online to reduce the reporting burden for smaller public authorities. Table 1 provides an overview of the number of checklist plans in place across public authorities.

Table 1 Types of EEO management plans in public authorities, 2014

Public authority groups



Full plans


New plans requested


Public sector entities





Non-public sector authorities










Source: Plans held by the DEOPE's office

Overall, 41% of public authorities have full plans in place and 58% have checklists. All public universities have full plans whereas more than 80% of LGAs have checklists. Other authorities (including government trading enterprises, the Police Force and electorate offices) are almost equally split across the two types of plans.

return to top

Improving data collection

Public sector entities are required to report quarterly EEO data through the human resource minimum obligatory information requirement (HRMOIR data is collected by the Commission). Non-public sector authority data is obtained through annual EEO surveys (except data for the Police Force and electorate offices, which is collected through HRMOIR).

This year, the DEOPE undertook to ensure terminology in EEO surveys is consistent with that used by the Australian Bureau of Statistics and HRMOIR. This enabled enhanced comparisons in diversity outcomes between public sector entities and non-public sector authorities.

The EEO data collection process can be challenging where human resource information systems do not record diversity information or where resources or capability is limited within public authorities. In these instances, and predominantly for small and regional LGAs in 2014, the DEOPE's office consults with authorities to assist them in improving their EEO data collection and completing their EEO surveys. These consultations have resulted in the development of more positive relationships across sectors and have facilitated dialogue on improvements for future practices. Feedback from this year is informing planning for the 2015 EEO data collection process.

return to top

Supporting Aboriginal employment

As one of the biggest employers in WA, the Government is well placed to make a significant contribution to the economic and social wellbeing of the state by providing Aboriginal employment and career development opportunities across all sectors of public employment.

Since 2011, the Commission's Aboriginal employment strategy 2011–2015 has assisted public sector entities to focus on long term, sustainable employment opportunities and career pathways for Aboriginal Australians. The strategy describes a range of employment initiatives aimed at contributing to meeting the Aboriginal employment target of 3.2% by 2015.6

The DEOPE worked closely with the Commission on the development of the strategy, which supports the attraction, employment, development and retention of Aboriginal employees. The DEOPE is also a member of the 'Aboriginal employment strategy governance group', with one of its tasks being to monitor the implementation and effectiveness of the strategy.

In October 2013, the governance group agreed the DEOPE would further engage with public sector entities to better understand the extent and nature of challenges in Aboriginal employment, and to ask them what further support would help them to contribute to the WA public sector target of 3.2%.

Evaluation of Aboriginal employment practices

In early 2014, the DEOPE commenced an evaluation of Aboriginal employment practices in a sample of five public sector entities. The objective of the evaluation was to identify some of the successes and challenges experienced in Aboriginal employment, and further support required to improve the outcomes of programs and initiatives deployed in the sector.

The evaluation approach involved the identification of eight key success factors, considered fundamental to the achievement of Aboriginal employment outcomes. The key success factors were leadership, awareness, culture, strategic alignment, recruitment and selection, retention, monitoring, and reporting.

The evaluation studied the extent to which these factors were developed in a representative sample of five public sector entities. The five sample entities were selected to allow for a cross section of organisational function and size, and Aboriginal representation.

The following questions framed the evaluation process:

  • Is there strong visible leadership and high level sponsorship at executive level?
  • Is there strong understanding and appreciation of cultural diversity?
  • Is there an inclusive and welcoming work culture?
  • Is there strong alignment between strategic objectives and Aboriginal employment outcomes?
  • Do clear recruitment strategies exist to support the employment of Aboriginal Australians?
  • Is there a flexible work environment that supports career development opportunities for Aboriginal employees?
  • Are Aboriginal employment initiatives regularly reviewed and analysed through a continuous improvement cycle?
  • Is data collected and used to report on the alignment of core business with Aboriginal employment?
  • For the five public sector entities, the evaluation was conducted by:
  • obtaining the views of their human resource managers, Aboriginal employment officers and workforce planners through face to face meetings
  • considering the nature, maturity and status of relevant strategies referenced in their EEO management and workforce and diversity plans
  • observing commitment to the Aboriginal employment agenda in their corporate documentation.

Innovative practices

Many examples of innovative approaches to Aboriginal employment practices were observed through the evaluation process. Some better practice strategies within public sector entities included:

  • cultural awareness modules built into selection and recruitment training to improve understanding of Aboriginal cultural considerations
  • advanced Aboriginal awareness training incorporated in manager and supervisor professional development programs to strengthen cultural competence
  • an authority 'champion' at the senior executive level to drive Aboriginal employment outcomes
  • the use of local and broader Aboriginal networks to advertise vacancies and achieve good business outcomes.

Challenges experienced in employment

A number of challenges in achieving Aboriginal employment outcomes were identified, such as:

  • a lack of regular sharing of Aboriginal employment 'good practice' and knowledge across public sector entities
  • competition with the mining and resources sector, which impacts on the retention of Aboriginal expertise in the public sector.

Support factors

The evaluation indicated that Aboriginal employment outcomes are best achieved when supported by:

  • senior leadership committed to Aboriginal employment outcomes through measurable key performance indicators
  • a robust corporate induction process covering all aspects of EEO and supported by cultural awareness and training, which provide an important platform for understanding and inclusiveness
  • a culturally competent professional development program that adds value to the retention of Aboriginal employees
  • aligned planning processes combining corporate strategic planning and workforce and diversity planning.

Next steps

The DEOPE will share more detailed information on the evaluation with the 'Aboriginal employment strategy governance group' and intends to separately release a report on this body of work in the future.

One of the strategic objectives of the Commission's Centre for Public Sector Excellence is to increase the representation of diversity groups. The DEOPE continues to work with the Centre and the governance group to assist in increasing the representation of Aboriginal Australians in the public sector.

The Centre is progressing options for more information sharing and professional development opportunities across the sector.

return to top

Supporting women in management

During late 2013, the DEOPE analysed information gathered by the Commission for a women in senior leadership research project. The following practical initiatives were reported to support women at senior levels in the public sector:

  • managing organisational culture
  • observing and engaging with role models in the workplace
  • building rapport with mentors to receive support and guidance, and be challenged
  • undertaking personal and professional growth, such as taking risks, stretching skills and experience, and working across organisations where possible
  • building self-confidence, such as 'speaking up', participating in meetings and networking, both formally and informally (similar to the Australian Public Service7)
  • working in a supportive environment, with flexible conditions for all employees, that enables work and home life to be well balanced.

In March 2014, the DEOPE hosted a diversity forum entitled 'Bridging the gap – women in leadership' for senior executives in the public sector to share the findings of the Commission's women in senior leadership research project. Mr Richard Sellers, Director General of the Department of Mines and Petroleum and Ms Gail McGowan, former Deputy Director General State Initiatives at the Department of State Development (now Director General of Department of Planning), spoke to attendees about their own experiences and challenges in supporting women in leadership.

Both speakers highlighted the importance of challenging the prevailing norms that work against flexibility in employment, and eliminating any unconscious bias against women in management. They also noted the importance of developing a positive culture with strong organisational values, which sets clear standards in relation to equity and diversity for both men and women, and for leaders to model these values.

Ongoing consultation with senior executives and human resources practitioners will drive the development of practical strategies and initiatives to assist in increasing the proportion of women in leadership positions.

return to top

Supporting good mental health in the workplace

The EO Act addresses discrimination on the grounds of 'impairment', which has a broad definition under the Act and includes mental illness and other disability.

In line with the objects of Part IX of the EO Act, the DEOPE collaborated with the Commission and Mental Health Commission to develop and launch Supporting good mental health in the workplace – A resource for agencies in June 2014.

Targeted at chief executives and managers, the guide provides information about:

  • mental health in the workplace
  • the legal and ethical responsibilities of employers
  • activities and strategies for creating a supportive and inclusive work environment
  • links to other resources and support services.

return to top

Preventing workplace bullying

In November 2013, the DEOPE contributed to the development of the Commission's Prevention of workplace bullying in the WA public sector – A guide for agencies. Factors that may contribute to workplace bullying include diversity characteristics such as age, gender, ethnicity, disability, religion, political views and sexual preference, all of which are covered by Part IX of the EO Act.

The workplace guide encourages public sector entities to have appropriate systems and processes in place to prevent and address bullying. The avenues for raising concerns and reporting allegations of bullying are also covered.

The DEOPE is a member of the 'Senior officers' workplace bullying and associated issues group' convened by the Department of Commerce. The group comprises a number of public sector representatives who address matters such as inappropriate or unreasonable treatment in the workplace. A matrix of legislation, support services and other information has been developed by the group, with a view to identifying potential gaps and enhancing service delivery to the community.

return to top

Updating online resources

To enhance the focus on diversity planning, while reflecting its integration with broader workforce planning, the DEOPE's online resources were reviewed in early 2014. This review included an audit of EEO management tools and updates to workforce and diversity planning advice.

Anecdotal evidence indicated more targeted support in this area was needed by LGAs. As a result, a customised page was developed on the Commission's website in August 2014, covering EEO management and planning information specifically tailored to LGAs.

The DEOPE is currently working with the Commission to ensure any online EEO information and advice is accessible, such as by vision-impaired employees.

return to top

Reviewing organisational structures under the EO Act

In accordance with a request from the WA Attorney General, the Commission examined the organisational structures that would enable the most efficient and effective achievement of the EO Act's objects. As well as making a submission to the review, as a member of the reference group, the DEOPE contributed to the examination of the roles and structures of the Equal Opportunity Commission and the DEOPE.

The examination was concluded in August 2014, with the Public Sector Commissioner providing advice and recommendations to the Attorney General. The review recommendations are currently under consideration by the Attorney General.

return to top

Reviewing the policy framework for substantive equality

In November 2013, the DEOPE collaborated with the Commission to review and update Public Sector Commissioner's Circular 2009-23: Implementation of the policy framework for substantive equality, following the abolition of the Equal Opportunity Commission's Substantive Equality Unit. The updated circular outlines the requirement for public sector departments to implement the Equal Opportunity Commission's Policy framework for substantive equality, and also provides links to further resources.

return to top

Future activities

The DEOPE has planned a number of activities for 2014/15, including:

  • research into best practice initiatives, occurring nationally and internationally, to improve diversity and build an inclusive workplace culture
  • leading a diversity forum for the public sector, LGAs and/or public universities
  • further consideration of strategies to increase the representation of women in management
  • progressing any actions that flow from Government's consideration of the review of organisational structures under the EO Act
  • improving EEO data quality for public authorities.

A program of diversity awareness raising will also commence across public authorities, to include key findings from the DEOPE's research and annual reports. The DEOPE will present information to smaller authorities where requested, and prepare information for public authorities to use in their own awareness raising.

return to top

3 As a result of machinery of government or other changes, 1% of public authorities have been asked to provide new plans.

4 As a result of machinery of government or other changes, 3% of public sector entities have been asked to provide new plans.

5 This information is not currently available for LGAs.

6 WA is a signatory to the Council of Australian Governments' National partnership agreement on Indigenous economic participation. The council has set a national target of 2.6% representation in the public sector by 2015 (representing the estimated Aboriginal proportion of the total Australian working age population in 2015), and WA has committed to a target of 3.2% for the public sector. In working to this target, WA is mindful that the Australian Bureau of Statistics has estimated the Aboriginal proportion of the WA working age population to be 2.8%, based on the 2002.0 – Census of population and housing: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples (Indigenous) profile, 2011 third release.

7 Australia and New Zealand School of Government's Institute for Governance 2013, Not yet 50/50: Barriers to the progress of senior women in the Australian Public Service.

Page last updated 2 October 2014