Programs and support

The department’s work

Promoting art and culture overseas

DFAT plays an active role in promoting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture internationally. Our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Program is a central component of our international cultural diplomacy efforts. This program provides funding and support for touring visual arts exhibitions and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander performance groups.

International engagement on Indigenous issues

We also represent Australian Indigenous issues internationally, and have a dedicated Human Rights and Indigenous Issues Section in our International Organisations and Legal Division. Each year we send selected Indigenous employees to the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) meeting in New York. This provides the opportunity for our Indigenous staff to make a practical contribution to Australia's engagement at the UNPFII and to contribute as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander individuals to the highest level Indigenous forum in the multilateral system.

Torres Strait Treaty

DFAT manages the Torres Strait Treaty between Australia and Papua New Guinea. The Treaty defines the border between Australia and Papua New Guinea and protects the rights of Torres Strait Islanders and coastal people from Papua New Guinea who live in and keep the traditions of the region. Our Torres Strait Treaty Office on Thursday Island consults regularly with Torres Strait Islanders and the Papua New Guinea Border Liaison Office in Daru (Western Province) on the implementation of the Treaty at the local level.


We actively support NAIDOC Week, both in Australia and at our overseas missions. Visit our NAIDOC Week page for more information about the events we host.

Roni Ellis
Roni Ellis

Indigenous study awards

An important initiative of the department is its bursary program for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students at the Ngunnawal Centre at the University of Canberra and at the GUMURRII Student Support Unit at Griffith University. Our annual Roni Ellis Indigenous Study Awards (REISA) were launched in 2001 in memory of Roni Ellis, an Indigenous DFAT employee who died of leukemia in 2000. Roni joined DFAT in 1991, where she managed the promotion of Australia’s Indigenous culture and art abroad. She was instrumental in building understanding of Indigenous culture and history. In 2012, DFAT entered into a similar arrangement with Griffith University. The bursaries are advertised by the Ngunnawal Centre and GUMURRII Student Support Unit annually.

Jawun Indigenous Corporate Partnerships

We nominate a number of DFAT staff each year to undertake secondments to Indigenous community organisations through the Jawun Indigenous Corporate Partnerships program. Jawun is a not-for-profit organisation managing programs of secondments from corporate and government partners to Indigenous organisations. It has been operating since 2001 and seeks to find skilled people in the corporate and public sectors and connect them to Indigenous communities to share knowledge and expertise.

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What we offer

The department offers interesting and exciting work opportunities and a diverse, respectful and inclusive workplace. We seek to ensure that our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees maximise their potential for a successful, rewarding and enjoyable career in DFAT.

Reconciliation Action Plan

Our Reconciliation Action Plan 2016-2019 sets out our commitment to promoting diversity and reconciliation in Australia and in our overseas posts, both for our own Indigenous staff and for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples across Australia.

Indigenous Employees’ Network

We have an active and committed Indigenous Employees’ Network (IEN), which provides mentoring and support for new Indigenous employees, as well as a social and professional network for all our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff. The IEN also regularly engages with the department’s staff management branch and provides advice on a range of issues, such as recruitment and retention strategies for Indigenous staff.

Indigenous Taskforce

Our Indigenous Taskforce meets regularly to consider and respond to issues of concern to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees. Chaired at Deputy Secretary level, the Indigenous Taskforce has members from a number of areas of the department and provides a forum for Indigenous employees, represented by the IEN, to discuss issues and ideas directly with senior management.

A culturally aware workforce

DFAT actively promotes awareness and understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, cultures and issues within our own workforce. We provide formal guidance to all staff on correct terminology and protocols, and we provide cultural awareness training.

Competitive terms and conditions

In addition to our competitive salaries and conditions of employment, we provide Indigenous employees with an additional three days of paid leave ceremonial purposes (including NAIDOC leave).

We provide financial assistance for staff who are required to relocate to take up offers of employment. We offer extensive training and development opportunities, including in-house and external courses and development programs, plus financial support for employees undertaking further study.

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Australian Government - Closing the Gap
Last Updated: 20 March 2017