Who we want
The department operates in a complex and highly dynamic international environment. We look for, and value in our employees:
- responsiveness, especially to the Government we serve, but also to a wide range of other clients, such as parliament, business and individual members of the Australian public
- knowledge of the international environment and issues relevant to the promotion and protection of Australia's national interests
- the capacity to operate with sensitivity in many distinct cultural environments, while projecting clearly and confidently our Australian identity;
- vigilance in the protection of sensitive information handled in the department, both in Australia and abroad
- high standards of ethical and personal conduct, especially abroad where, in representing Australia, officers have a real impact on our international reputation
- comprehensive and contemporary management approaches, encompassing best practice, family friendly policies, continuous improvement, performance evaluation, strict accountability and a strong commitment to training and development, and
- personal and corporate flexibility, versatility and adaptability, all of which are demanded in a portfolio characterised by a uniquely diverse agenda and an often demanding and unpredictable environment.
DFAT values statement
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Avenues for pursuing a career with the department
There are several different avenues for entering the department. Each year, we conduct several general recruitment rounds for foreign and trade policy and corporate generalists, as well as ad hoc specialist rounds.
Our policy and corporate graduate programs are a popular avenue for both new graduates and others.
We also recruit Indigenous graduates, cadets and trainees.
We employ non-ongoing (temporary) employees to fill short-term vacancies in Canberra and our State and Territory offices.
It is also possible to work for an Australian embassy, high commission or consulate overseas by responding to one of their 'locally engaged staff' (LES) advertisements. All LES recruitment is managed by the relevant post.
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The department manages an overseas network of around 95 embassies, high commissions, consulates-general and multilateral missions. Some of these are large missions with more than 100 Australian-based staff including staff from attached agencies such as Treasury or the Department of Defence. Others are small, some with just one or two Australian-based staff.
Ongoing (permanent) employees of the department can apply for overseas postings, which are usually for a period of three years. Employees are not required to go on postings, although for most officers postings are an integral part of their service with the department.
Working overseas is one of the most interesting and challenging parts of a DFAT employee's career. Overseas service provides unique professional and personal opportunities, which most staff and their families find extremely rewarding.
However, there are a number of factors relating to overseas service that potential employees should carefully consider before contemplating a career with DFAT. Issues to consider are:
- culture shock – fitting into the local community is not always easy, even if one does speak the language
- working in difficult climates/exposure to natural disasters, for example in cyclone or earthquake prone locations
- health and security problems in some places – e.g. unhygienic conditions, limited medical facilities, criminal violence and terrorism
- homesickness and disruption to family and social life, especially for staff with children
- disruption to a spouse's career and possible loss of second income – employment options are often limited
- education opportunities for children vary and in a small number of posts appropriate educational facilities are not available
- non-recognition of de facto and/or same sex relationships in some countries, which may affect a partner's right to work, taxation and social security exemptions, access to local educational facilities, etc
- isolation/local restrictions e.g. restriction on contact and travel for women in some countries.
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We are committed to building a workforce that reflects the diversity of the Australian community. Our recruitment decisions are made on the basis of merit and we do not discriminate on the grounds of gender, age, race, ethnicity, religion or disability. Our employees enjoy equity and fairness in the workplace, opportunities for professional development, and support to balance their work and private lives.
The department is committed to providing equal employment opportunities, access, equity and social inclusion for all employees, and in particular for the following groups:
- Indigenous Australians
- people from a non-English speaking background, and
- people with a disability.
Suitably qualified Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians are strongly encouraged to apply for any of our advertised vacancies.
In support of the government's Closing the Gap: Indigenous Economic Participation Agreement, the department is committed to increasing recruitment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, including through the use of the APS Special Measures provision. See our Indigenous Recruitment page for more information.
People with Disability
We aim to be an Australian Public Service leader in bringing about an inclusive Australian society. To achieve this vision, we encourage the participation and contribution of people with disability to inform DFAT policies and will work together with stakeholders to make DFAT not just an employer of choice for employees with disability, but a model employer in the Australian Public Service.
We strongly encourage suitably qualified people with disability to apply for our advertised vacancies. We aim to provide a work environment which is inclusive, supportive and safe for employees with disability.
More information: Disability Action Strategy 2011-2015.
It is our policy to make reasonable adjustments for employees with disability and for people with disability who are applicants for employment. If you need assistance or adjustments to fully participate in the application/interview process, please contact:
- the Executive Officer, Workplace Diversity, (02) 6261 2444, by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or
- the department's HR services provider, Clarius on (02) 6260 7533.
Employment opportunities will not be denied to anyone because of the need to make reasonable adjustment for a person's disability.
Employees’ personal circumstances are taken into account in overseas posting decisions and the department does not require employees with disability to serve in locations where local infrastructure and services do not meet their needs.
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Salaries and conditions of service
The department offers competitive salaries and conditions. Our terms and conditions of employment are set out in the DFAT Enterprise Agreement (PDF 873 KB) | (Word 515 KB).
The standard terms and conditions of employment for all ongoing DFAT employees include flexible working hours, a comprehensive superannuation scheme and generous leave provisions, including:
- 22 days paid annual leave every 12 months (up to half of which may be taken at half pay)
- four weeks (20 days) paid personal/carer's leave per year
- 14 weeks paid maternity leave (after 12 months of service with the department) for each confinement, and an additional 38 weeks maternity leave without pay
- two weeks paid parental leave and up to 12 months of unpaid parental leave (after 12 months of service with the department) after the birth or adoption of a child
- three months (or six months at half pay) paid long service leave after ten years of service
- other leave with or without pay, including ceremonial, defence reservist and jury service leave.
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Under the Public Service Act 1999, all employees of the department must be Australian citizens.
Conduct and ethics
Working for the department both in Australia and overseas requires the highest standards of conduct. Exemplary ethical conduct on the part of the department's employees contributes significantly to the standing of the department in Australia and overseas and the overall effectiveness of its work.
Employees are required to uphold the Australian Public Service (APS) Values and comply with the APS Code of Conduct as enshrined in the Public Service Act 1999. Employees also need to comply with the department's Code of Conduct for Overseas Service, which takes account of the particular significance of the department's representational role outside Australia.
Pursuant to Section 22 (6) of the Public Service Act 1999, a security clearance is a condition of employment for employees of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
All employees are required to undergo comprehensive security clearance processing prior to commencement with the department, and every five years thereafter. The department will conduct the security clearance process for successful candidates. This process consists of several steps and can take approximately six months to complete. In addition to providing detailed and comprehensive financial, relationship and other information, preferred candidates for vacancies will be required to give their written consent for the department and the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) to conduct their own detailed background checks and enquiries.
If a preferred candidate is not successful in obtaining a security clearance, his/her offer of employment with the department will be withdrawn. Once a person has been appointed to the department, loss of a security clearance at any time will result in the termination of the person's employment.
All employees commencing work in the Australian Public Service must pass a standard medical/fitness examination. Information about this examination will be provided to successful applicants with their commencement papers.
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Training and development
We need staff with comprehensive professional skills and knowledge, strong leadership and management ability, and a high level of integrity and ethical behaviour. We recognise the key role of targeted and effective training in ensuring the high calibre of our staff. This is reflected in our quality training and development program and the integration of training as a key component of our performance management system.
The department's extensive training program includes core competency courses such as speech writing, negotiation skills, budgets and planning and presentation skills. We also run a regular series of in-house seminars on issues in contemporary Australian foreign, trade and consular policy.
Our capacity to speak the languages of our key trading and strategic partners is critical to our success in pursuing Australia's national interests in the international arena. In addition to pre-posting language training, the department offers regular conversation classes in various languages and periodic 'key language' immersion courses for staff.
Training delivery methods are wide-ranging and include a mixture of internal seminars, courses run by external consultants and e-learning.
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