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Overview

The Bali bombings, the Iraq crisis and the outbreak of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) virus imposed considerable pressures on the department's human and financial resources in 2002–03. The department's flexible staffing practices and enhanced communications and information technology (IT) systems enabled us to adapt effectively to changing developments.

We responded swiftly to the Bali bombings with rapid deployment of additional staff to Bali and Jakarta. The Canberra Crisis Centre was operational within hours. Staff resources were quickly mobilised to support the Crisis Centre again during the Iraq conflict and in response to the SARS outbreak. We provided support to staff working in affected posts through our welfare professionals. Assistance and counselling were also provided to the families of staff who were evacuated from some affected posts.

We developed and implemented new training courses to improve crisis response skills, introduced other new programs to address identified skills gaps and improved existing courses. All staff were involved in training on Australian Public Service (APS) Values and Code of Conduct, designed to reinforce and consolidate our professionalism.

Unqualified financial statements for 2002–03 were presented with no audit observations. Outstanding debts and advances were minimised and Overseas Property Office accounting fully incorporated into financial reporting. Savings resulted from a comprehensive review of posts' administrative resources and a department-wide review of patterns of expenditure.

The creation of the new Finance Services and Systems Branch gave added focus to administration of the Financial Management Information System (FMIS) and the Human Resources Management Information System (HRMIS), both of which were comprehensively reviewed.

A new Contractor Management Unit improved our management of staff employed under contract, achieving greater awareness of appropriate procurement practices.

We negotiated a new certified agreement for 2003–2006, approved by 70 per cent of staff participating in the ballot and certified by the Australian Industrial Relations Commission. The agreement provides staff an 11.5 per cent pay increase over three years and improved conditions of service, in return for productivity increases.

 

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Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Annual Report 2002–2003
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