Annual Report 2004-2005

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The department's flexible work structures, supported by centralised staffing arrangements, underpinned our responses to changing priorities in a demanding international environment.

We effectively deployed staff to manage consular and often emergency situations. The department's well-established crisis management systems, including 24-hour crisis centres in Canberra and special teams deployed overseas at short notice, ensured timely and effective responses to the Indian Ocean tsunami, the Jakarta embassy bombing and the kidnapping of an Australian in Iraq.

The department also ensured adequate numbers of qualified staff were identified and deployed to meet our objectives for high-profile events such as the Athens Olympics and Anzac Day commemorations at Gallipoli. We met an increased demand for resources to pursue the Government's ambitious trade policy agenda, in particular for negotiating free trade agreements (FTAs) with China, ASEAN and New Zealand, Malaysia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The safety, health and welfare of employees and their families is critical to the department's ability to achieve its goals, including in demanding and unpredictable overseas environments. We expanded our Staff Counsellor's Office to consolidate existing support networks for staff and their families. The Staff Counsellor's Office and our Principal Medical Adviser also provided expert professional assistance that informed the department's response to consular emergencies overseas.

The department worked to improve the efficiency of our management and accountability practices. We began a project to acquire and implement a successor to our human resource management information system that will consolidate existing tools and may position us to implement aspects of the system for locally engaged staff overseas. The department began implementing an audit self-assessment program for posts that will make our internal audit capacity more rigorous and efficient.

Our training programs continued to provide opportunities for staff skilling across a range of policy and corporate areas, as well as in foreign languages. Formal staff responses to our training programs were positive overall.

We concluded a new Service Level Agreement (SLA) for the provision of management services to 26 attached agencies at overseas posts (see sub-output 1.3.2 for more information).

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Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Annual Report 2004–2005
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