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Survey reveals low morale in Home Affairs Department

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It seems the Department of Home Affairs can't please anyone, least of all the people who work there (Image by Dan Jensen)

The dysfunction in the Home Affairs Department that has been long reported on (see here, here and here) has now been officially confirmed in a survey conducted by the Australian Public Service Commission, writes Abul Rizvi.

THE SURVEY finds that out of 97 agencies in the Australian Public Service, the Home Affairs Department ranks 97th for staff engagement — essentially a measure of morale. In other words, there is no agency with worse morale in the Australian Public Service than Home Affairs.

How does the Government expect us to feel safe if the agency tasked with the job of co-ordinating national security is so demoralised?

Home Affairs scores little better on the measure of well-being – 94th out of 97 – still nothing to write home about. But Secretary Mike Pezzullo, given his reported fascination with innovation, must be proud that on the measure of innovation, Home Affairs scores an impressive 91st out of 97.

The survey found only 39% of staff would recommend Home Affairs as a good place to work, while only 35% said Home Affairs inspires them to do their best every day.

It is not as if the staff at Home Affairs don’t want things to improve. 68% said they strongly believe in the purpose of the department and 84% said they suggest ideas to improve the way of doing things. Sadly, only 48% of staff consider the department has processes in place to enable them to do their job properly.

32% said Home Affairs inspires them to come up with new and innovative ways of working — one wonders, however, if Secretary Mike Pezzullo would be listening to the suggestions from the staff.

Only 29% of staff in Home Affairs said the Senior Executives in the department work as a team, just 35% said the Senior Executives in the department are “high quality” and only 31% considered the Senior Executives communicate to other employees effectively.

These are truly depressing results.

A tiny 25 percent of staff felt they are valued for their contribution and only 38 percent said they were consulted about changes at work while 47 percent said relationships as work are strained.

Hardly surprisingly, 36 percent want to leave Home Affairs within the next 12 months.

It is extraordinary that in a department responsible for immigration, settlement, citizenship and multicultural affairs, just 57 percent of staff consider the senior executive actively support people of diverse backgrounds while only 58 percent said the agency promotes an inclusive workplace.

Is that the Dutton and Pezzullo effect showing through?

For an agency that was created to better co-ordinate Australia’s national security across agencies within the portfolio, only 35 percent said they routinely engage with other agencies in the portfolio.

This surely is a wake-up call even for the tone deaf Dutton and Pezzullo.

Hardly surprising the two of them refuse to release the details of the $5 million review of Home Affairs.

And what is their solution to all this dysfunction? Privatisation of visa processing, apparently.

It looks like we're going from the frying pan and into the fire.

Abul Rizvi was a senior official in the Department of Immigration from the early 1990s to 2007 when he left as Deputy Secretary. He is currently doing a PhD on Australia’s immigration policies.

This article was originally published by 'Pearls and Irritations' and is republished with permission.

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