After the 2016 election, the new government has realised that soft diplomacy aligned with a more independent foreign policy is far more effective in the long-term than military force. As a consequence, the government establishes a new Department of Regional Cooperation. This department will use cultural diplomacy to build Australia's reputation as a subtle, trustworthy and imaginative nation. checklist
The former Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is incorporated into this new department. Overseas aid funding is increased to meet the United Nations target of 0.7 per cent of gross national income, first set in 1970. A special branch is established to build greater cooperation in the Pacific to address the effects of climate change.
The arts, tourism and sport are also brought into the Department of Regional Cooperation. The government's focus will shift away from elite cultural programs towards popular culture, film, television, music, new media, food, fashion and non-mainstream sport. A new e-diplomacy team will be established to increase the use of online tools to help achieve the department's objectives. Support for the ABC's Australia Network and Radio Australia is increased and investigations are under way to establish an overseas cultural body, similar to the British Council.
As well as shifting the focus of foreign policy, this new agency provides the opportunity, as promised before the election, to implement radical changes to how public servants are recruited and selected. While a short-term, quick fix was implied in the need to cut red tape and shorten recruitment times, the agency recognises that speed is not the main criterion for judging how you find and keep top staff. The department will trial a range of new recruitment and selection practices for later, service-wide adoption. These trials are designed to bring about long-term cultural change and to reduce inconsistencies and inefficiencies in agency-specific approaches.
To design and implement these changes, the department establishes a highly trained, specialised unit – the Talent Team – to focus on recruiting, selecting and inducting staff, and to train managers in how to conduct career and performance conversations. This arrangement will free managers to focus on delivering work results and will ensure that all staff, regardless of whether they are new to the public service, new to the department, or have moved around within the department, receive consistent and comprehensive induction. Talent Team staff will also monitor probation periods and advise on managing underperformance.
As part of the recruitment reforms, selection criteria will no longer be used and recruitment will be conducted at any time of the year regardless of whether a vacancy exists. Gender diversity on selection panels is reinstated as mandatory and ambitious targets are set to increase the number of women in senior positions. In line with private sector practice, all jobs are advertised as flexible.
All jobs require applicants to meet a minimum standard on a set of employability skills. These include literacy and numeracy, digital literacy, and strong interpersonal skills, which are never referred to as "soft skills". To ensure staff meet these minimum skill requirements, an online test is established. Anyone wishing to enter the department must achieve a satisfactory standard on this test. This test, if proven useful, will later be applied across the public service.
To strengthen the application of merit, all job descriptions must now clearly state what outcomes are expected and how performance will be measured.
For any job involving supervision or management responsibilities, applicants must undergo a stringent selection process. Where a person is in serious contention for a role, they are to meet the staff they are likely to manage and outline their approach. Regardless of experience, to maintain and build management skills, all managers must engage in annual performance improvement.
To move away from what's called the "spray and pray" approach, the Talent Team will investigate cloud-sourcing as a way to tap the passive candidate market.
A generic request for expressions of interest to work in the department is available throughout the year. Applicants can indicate what level they wish to work at, what form of employment arrangement they seek (temporary, casual, permanent) and whether they wish to have management responsibilities. The Talent Team is using these expressions of interest to identify people who understand the interrelationships between policy areas and who have creative, implementable ideas to expand cultural diplomacy.
Here is the current request:
Department of Regional Cooperation
The Department of Regional Cooperation uses cultural diplomacy to build Australia's reputation as a subtle, trustworthy and imaginative nation.
Request for expressions of interest
The department seeks expressions of interest from people interested in contributing to fostering trust and cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region through cultural activities.
We are particularly interested in ideas that support government policies relevant to regional cooperation, reflect the interrelationships between portfolios and, through sound implementation and evaluation, appear practical, doable and effective.
If you have reached a satisfactory level on the public service test, please nominate your preferred employment arrangements and whether you seek to fill a supervisory or management role.
Your expression of interest should be no more than two pages long. It should be accompanied by a resume of no more than three pages, which identifies your relevant skills, experience, personal qualities, expertise and career goals with the department. Applicants may wish to provide links to relevant, digitally based portfolio material.
Expressions of interest will be assessed by a panel from the Talent Team and will include representatives from relevant policy areas. When opportunities for employment arise, selected applicants will be invited to take part in a range of selection processes to further assess their skills and ideas.
Submit your ideas any time and see if you can make a difference to the future of the planet.