6 November 2023

APS graduates need more training in respect at work, Minister suggests

| Chris Johnson
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Woman in front of display

Public Service Minister Katy Gallagher might introduce standardised respect training for APS graduates. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Public Service Minister Katy Gallagher wants to introduce a standardised training curriculum for young people entering the APS graduate program, in light of allegations some male interns joining the Infrastructure Department created a “hotties” list rating their female colleagues.

The ”hotties list” eluded the department’s bosses, who believed nonetheless that one was made by a group of young males in the graduate intake.

The list is thought to have ranked women by their attractiveness and was circulated among the males employed in the department’s graduate program.

The issue was brought to light in recent Senate estimates hearings, with Infrastructure Secretary Jim Betts acknowledging that rumours about the list had begun circulating in March, leading to a formal complaint in May.

READ ALSO Infrastructure boss disgusted by grads allegedly ranking female colleagues by their ‘hotness’

Mr Betts said he was disgusted by it and promised that the “severest sanctions available” would be applied if the list was confirmed and its creators were identified.

He added that the existence of such a list was degrading to women and the term ”hotness” was a disgusting phrase.

An independent investigation did not uncover the actual list.

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday (1 November), Senator Gallagher suggested attention should be turned to the induction process for the graduates to ensure respect in the workplace was stressed to them.

“The story that was raised at estimates was concerning and I don’t want that type of experience, as it was explained at estimates, to be the first experience of graduates,” the Minister said.

“Our big challenge is workforce. We’ve got to ensure that people want to work for the APS. That we keep them in the APS. And the graduates are our highest-trained level of entry into the APS.

“From what I learned at estimates – and it isn’t always great to learn things at estimates – but from what I picked up, there isn’t standardisation necessarily across the graduate program.

“And I think that’s probably something that we should have a look at to make sure everybody is getting, at the general level, the induction and talk about culture and workplace behaviour in a standardised module of their training program and that it should be done early.”

READ ALSO Retired APS secretary takes on leadership of IPAA

The Minister also said she would be keen to look at the gender mix of the graduate intake.

Of the current group of 35 graduates who joined the Infrastructure Department in February, two-thirds are male and are mostly aged below 30.

Mr Betts told estimates that the gender balance was nowhere near appropriate for his department.

“We will never have a future graduate program where the gender balance is two-thirds male and one-third female,” he said.

“It is unacceptable within a department, which is 60 per cent female overall, and among senior executive services 52 per cent female.

“We’ve learnt some lessons from this and one of those is around having gender balance at all levels and in all cohorts.”

Mr Betts said several sessions had been held with the graduates, including with them all together and separately with just the women.

The graduates all received training in the APS’s values system and respect at work.

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“Oh my god, we need to do something about this thing that no-one seems to be able to prove, ever even existed!!!”

Won’t someone think of the children?

I really want to see how the government stop agencies bringing staff from oversea to Australia to work (not too sure whether they have the suitable qualification or not) whilst there are a huge number of graduate students just finished their degree and unable to find work due to the “Security Clearance” requirements. No wonder our unemployment still in high rocket.

@Nhon Le
“… agencies bringing staff from oversea to Australia to work …”
Are you suggesting that temporary employees recruited from overseas do not have to undergo the security clearance process as anyone else – where it’s a requirement of the job?

Why would anyone want to work in the public service. Mediocre pay, mediocre challenges and wokeism at its best.

Frank Ockwell7:41 pm 07 Nov 23

What’s changed? When I was an “Excecutive Level” APS worker in the ACT it was mandatory to complete and pass a whole bunch of “personal conduct” testing requirements for entry and advancement. They were about “Discrimination and sexual harrasment in the workplace, Fraud and ethics” and more. Anyone completing thesec”testing requirements” would have known they were committing breaches against the APS Code of Conduct. If it came to the attention of anyone, they would be reported. For me this was 2005-2009 and very much a part of building appropriate workplace culture. So what’s happened, is “testing” not the case anymore? For the record, I went to the ACT on promotion. When I was there I definitely formed the opinion that most people occupied positions at 2 levels above their natural level of incompetence. From the goingscon I read about the APS in Canberra, that opinion hasn’t changed. Just a UNIONISED protest workplace it seems, making more demands on the system and expecting the system to bend over for them. The HR standards must have gone south along with the “political Standards”.

William Teach5:52 pm 08 Nov 23

Those tests still exist (and they’re longer and more tedious now), and a manager who didn’t CoC a subordinate, especially a grad, for something as overt as the list would be in trouble.

That’s probably why the people who wrote the list had the sense not to write it down anywhere it could be found and traced back to them, assuming the list actually exists.

If you really want to fix the culture of the APS, one point is looking at who you are hiring. Plenty of stories around of nepotism, cronyism and jobs for the boys, I’ve seen first hand what a joke the recruitment policies are to those on high. No surprise to me that an ‘independent’ investigation failed to find the list or those responsible. My experience of APS values is that they are enforced extremely selectively while being used as a weapon to silence complaints against superiors breaching the values themselves.

Gregg Heldon7:56 am 07 Nov 23

Graduate programs are a 12 month “apprenticeship”, aren’t they? If they are, none of them should graduate. That should send a message out that this sort of behaviour is intolerable.

No, its not an apprenticeship. It is a recruitment pathway where you need to be a graduate to be eligible. Those selected for employment have graduated from universities prior to commencing in the APS. Like all public service recruits, in theory, you are on probation for six months, but in reality that is usually a tick box exercise (for all recruits, not just grads).

John Schwazer9:48 pm 06 Nov 23

A “hotties” list?!

The horror! The horror!

New age puritans, can you see yourselves?! Can you?!

Not a chance.

Perhaps the male employees need special affirmative action policies to protect them in such a female dominated workforce.

I mean they don’t want to have such an unequal gender imbalance being maintained do they.

Whilst what Megsy below says makes sense, it is worth remembering that male single sex schools produce boys who have little knowledge of how to treat girls and women. As Chanel Contos revealed, they’re guilty of a high rate of sexual harassment and abuse of female students from other schools.

They clearly need a values correction before they’re ready for dealing with females in the workplace, as well as in our society more generally. These often expensive boys’ schools are failing their male students as well as society if they do not educate them in how to behave appropriately.

Those who’ve attained a broad based education in society including female students and colleagues might not need more training in respect for girls and women. This should occur at school and at home from a very young age, rather than requiring the workplace to teach it.

Using male single-sex schools as an excuse is a cop-out. No boy is at school 100% of the time. Do they not have access to their family; other social networks or even pay attention to TV & movies? You would have to be living under a rock during the last few years if you weren’t aware of the MeToo movement. The fact is, this type of disrespect does not happen because people are unaware of how to treat others. They know it is wrong, but they do it regardless because they know that if they get called out, there are almost no repercussions. They do it because they know they can get away with it.

Ah yes, Chanel Contos’ online self selected polls and activism. Definitely scientifically robust research to enable broad based claims around how effective various school systems are at educating children around social norms.

As somebody who works at a co-ed Canberra public school, lack of respect to women and everybody else is a hallmark of schools and to blame the problem on all boys’ schools is fanciful.

As a teacher in a co-educational public school in Canberra, it is fanciful to lay the blame at the feet of single-sex schools! Lack of respect for women and everybody else is a hallmark of our system.

It’s also sexist. When you accuse an entire group of people of a wrong, based on their identity it’s prejudice. But we live in an age where you can get away with discriminating against certain people.

As graduates, they have gone through 12 years of formal schooling and at least three years of tertiary study, on top of whatever values they learned from their family & friends. Most of those in the cohort referred to above were aged under 30 – meaning they will have been in education during the Metoo movement and would be aware of stories in the media along with programs introduced at universities to make people aware of it. If they haven’t leaned basic respect by now, I suspect they never will. I don’t think they need more training. They need management to take a firm stance and start dismissing offenders. The message will get through a lot faster than yet another training program.

Agreed. If they can’t show respect at work, they are probably worse away from work. The APS is too slow to act and then looks for a soft way out that places the least load and responsibility on senior officers.

APS wide policy should be that such behaviour is not tolerated. Those creating and circulating such comparisons should be instantly dismissed and those who knew about it and did not act to stop. or report it cautioned, have bonuses suspended and a note included in their personal file.

Agreed. Isn’t it a breach of public service values? If so, who is failing to do their job in ensuring these values are met?

Frank Ockwell8:11 pm 07 Nov 23

Not sure what has happened to the APS HR lot? There were electronic testing requirements for all entries when I was in Canberra 2005-2009, and from memory 5 electronic testing requirements from “fraud and ethics to Discrimination and sexualising Harrassment in the work place. The Tests were comprehensive, well constructed with links to learning examples where participants got things wrong. Perhaps the wheel has turned?

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