Chapter 4: Management and accountability

Corporate governance

The AAT’s governance framework comprises arrangements and practices that enable us to set our direction and manage our operations to achieve our purpose in an effective, ethical and accountable way. Key elements of the framework include our management structures, committees, business planning, risk management and our instructions, policies and procedures.

Senior management and committees

Under the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Act, the President is responsible for ensuring the expeditious and efficient discharge of the AAT’s business and for managing the administrative affairs of the Tribunal. Division Heads assist the President by directing business in their divisions.

The Registrar assists the President in managing the AAT’s administrative affairs and is:

  • the Accountable Authority for the AAT under the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act, and
  • the Agency Head for the purposes of the Public Service Act.

Senior Executive Service employees support the President, Division Heads and the Registrar to manage the Tribunal’s operations.

The names of the AAT’s senior leaders in 2017–18 and their areas of responsibility are detailed in Chapter 2.

The President and the Registrar were supported in carrying out their roles during the reporting period by a number of committees. The key committees were as follows:

  • the Senior Leadership Group, comprising the President, Division Heads, Registrar and SES staff, met regularly throughout the year to review and provide advice on significant and complex matters relating to the management of the Tribunal, including caseload, finances, planning, risk and other significant whole-of-AAT issues
  • the Transformation Program Steering Committee, comprising the Division Heads and the Registrar, met regularly to oversee and direct major projects and other work relating to the harmonisation, integration and transformation of our organisation, services and systems
  • the Tribunal Executive Group, comprising the Registrar and SES staff, met regularly to review and provide advice on corporate and operational management issues
  • the Audit and Risk Committee, comprising an independent chair, two other independent members and two AAT representatives, provided independent advice and assurance to the Registrar on a range of aspects of governance including audit, financial management, risk management and other compliance obligations.

Several other committees provided forums for consulting with members and staff during the year. They included the following key committees:

  • the Members’ Leadership Group, comprising the President, Division Heads, Executive Deputy Presidents and the Registrar
  • the National Consultative Committee, the peak staff consultative body, comprising management representatives and at least one staff representative from each state and territory in which the AAT is located
  • the Operations Leadership Group and Principal Registry Management Group, which involve senior managers in the operational and corporate areas respectively.

Business planning

In 2017–18 we developed and published a corporate plan, as required under section 35 of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act. The Corporate Plan 2017–18 described our purpose, the environment in which we operate, and how we planned to measure our performance and achieve our goals. The Annual Performance Statement, an assessment of our performance against the measures in the plan, is in Chapter 3.

Our Strategic Plan 2015–20, developed in 2015–16, was reviewed in the reporting period and sets out four high-level strategies for achieving our vision and mission:

  • create an integrated, national Tribunal
  • improve how we work and maximise our use of technology
  • engage with stakeholders and build public trust and confidence, and
  • build capacity and make the best use of our resources.

These strategies informed operational plans and priorities developed for the year. Some of our key achievements in 2017–18 are noted in Chapter 1.

Risk management

The AAT’s risk management framework sets out our approach to identifying and managing strategic and operational risks as an integral part of our activities. Our whole-of-AAT Risk Register was revised and reviewed by the Audit and Risk Committee during 2017–18.

In addition to external audit requirements, we have an internal audit program to provide assurance in relation to our control environment and other aspects of our operations as well as to identify opportunities for improvement. The program is reviewed annually. During 2017–18, our internal auditors undertook a number of reviews, including in relation to our case management systems, compliance with the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act, contract management, financial control framework, staff performance management and work health and safety. Management responds to issues identified in internal and external audit activities and these are monitored by the Audit and Risk Committee.

No instances of significant non-compliance with finance law were reported to the Minister for Finance under paragraph 19(1)(e) of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act in relation to the reporting year.

Our Business Continuity Management Committee and Protective Security Committee met regularly during 2017–18. We finalised a revised Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Plan for the organisation during the reporting period and conducted a range of other audits and training sessions relating to security in the AAT.

Fraud control

The AAT is committed to preventing, detecting and dealing with fraud in relation to our operations. Our fraud control framework includes our Fraud Control Plan, Fraud Risk Assessment and Register, and a summary guide for employees on recognising and reporting fraud. The Fraud Control Plan was comprehensively reviewed and republished during the reporting year. Fraud control awareness formed part of the induction program for new employees. We also finalised a new online learning module on fraud control which will be mandatory for all employees to complete in 2018–19.


I, Sian Leathem, certify that the AAT:

  • has prepared fraud risk assessments and fraud control plans
  • has in place appropriate mechanisms for preventing, detecting incidents of, investigating or otherwise dealing with, and recording or reporting fraud that meet the specific needs of the AAT, and
  • has taken all reasonable measures to deal appropriately with fraud relating to the AAT.

Sian Leathem
2 October 2018

Maintaining ethical standards

We promote and encourage the maintenance of appropriate standards of ethical behaviour in a range of ways both for members and staff.

The AAT has developed a Conduct Guide for AAT Members which provides guidance on appropriate conduct and professional behaviour for members in their professional duties and their private conduct as it affects those duties.

In relation to staff, the AAT enterprise agreement includes a commitment by management and staff to work in accordance with the APS Values, Code of Conduct and Employment Principles. Information relating to the APS ethical framework forms part of our induction process and ongoing awareness-raising activities are also undertaken. During the reporting year, specific APS Code of Conduct training was offered to all staff.

Rules and standards relevant to ethical conduct are incorporated into our policies, guidelines and instructions.

Management of human resources

The AAT’s members and staff are integral to carrying out our role as an independent merits review tribunal effectively. We continue to develop our workforce and the workplace environment so that members and staff are able to provide high-quality services that meet the needs of users.

Staffing overview

At 30 June 2018, there were 296 members appointed to the AAT. More information about members is set out in Chapter 2 and Appendix 1.

At 30 June 2018, the AAT employed 660 staff under the Public Service Act: 474 ongoing and 186 non-ongoing, of whom 32 were engaged to undertake duties that are irregular or intermittent. There were 43 staff engaged in the work of the Immigration Assessment Authority.

Table 4.1 shows the number of ongoing and non-ongoing employees on 30 June 2017 and 30 June 2018 by job classification, employment status, gender and location. It also contains information about the number of AAT staff identifying as Indigenous, as being from a non-English speaking background, and as a person with disability. A more detailed breakdown of staffing at 30 June 2018 by major organisational unit, job classification, gender and location is in Appendix 2.

Table 4.1 Workforce profile, 30 June 2017 and 30 June 2018a
AT 30 JUNE 2017 AT 30 JUNE 2018
Ongoing Non-ongoing Total Ongoing Non-ongoing Total
Job classification
APS Level 1 1 0 1 1 0 1
APS Level 2 7 18 25 8 30 38
APS Level 3 6 33 39 11 48 59
APS Level 4 161 61 222 184 59 243
APS Level 5 58 10 68 61 13 74
APS Level 6 88 4 92 101 6 107
Executive Level 1 55 6 61 62 7 69
Executive Level 2 46 14 60 41 23 64
SES Band 1 5 0 5 5 0 5
Total 427 146 573 474 186 660
Employment status
Full-time 362 107 469 394 132 526
Part-time 65 18 83 80 22 102
Irregular/intermittent 0 21 21 0 32 32
Total 427 146 573 474 186 660
Female 266 95 361 307 122 429
Male 161 51 212 167 64 231
Total 427 146 573 474 186 660
New South Wales 202 63 265 227 65 292
Victoria 127 40 167 135 52 187
Queensland 45 19 64 51 36 87
Western Australia 19 11 30 24 16 40
South Australia 25 4 29 26 9 35
Tasmania 2 1 3 2 2 4
Australian Capital Territory 7 8 15 9 6 15
Total 427 146 573 474 186 660
Equal employment opportunityb
Indigenous 6 2 8 6 4 10
Non-English speaking background 105 38 143 124 43 167
People with disability 10 4 14 9 4 13

a These figures are a headcount of all ongoing and non-ongoing staff. Staff on long-term leave (greater than three months as at 30 June 2018) or on temporary transfer to another agency are not included. These figures also include the Immigration Assessment Authority Senior Reviewer and Reviewers, and staff made available to assist the Immigration Assessment Authority.

b These figures are based on information voluntarily provided by staff.

The increase in the AAT’s staffing complement between 30 June 2017 and 30 June 2018 was consistent with planned staffing levels, principally to deal with the increase in our workload, particularly in the Migration and Refugee Division and the IAA, but also to help deliver key strategic projects for the organisation. Our turnover of ongoing staff increased marginally but remained in the expected range compared to the wider APS. New practices were adopted for forecasting and managing our average staffing level in line with the approved staffing allocation.

A range of activities to support the initiatives outlined in the AAT Workforce Development Plan 2016–20 were either completed or advanced in 2017–18. We reviewed our processes for filling short-term vacancies and introduced a new system to streamline the on-boarding of new members and staff. The integration of registry services was supported through a range of registry process mapping activities. Targeted professional development continued to be a core workforce initiative supporting members and staff in their day-to-day duties. Work also commenced on the development of an AAT leadership capability framework covering staff from the APS5 to EL2 levels. It will be a tool to assist with managing career progression, will underpin leadership training and development, and will also be linked into recruitment and selection.

Employment agreements and arrangements for AAT staff

The framework for the terms and conditions of employment for APS staff includes an enterprise agreement for non-SES staff and section 24(1) determinations under the Public Service Act for SES staff. The AAT Enterprise Agreement 2017–2020 came into effect on 9 June 2017. It will be in operation for three years and nominally expires on 9 June 2020.

At 30 June 2018, 655 non-SES staff were covered by the enterprise agreement with 17 of these also having an individual flexibility arrangement. Five SES staff were covered by section 24(1) determinations. Table 4.2 shows the salary ranges available to employees at 30 June 2018 by classification level.

Table 4.2 Salary ranges for AAT staff, 30 June 2018
APS Level 1 $44,908–50,127
APS Level 2 $50,822–57,744
APS Level 3/Graduate $60,180–63,104
APS Level 4 $64,516–72,314
APS Level 5 $71,957–78,755
APS Level 6 $77,950–90,377
Executive Level 1 $98,731–123,164
Executive Level 2 $118,221–139,536
SES Band 1 $174,532–201,960

Senior Executive Service employee remuneration

Remuneration for SES employees was determined having regard to the remuneration for SES staff in similar Australian Government agencies. The remuneration package included cash in lieu of a motor vehicle in accordance with common Australian Government practice.

Performance pay

The AAT did not have a performance pay or bonus system for any staff in 2017–18, nor did we pay a performance bonus to any staff.

Non-salary benefits

Non-salary benefits available to staff in 2017–18 included:

  • two weeks of paid maternity/parenting leave in addition to the legislated minimum
  • access to our Studies Assistance Scheme
  • contributions to relevant professional memberships
  • ability to participate in a public transport loans scheme, and
  • health and wellbeing benefits such as assistance for group participation in health and fitness activities, the Employee Assistance Program, eyesight testing and flu vaccinations.

Employees were also able to access a range of salary sacrifice benefits, including additional superannuation, leased motor vehicles, and airline lounge memberships.

Developing our members and staff

Learning and development continues to be a priority for the AAT. In 2017–18, we delivered a wide range of activities to meet the needs of members and staff and strengthen the capability of the amalgamated AAT. We routinely sought feedback from participants to evaluate the effectiveness of training and development initiatives.

During the reporting year, substantial work was undertaken on the introduction of a new learning management system for the AAT known as educAATe. To be launched in 2018–19, educAATe will have a large library of readily accessible online training modules for members and staff which will be extended over time.

Major professional development activities

Major professional development activities undertaken during 2017–18 supported the strategic goals of creating an integrated, national organisation and building capacity.

In December 2017, mediator training was conducted with a group of members and staff to develop their alternative dispute resolution skills. The training was delivered in accordance with the National Mediator Accreditation System standards.

The AAT’s second National Conference was held between 28 and 30 May 2018. It provided an opportunity to bring together members and senior staff who are located across Australia to undertake professional development based on our competency frameworks as well as to share information and strengthen relationships. The Attorney-General, the Hon Christian Porter MP, addressed the conference. The conference’s theme of ‘Consolidating tribunal skills’ was reflected in presentations and workshops covering topics such as conducting a fair and effective hearing, dealing with medical evidence, privacy and confidentiality, decision-making and decision writing.

Member professional development

We have a comprehensive Member Professional Development Program based on a framework of competencies specific to the AAT, which describes the essential attributes required by members to perform their functions competently. The program comprises induction, mentoring, appraisal and other learning and development opportunities.

A formal induction program was conducted for four groups of new members in the reporting period. It included a comprehensive introduction to the AAT as well as sessions on the role of a member, procedural fairness, conduct of a hearing and decision writing. The program was complemented by specific divisional induction activities. New members were paired with an experienced mentor.

Members attended a range of in-house professional development sessions during 2017–18 as well as external seminars, workshops and other professional activities, including conferences arranged by the Council of Australasian Tribunals.

Conference registrar professional development

The Conference Registrar Professional Development Program is also based on a framework of competencies developed for the AAT and includes induction, mentoring, reflective learning, peer review and performance appraisal. Professional development activities in 2017–18 included a two-day training course, Conciliation in the Shadow of the Law, which focused on developing conciliation skills. Conference registrars also participated in the AAT National Conference, accessing the general training and collaboration opportunities as well as some sessions designed specifically for conference registrars. During the reporting year, conference registrars had the opportunity to develop their coaching, mentoring and presentation skills through their participation in the AAT’s Negotiated Outcomes On Time Competition for university students and the mediation training for members and staff.

Staff learning and development

Learning and development activities for other staff during 2017–18 responded to identified training needs and involved various delivery methods, including in-house courses, online learning, external seminars, and conferences. A further training needs analysis was conducted during the reporting year and will inform priorities and programs from 2018–19.

A continued area of focus during 2017–18 was to provide training for staff in dealing with change. Activities were conducted to support staff in newly co-located premises in Brisbane, Perth and Melbourne. These included training in dealing with challenging behaviour as well as leading teams through change covering topics such as emotional intelligence, resilience and team building.

APS Code of Conduct training was provided at all of our offices, focusing on workplace scenarios and practical examples of breaches with the aim of promoting a respectful workplace and to reinforce professional standards of behaviour. We also conducted training on unconscious bias, particularly in the context of recruitment.

A selection of staff and senior managers engaged in a mentoring program over a six-month period.

Our Studies Assistance Scheme provided ongoing and certain non-ongoing staff with access to financial support and/or study leave to develop their own capability, and that of the AAT, through vocational and tertiary education. During 2017–18, 19 employees accessed support for studies in areas such as commerce, information technology and law.

Staff performance management program

We launched a revised Performance Appraisal Scheme and electronic performance appraisal system in 2016–17. The Scheme requires staff to have a performance agreement which sets out capability and behavioural expectations required in a role as well as learning and development priorities. It also covers the processes for reviewing and rating performance, and performance-based salary advancement.

In 2017–18, work continued to embed the overall process and to support the usage of the system. A review of the electronic system was conducted and work has commenced on making improvements identified in that review.

To support effective performance management of staff at the AAT, further training was delivered in 2017–18 on coaching and motivating others. This training detailed various coaching models and highlighted the value of regular performance feedback.

Workplace diversity

The AAT is an organisation that values diversity in the workplace. At 30 June 2018, 65 per cent of staff were women, with strong representation across all classification levels. Twenty-five per cent of our staff identified as being from a non-English speaking background, and there was an increase in the number of staff identifying as Indigenous during the reporting year.

Our Workplace Diversity Plan sets the foundation for the AAT to build an organisation reflective of the diversity in the Australian community. It is intended to assist the AAT in promoting and maximising the opportunities and knowledge that can be gained from an inclusive and diverse workforce. In 2017–18 we also established a Diversity and Inclusion Activity Plan which sets out a list of practical activities that the AAT will be involved in to promote and encourage diversity and inclusion.

We continued our participation in the APSC Indigenous Pathways Graduate Program during the reporting year, engaging one graduate who will undertake four three-month rotations in different areas of the AAT.

Work health and safety

We are committed to providing and maintaining a safe and healthy work environment through cooperative, consultative relationships. We use a range of mechanisms to promote a positive health and safety culture, including regular intranet news articles about WHS initiatives.

In 2017–18, the AAT’s WHS committees and WHS coordinator undertook a number of activities to ensure we comply with the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 and the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988. The Rehabilitation Management System was audited and updated to improve rehabilitation outcomes. A Work Health and Safety Management Plan was also developed.

We undertook a number of health and wellbeing initiatives during the reporting year. We delivered the annual flu vaccination program with an increase in participation to 383 employees, 18 per cent higher than in 2016–17. We continued to perform workstation assessments for new employees and others as part of co-location and also reimbursed staff for eyesight testing and optical correction costs. We supported national and global health awareness campaigns such as the National Ride2Work Day, National Safe Work Month, R U Ok Day and had teams participating in the Global Challenge, a health and wellbeing initiative to help employees develop healthy activity habits.

Notifiable incidents and investigations

No notifiable incidents arising out of the conduct of the AAT’s business occurred in 2017–18. No investigations were conducted in relation to the AAT during the reporting year and no notices were given to the AAT under Part 10 of the Work Health and Safety Act.


The AAT continues to have a low number of accepted compensation claims over time, as shown in Table 4.3. Three staff were provided with early intervention support during the reporting year.

Table 4.3 Trends in compensation claims, 2015–16 to 2017–18
2015–16 2016–17 2017–18
Number of claims accepted 0 2 3

Workplace harassment

Our comprehensive policy on the prevention and elimination of harassment, bullying and discrimination in the workplace articulates our expectations of members, managers and other staff. To support workplace harassment prevention, a number of initiatives were undertaken during the reporting year, including encouraging staff to view Safe Work Australia’s virtual seminar on Building a Bully-Free Workplace broadcast on Work Mental Health Day and sharing articles supporting positive mental health. Six Workplace Harassment Contact Officers, including one member, were available to members and staff during 2017–18.

Productivity gains

The AAT continued to consolidate and streamline our operations in 2017–18. Our registries moved to single locations in Brisbane and Melbourne, offering opportunities for productivity gains through streamlining local management and integrating the delivery of aspects of registry services. Management of the Melbourne Registry was streamlined ahead of its co-location in late 2017.

We introduced and further developed initiatives to improve case allocation, case management processes and support for members to address our increasing workload in particular areas and to deal with specific backlogs. The initiatives assisted the Tribunal to deal more efficiently and effectively with these parts of our caseload.

The ongoing implementation of the AAT’s digital strategy also delivered productivity improvements during the reporting year. Greater integration was achieved between our single online lodgement platform and case management systems, eliminating data entry previously required of staff and minimising the number of systems that must be maintained.


The AAT’s procurement policies and practices reflect the principles and requirements in the Commonwealth Procurement Rules. We relied on our Accountable Authority Instructions and other guidance material in 2017–18 to ensure that staff with purchasing duties focused on securing value for money, encouraging competition, ensuring the efficient, effective, economical and ethical use of government resources, providing accountability and transparency, and ensuring compliance with other Australian Government policies.

In relation to major purchases and contracts, open tender or prequalified tender processes were employed unless the procurement was covered by a mandatory whole-of-government arrangement or a standing offer or limited tender was appropriate in the particular circumstances. For purchases and contracts below the mandatory tender threshold, at least three quotes were generally required, together with an assessment of the need justifying the purchase request and an analysis of why the selected quote would achieve value for money.

We support small business participation in the Commonwealth Government procurement market. Small and Medium Enterprises and Small Enterprise participation statistics are available on the Department of Finance’s website: We supported small business participation by utilising the Commonwealth Contracting Suite for low-risk procurements valued under $200,000, by communicating in clear, simple language, presenting information in accessible formats and by using electronic systems to facilitate on-time payment of invoices.


The AAT uses consultants where there is a need for independent research or assessment, or for specialist knowledge or skills that are not available within the AAT. Any decision to engage a consultant is made after considering the skills and resources required for the task, internal capacity and the cost effectiveness of contracting an external service provider. Consultants are selected in accordance with the Commonwealth Procurement Rules and relevant internal policies noted above. Consultants were engaged in 2017–18 to investigate issues, carry out independent reviews and evaluations, and provide independent advice, information and solutions to assist in our decision-making.

During 2017–18, 19 new consultancy contracts were entered into involving total actual expenditure of $553,855. In addition, six ongoing consultancy contracts were active during the period, involving total actual expenditure of $374,862.

The following table sets out the AAT’s total actual expenditure on all consultancies in the three most recent reporting years.

Table 4.4 Total actual expenditure on consultancy contracts, 2015–16 to 2017–18
2015–16 2016–17 2017–18
Total actual expenditure (incl GST) $568,856 $827,417 $928,717

Annual reports contain information about actual expenditure on contracts for consultancies. Information on the value of contracts and consultancies is available on the AusTender website

Reporting on purchases

Details of all contracts of $100,000 or more that were current in the most recent calendar or financial year were available on the AAT’s website in accordance with the Senate order on agency contracts.

There were no contracts of $100,000 or more let in 2017–18 that did not include a clause providing for the Auditor-General to have access to the contractor’s premises.

There were no contracts of more than $10,000 (including GST) or standing offers exempt from being published on the AusTender website on the basis that they would disclose exempt matters under the Freedom of Information Act.

Back to the top of the page