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by Vault Careers | March 31, 2009


Govern everything, and then some

If job security and helping your country are at the top of your list of work requirements, pursuing a career in the government-funded public sector is a good option. The public sector deals with all activities, goods and services provided by and on behalf of the government, including at the federal, state/territory and local levels. Government agencies perform a vast array of functions, from collecting taxes to providing healthcare to conducting military operations, in essence providing the backbone on which society relies. In Australia, the industry is comprised of a dynamic range of departments and institutions, including the Defence Department (the navy, army and air force); the Treasury; the Department of Health and Ageing; the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations; and the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, among many others.

According to the government-run web site myfuture, the Australian public sector is increasingly focused on management, instead of on delivering programs and services (its previous foci). This new focus has meant downsizing for many agencies as work is contracted and outsourced to nongovernmental firms and individuals. Ethics, accountability, public policy and efficiency are the new keywords for public sector employees as the Australian government redefines itself for the new millennium.

Most large government departments and agencies in the country fall under the auspices of the Australian Public Service (APS) and are run in accordance with the Public Service Act of 1999. There are currently 18 government departments within the APS, 65 statutory authorities, five executive agencies and 23 other government bodies. The majority of APS jobs are open to all Australians, while some agencies also elect to employ non-citizens. APS agencies advertise job vacancies in a number of places including in newspapers, on agency-specific web sites, and on the APS employment web site at Meanwhile, non-APS agencies such as the Australia Bureau of Statistics and the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, are still a part of the government, but employ people under their own acts. In 2008, there were 160,000 people employed in APS agencies nationwide, while 1.5 million people were employed in the public sector in August 2002, the latest year for which figures are available.

According to the Social Network of Graduates (SNoG), an organization run by graduates in the public sector, 2,000 recent grads go to Canberra every year to join government agencies. Qualifications for government jobs vary widely depending on role and department, and there is no single entry route. A large number of public sector jobs are found in the Australian Capital Territory, largely in Canberra. Of course, any place with a sizable population has a need for government services, and public sector jobs can be found countrywide.


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