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AFP Commissioner Andrew Colvin and Elizabeth Broderick launch the AFP Cultural Change Report on 22 August, 2016

One year on...

The AFP’s focus on culture celebrates its first birthday and a growing list of achievements.

By Graham McBean

When AFP Commissioner Andrew Colvin publicly released the Cultural Change Report on 22 August, 2016, he set the AFP on a course for change.

“This is not an easy document to read for someone who loves this organisation as much as I do,” Commissioner Colvin said at the time.

But the report also launched the necessary impetus for change. Now 12 months on and celebrating its 1st birthday, there are grounds to celebrate.

Eight of the 24 recommendations already have been finalised. There has also been a groundswell of support and contribution from AFP members ready to embrace cultural change.

Commissioner Colvin welcomed the work done so far and said reforming the AFP culture would continue to be a priority.

“This isn’t just about implementing recommendations. This is about making meaningful, real, sustainable change across the AFP,” Commissioner Colvin said.

The AFP Reform, Culture and Standards (RCS) function was announced on the same day as the Cultural Change Report.

The newly established RCS was tasked to oversee implementation of the 24 recommendations from the report. National Manager RCS Ray Johnson says the AFP can be proud of the effort and achievements of the first 12 months – but there is still a long journey ahead.

National Manager Reform, Culture and Standards Ray Johnson says “there is still a long journey”
National Manager Reform, Culture and Standards Ray Johnson says “there is still a long journey”

“I think success is something the workforce should be involved in deciding,” Assistant Commissioner Johnson said.

“It is the sense of inclusion, the ability to have a voice, feel empowered and have the sense of an inclusive workplace that people will reflect on when they consider how we are travelling. But we have certainly come a long way in opening a dialogue.”

Important initiatives have provided immediate benefits since the Culture Change Report.

  • The Statement of Commitment has been signed by the AFP Executive in support of cultural change. ‘Leadership Cafes’ and ‘Storytelling’ events have also been held across the regions, with more planned. These activities contribute to strengthening and promoting dialogue between the Executive and staff.
  • SES leadership – the Senior Executive members remain focused on their impact on organisational culture. Over the past eight months all SES officers from the Commissioner down have undertaken a formal 360-degree assessment process.  The Senior Leadership Group has engaged a coach to work with the group and all have attended inclusive leadership workshops.  The focus on leadership development will continue this year with support for coordinators and team leaders.
  • AFP Safe Place was established to provide support to people who have suffered sexual harassment or bullying and to give them the reassurance that their concerns will be treated with respect, sensitivity and confidentiality. By 30 June, 2017, AFP Safe Place had received 300 cases, with 180 now finalised.
  • Recruitment since January 2015 has achieved approximately 40 per cent female representation on external police and protective service officer recruitment compared to the previous average of 22 per cent.
  • The Cultural Reform Board chaired by Commissioner Colvin was established in April and includes a wide range of AFP members at various levels providing direction and advice on issues arising from the cultural reform process.
  • Cultural Reform Committees have been established across Australia to support the Cultural Reform Board and give staff a voice to drive AFP cultural change in their regions.

Federal Agent Tanya Schindler, Crime Operations – Sydney, is a member of the NSW Cultural Reform Committee who took part in the second meeting of the Cultural Reform Board in Sydney. Federal Agent Schindler said it was about contributing.

“There is sometimes a fatigue with some of the change or structural changes that we bring in,” Federal Agent Schindler said.

NSW Cultural Reform Committee member Tanya Schindler says it’s about getting involved
NSW Cultural Reform Committee member Tanya Schindler says it’s about getting involved

“But if everybody gets on board with it, bringing up suggestions or ways in which we can change our culture and getting actively involved it is going to make a lasting difference and that is going to pass on a lasting legacy.

“So when new people come in they will see this invigorated work force. So probably one of the biggest things is everyone being a part of it.”

The passion and commitment from the AFP workforce for cultural change is one of great highlights for Assistant Commissioner Johnson in the first 12 months. He said the response from the workforce was ample evidence that AFP members wanted cultural reform.

“The passion in the Cultural Reform Committees and the board itself tells me that,” Assistant Commissioner Johnson said.

“I think the number of people who have given Safe Place an opportunity to help them in their experience in the workplace tells me that. Often that is a negative experience but they have come forward to Safe Place seeking a solution.

“I think that has been positive so far as we can’t help people if we don’t know there is a problem. We have given people an opportunity to come forward and people have in numbers. So I think that has been a good sign.”

The AFP Executive has signed the Statement of Commitment to reform the AFP culture for the future
The AFP Executive has signed the Statement of Commitment to reform the AFP culture for the future

Assistant Commissioner Johnson is quick to add that there is still a longer journey to go. He said the first eight recommendations achieved were probably the easiest to achieve.

“Other recommendations will take longer to put into place. I would like to think that over the next 12 months to two years we could have done the technical work to make them come into existence.

“But again, they are only just part of the journey. They are part of the technical solution that we hope people take the opportunity to use.”

The journey continues. Assistant Commissioner Johnson said it was not just a matter of achieving the recommendations. “The challenge for all of those recommendations is the difference they make to people in their workplace day-to-day. Again, time will tell.”

In the meantime, he said the work continues on one of the most important challenges he has had negotiate for the AFP.

“The weight of responsibility to the people in the AFP is more than I have felt in any other role I have had – and the issues weigh heavier than any other job,” Assistant Commissioner Johnson said. “Having said that, the rewards of making the AFP an even better place to work are much greater as well.”