What it does: Works to improve the lifetime wellbeing of people and families in Australia.
Staff stats: Around 2400
The good bits: Innovative, dynamic and flexible workplace that encourages diversity in ideas and employees.
The not so good bits: There can be some breaucratic processes
The Department of Social Services story
The Department of Social Services (aka DSS) is the latest in a long line of differently named government departments charged with the responsibility of ensuring those Australians doing it tough don’t fall through the cracks. DSS and its predecessors have helped create then implemented the social policies and programs of successive Federal Governments. The Department is headed up by the Secretary of the Department of Social Services, who chiefly reports to the Minister for Social Services.
DSS employees work in areas of policy development including social housing, migrant settlement, child support and multicultural affairs. DSS, and its predecessors, have long championed the cause of the aged, the disabled, migrants and refugees, Indigenous Australians and those suffering physical or mental health issues, as well as any vulnerable Australian who ends up in difficult economic circumstances.
Like most public service employers, DSS is big on diversity. It encourages applications from “people with [a] disability”, “people with culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds” and “Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples” who “will experience a streamlined entry to the program through a culturally appreciative pathway.”
As of January 2017, 67 per cent of the Department’s staff and 53 per cent of its senior executive service leaders were women. Nonetheless, a Gender Equality Action Plan is in place to ensure “structural and cultural barriers to female career progression are actively challenged and addressed”.
Working for the DSS is a public service job where you really are providing a vital public service. The department’s staff help create policies and programs that have a significant impact on many Australians’ lives. They are in charge of crafting the safety net that makes this country a civilised place to live. Though its work is never done, the DSS helps foster a cohesive, compassionate society.
The recruitment process
Every year the DSS accepts 70-80 individuals, from a range of disciplines, into its 10-month Graduate Development Program. It seeks out “high-calibre graduates with the skills and capabilities required by DSS to deliver its strategic outcomes”. In practice, this means people who can produce solid policy advice for the Minister, help implement the Federal Government’s social policy agenda and ensure future governments are prepared to meet looming social challenges.
The DSS grad program has five streams: generalist; data and analysis; public affairs specialist; legal and finance. (IT grads wanting to work for the Department need to apply through the Australian Government’s ICT Graduate Program then nominate DSS as their preferred placement).
The Department has some varied pathways for the Graduate Program dependent on your personal, diverse characteristics, however chances are you will go through the standard recruitment process. This will likely involve an online application, video interview, and individual and group exercises at an assessment centre, with a panel. If you receive an offer, you’ll need to provide confirmation of your identity, consent to a police check and agree to abide by the Australian Public Service’s Code of Conduct and Values.
While there is some scope to work elsewhere after completing the Program, you’ll have to move to Canberra to undertake the grad program (relocation assistance is available). The grad program involves internal and external training, digital and face-to-face courses and the option to attend relevant departmental events. You’ll receive mentoring from those who’ve previously completed the program as well as be given opportunities to network with senior executives. You’ll do two rotations and be given “meaningful and challenging” work in both of them.
Grads receive an APS3 salary ($56,691 – $61,512) which is increased to an APS4 one ($64,229 - $69,038) upon successful completion of the program. All DSS staff receive a 15.4 per cent employer superannuation contribution. You’ll also have access to flexible hours and many types of leave, such as carers, cultural, ceremonial and community volunteering leave.
DSS has a “strong commitment to ongoing learning and development”. Throughout their careers, staff can take advantage of “training opportunities, professional development courses and access to study leave”. Your career prospects will be affected by whether the government of the day is increasing or decreasing funding to the department. That noted, with the necessary work and a bit of luck you should be able to advance as far as you wish to go.
The vibe of the place
This can vary depending on where you find yourself but, overall, it's a friendly and laidback workplace culture. Perhaps because they enjoy such excellent work-life balance, as well as the satisfaction that comes with making the world a better place, DSS staff typically have good morale. If you’re interested in doing so, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to socialise with your fellow grads and co-workers in Canberra’s nightspots after hours.
Star Rating: 3.9 stars
From the Employer:
"Grow your opportunities & transform Australia’s future.
The Department of Social Services (DSS) offers a challenging and meaningful career at the heart of the Australian Government's social policy agenda. It’s more than just a job.
We have a central role in delivering policies and programmes that improve the lifetime wellbeing of people and families in Australia. We are responsible for about a quarter of the Australian Government Budget, responding to need across people’s lives, encouraging independence and participation, and supporting a cohesive society.
We work to provide policies and services that:
- support people and families to participate economically and socially in Australian society
- enhance the independence and wellbeing of people with high needs
- foster a cohesive community and promote civil society
- provide a safety net for people who cannot fully support themselves."