What it does: Helps run the country
Staff stats: Around 2100
The good bits: High-powered work
The not so good bits: Huge demands
The PM&C story
For the first decade after Federation, the Prime Minister (who then also held the External Affairs portfolio) relied on the Department of External Affairs to help him govern the country. In July 1911, the Prime Minister’s Department was created but it wasn’t until 1968 the Department of the Cabinet Office came into being. In 1971, the two were merged to form the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C).
Like the Executive Office of the President in the US or the Cabinet Office in the UK, PM&C is Australia’s central department. It has broad responsibilities including assisting the Prime Minister manage his or her Ministers and providing sound policy advice to both the Prime Minister and Ministers. PM&C oversees intergovernmental and whole of government policy co-ordination. It co-ordinates the implementation of government programs, provides leadership to the broader Australian Public Service, administers ceremonies and overseas visits, manages Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander policy and oversees policies relating to national security, counterterrorism, regulatory reform, cities, population, data and women.
It is structured around four policy and program groups. These are: the Domestic Policy Group; the National Security and International Policy Group; the Governance Group and the Indigenous Affairs Group. PM&C is run by the Secretary of PM&C, who is supported by a senior management team made up of Senior Executive Service Band 3 officials.
PM&C makes all selection decisions on merit and aims for a fair and consistent assessment process. As a public-sector employer, it champions inclusion. In recent years, it has introduced initiatives such as an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Employment Strategy, a Disability Action Plan and Reconciliation Action Plan. The Department has a ‘Diversity Champion’, who is supported by a Gender Champion, Indigenous Champion and Disability and LGBTI Champion.
While politicians talk about improving the lives of Australians, it's public servants, especially those in PM&C, who have the challenging task of turning those aspirational visions into reality. As a PM&C staffer, you’ll be suggesting and helping implement policies that will (hopefully) have a positive impact on many of your fellow citizens’ lives.
The recruitment process
If you’re a fan of shows such as Utopia, The West Wing or Yes, Minister, a career in PM&C might appeal to you. You can be from any academic discipline but you’ll need to be a high achiever with “an interest in and understanding of Government, policy and/or the Work of the Department”.
Given the nature of the work you’ll be expected to undertake, you’ll also need to demonstrate excellent verbal and written communication skills, the ability to quickly develop effective relationships with people from a range of backgrounds, analytical abilities, innovative thinking, a knack for absorbing new information, processes and technologies, and a resilient and agile mindset.
On top of that, you need to be an Australian citizen (or about to become one), to have finished a bachelor degree in the last five years and to be willing to undergo an extensive security check.
The recruitment process starts with an online application. If you make the cut, your “knowledge areas, critical skills, motivation and fit for the role” will be further assessed. This will be done through: online critical thinking and behavioural exercises; and attending an assessment centre incorporating interviews and group tasks.
If you get an offer, you’ll need to move to Canberra, though there may be some opportunities available in the Department’s regional network. Once in Canberra, you’ll take part in a “structured, on-the-job development program”, undertake rotations across various areas of the Department and be provided with “a range of on-the-job training, networking and mentoring opportunities, and tailored learning and development activities”.
As well as applying the usual way, Indigenous graduates can transfer into PM&C via the APS Indigenous Graduate Program.
You’ll start on an AP3 level salary ($62,406). This can be bumped up to as high as an APS5 level salary (around $70,000) following successful completion of the program. You’ll also get the usual public sector benefits such as generous super and leave allowances, as well as access to flexible work hours.
The PM&C is the elite corps of the Australian Public Service and a stint working there will make you attractive to many future employers. After finishing the grad program, you can hang around and work your way up the greasy pole at PM&C. Alternatively, you can transfer to another part of the public service, or move into (more lucrative) private sector employment.
The vibe of the place
You’ll soon find a career spent striding the halls of power is neither as glamorous or as absurd as it’s commonly made out to be in works of fiction. That said, you’ll be working at the heart of government and having experiences, such as meeting heads of state or helping the Minister for Defence devise counter-terrorism strategies, that most grads can only dream about. You can also look forward to working with passionate overachievers and enjoying a supportive workplace culture and reassuring sense of job security.
Overall satisfaction rating among grad employees: 3.9 stars
From the Employer:
WHO ARE WE?
"We are the team that supports the Prime Minister, Cabinet, Portfolio Ministers and Assistant Ministers. The Department coordinates policy development across government in economic, domestic and international affairs and public service stewardship.
We are also responsible for Indigenous policy and delivering the Indigenous Advancement Strategy.
Our operating environment is dynamic and complex and, as a key central agency, we are in a unique position to provide advice across a range of matters.
WHAT DO WE OFFER?
- A flexible, inclusive and diverse workplace.
- An attractive remuneration package including generous employer superannuation contributions.
- Exciting and fulfilling work at the heart of government with career development and networking opportunities difficult to find elsewhere.
- The opportunity to work with strong, smart, visionary and experienced leaders who encourage and support you to develop your interests and expertise and achieve your ambitions.
WHO DO WE WANT?
We encourage applications from all degree streams and across all disciplines.
You must be a highly motivated, adaptable, results-oriented individual, with strong communication skills and a positive and committed work ethic."