Secretary’s overview

The 2013–14 year saw the formation of the new Department of Education, established on 18 September 2013, with a vision to provide opportunity through learning.

A dedicated Australian Government Department of Education provides opportunity to support a stronger economy, opportunity to build stronger communities and the opportunity for a more equitable society. We will achieve this by enabling learning that is lifelong.

Our portfolio is responsible for national policies and programmes that help Australians access quality and affordable child care, early childhood education, school education, higher education, international education and academic research.

The department has been active in implementing the education policy agenda for the Australian Government elected on 7 September 2013. This includes supporting the Minister for Education, the Hon Christopher Pyne MP, the Assistant Minister for Education, the Hon Sussan Ley MP, and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Education, Senator the Hon Scott Ryan.

The creation of the Department of Education required a complex set of Machinery of Government changes involving several other agencies. In a first for the Australian Public Service ( APS), a shared services centre was created to provide corporate services that can be shared between APS agencies.

During the year, we developed and launched our 2014–2017 Strategic Plan to guide the day‑to‑day work of all Education people. The plan reinforces the work of the department through four goals of excelling through knowledge, enriching early learning, supporting quality schooling and enabling business areas.

We have established a Deregulation Unit to identify opportunities for reducing the regulatory burden on individuals, business and community organisations. This is contributing towards the government’s $1 billion red tape reduction target.

In our department, Indigenous business is everyone’s business. We develop and deliver education policies and programmes by working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, respecting their cultures and building the cultural capability of Education people.

Our Reconciliation Action Plan is a formal commitment and call to action for all our people to improve outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The department’s Indigenous Leader works to ensure the department is identified as an employer of choice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. We have also established an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Employee Committee.

Excelling through knowledge

Reforms to higher education announced in the 2014–15 Budget represent important changes which aim to give students greater choice and ensure the sustainability of Australia’s higher education system.

Under Associate Secretary Robert Griew, the Higher Education, Research and International area is working closely with the higher education sector to progress the Government’s reform agenda. This includes deregulation of Australia’s higher education institutions, as well as ongoing support for Australian research and international education.

The department is also supporting the Government to position Australia as a regional leader in international education cooperation. Under the New Colombo Plan more than 1300 undergraduate students from 39 universities across Australia will have the opportunity to study and live in a country in the Asia-Pacific region.

Enriching early years

The establishment of the Productivity Commission Inquiry into Child Care and Early Childhood Learning was one of the Government’s first priorities and a key election commitment. The Early Childhood Education and Child Care area led by Deputy Secretary Jackie Wilson has actively contributed to the inquiry process, through a submission and the provision of a range of information to the Commission. The policy focus is the Government’s commitment to make child care more affordable, flexible and accessible for Australian families and to reduce the burden of red tape on service providers. We are looking forward to supporting the Government in responding to the Inquiry report when released.

During 2013–14, the Government also invested significantly in early childhood development, education and care including establishing the Long Day Care Professional Development Programme.

Supporting quality schooling

The Schools and Youth teams led by Associate Secretary Tony Cook are active in supporting the delivery of the Students First framework for improving school education and implemented needs-based funding arrangements commencing with the 2014 school year.

Under the Students First plan, policies and programmes are being developed and implemented to address four areas that affect student outcomes: high-quality teaching, parental engagement in a child’s learning, greater autonomy for schools and a strong national curriculum.

Our people

During 2013–14, our people have again proved to be resourceful, resilient and dedicated to achieving our collective goals. I thank them for their ongoing efforts. I look forward to working with all Education people in 2014–15 to continue creating opportunity through learning.

Lisa Paul AO PSM