Leaked survey suggests low morale of aid staff after DFAT merger

A member of Australian Agency for International Development’s rapid response team helps unload emergency supplies from an aircraft. A leaked survey revealed low morale among staff members following the aid agency’s merger with the country’s foreign affairs and trade department. Photo by: Owen Martin / AusAID / CC BY

Since Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced plans to merge Australia’s foreign aid, diplomacy and trade ministries last year, there have been concerns about a possible fallout. Now a government staff survey reveals frustration especially among former AusAID employees.

Only one in three members of Australia’s aid agency felt “part of the team” in March, five months after the amalgamation into the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade began, according to the leaked staff survey, which was published by the Australian Broadcasting Corp., a media outlet that has been in a bitter standoff with the government over its highly critical coverage of the Abbott administration, including its international affairs.

DFAT has pledged steps to raise staff morale and plans to conduct followup surveys, according to ABC.

While the integration of Australia’s aid program into DFAT was announced a few days after Abbott assumed office in September, details — including implications to employees such as job cuts — were delayed and caused anxiety, as Devex reported last year.

In the recent federal budget statement, Treasurer Joe Hockey revealed that roughly 16,000 jobs would be trimmed across the Australian government. Some employees were offered voluntary redundancy packages, although less than half of the 550 applications DFAT received will be granted before July 1.

The survey suggests that two out of 10 former AusAID employees think they will leave DFAT within two years, compared to one out of 10 employees from the rest of the agency — and that a lack of “frank and honest” communication about the amalgamation process has affected employee’s perception of their job security and fulfillment.

“The survey findings suggest that some staff feel that communication and leadership has not been sufficiently frank and honest,” the document revealed. “Better flow of information through managers and team leaders to reduce reliance on the ‘rumor mill’.”

What do you think about the DFAT merger? Please let us know by emailing news@devex.com or by leaving a comment below.

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About the author

  • Lean 2

    Lean Alfred Santos

    Lean Alfred Santos is a Devex development reporter focusing on the development community in Asia-Pacific, including major players such as the Asian Development Bank and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. Prior to joining Devex, he covered Philippine and international business and economic news, sports and politics. Lean is based in Manila.