Part 4: Resourcing the joint venture

Working in new ways to address family violence and sexual violence.

In this Part, we discuss how the joint venture uses its collective experience and resources to meet its intent.

The joint venture was created to transform the way that government agencies work together. One of the structural issues that has previously prevented effective cross-agency work is the way that expertise and experience is spread across many agencies, each of which has its own focus.

Another reason for creating the joint venture was to ensure that reducing family violence and sexual violence becomes, and remains, a priority for all the agencies despite the competing demands on time and resources.

We expected to see the joint venture actively considering what is needed for the cross-agency approach to succeed. This includes understanding:

  • the support the Director and the business unit need to co-ordinate and lead work for the joint venture, including the number of people the business unit needs and what knowledge, skills, and experience those people need to have; and
  • the resources each agency needs to devote to the joint venture to fully engage in and prioritise the joint venture's work.

Summary of findings

The business unit often leads work on behalf of the joint venture that needs leadership or input from agency staff who have particular knowledge, experience, and skills. The joint venture needs to develop a resourcing model that enables these people to be made available to contribute to and prioritise that work.

The joint venture's current approach to resourcing work is ad hoc and project-based. To an extent, it also relies on outside contractors who have not always had the specific skills, experience, or knowledge that the work needs.

The joint venture needs to take action so that its work draws on the combined skills, experience, and knowledge that exists in the joint venture agencies.

The joint venture's approach to resourcing needs to meet its intent

At a fundamental level, the joint venture is based on the need for the agencies to collectively prioritise and co-ordinate their work on family violence and sexual violence. Agencies have tended to prioritise their particular accountabilities over cross-agency work. Resourcing cross-agency work on family violence and sexual violence has not been a consistent priority.

We wanted to determine how the joint venture is resourcing its work and the extent to which this reflects a commitment to prioritising that work. We considered how the joint venture uses skills, knowledge, and experience from the agencies. This included looking at:

  • how the joint venture supports and resources the joint venture's business unit to lead and carry out work;
  • the extent to which agencies identify which of their staff need to be aware of, and contribute to, the joint venture's work; and
  • the extent to which staff are able to prioritise that work.

The joint venture needs to consistently use its collective skills, knowledge, and experience

The joint venture's business unit sits at the centre of the joint venture. It helps to increase the connections between the agencies and leads collective work on behalf of those agencies.

To effectively carry out its role, the business unit needs to be appropriately resourced. This means having a resourcing model that allows access to the number of people it needs to carry out its work. Those people also need to have the right set of skills, experience, and knowledge.

As we noted in paragraph 2.16, long-term funding for the joint venture was secured through Budget 2019. This was significantly less funding than the joint venture sought and resulted in establishing a much smaller business unit than was initially planned for.

The joint venture still had to carry out its programme of work, as described in paragraph 2.20. To do this, the Director has sought support and resources from the agencies to carry out collective work. This has involved identifying the attributes – including skills, knowledge, and/or experience – needed for a given project and then seeking people with those attributes from the agencies.

The results of this have been inconsistent. Some agencies have made staff with the necessary attributes available to the joint venture. Other agencies have opted to provide funding to cover the costs of securing contractors to carry out the work.

Some people we spoke with said that this approach is less likely to result in access to the institutional knowledge and/or operational experience needed to lead work for the joint venture. Using contractors has meant that work led by the joint venture's business unit does not consistently draw on the collective skills, knowledge, and experience that exists in the agencies.

The agencies are also more likely to repeatedly question, review, and critique work produced by contractors, which means that the work takes longer to complete. Agency staff we spoke with identified this as a particular problem that causes frustration for all involved.

The project-based approach to resourcing has also come with a significant administrative burden for the Director and the business unit. Resourcing each project requires meeting with each agency to negotiate and secure the resources needed.

If funding for contractors is provided, the Director and the business unit spend extra time managing the procurement of contract staff. This work varies from month to month. However, we were told that it has generally accounted for about a quarter of the Director's time.

We discussed the resourcing of the joint venture's work with Board members, the Director, deputy chief executives, and others. Many of those we spoke with said that this approach to resourcing is not working.

It was widely recognised that relying on contract staff is placing a particular burden on the Director. It is also affecting the development of the joint venture by limiting the connections between the agencies.

There was less agreement on how to address this issue. The primary reason given for agencies opting not to make their staff available to the joint venture's business unit was that those staff were then not available for other work. Some agencies also said that they could not make the staff available because those staff were leading other aspects of family violence and sexual violence work within their own agency.

Each agency needs to make resources available for joint venture work

The joint venture has been created to help the agencies to transform the way they work collectively. It has not been created to take over the roles and responsibilities of the agencies.

Although the business unit can and does lead some collective work for the joint venture, there will always be work that relates to the roles of particular agencies and is more appropriately led by those agencies. There will also always be instances where the agencies need to check, review, and comment on work led by the joint venture's business unit.

For these reasons, it is important that all the agencies consider how they internally resource the joint venture's work. This includes assigning sufficient staff to engage with the business unit and other agencies on collective work. It also means ensuring that those agency staff who are assigned to the joint venture's work are able to prioritise that work.

As we discussed in Part 2, it is important for agency staff to ensure there is capacity to communicate with each other so that the agencies are consistently informed on the progress of the joint venture's work.

We saw a range of approaches from the agencies to assigning resources internally to support the joint venture's work. Some agencies, or parts of agencies, actively considered how they could best support the joint venture. Others have been more reactive, devoting resources as work comes up.

However, many of those we spoke with raised concerns about a general lack of consideration by their own agency and others about what was needed to effectively support the joint venture.

This situation reflects and reinforces the perception that the joint venture is separate from the agencies that comprise it. In our view, the agencies need to consider that resourcing the joint venture's work is a core part of their role. This is more than just providing funding.

We recognise that agencies need to balance requests for staff to contribute to the joint venture's work against competing demands.

What we found, and what concerns some involved in the joint venture, is that the joint venture's work to transform government agencies' approach to family violence and sexual violence is still not being prioritised.

We understand that, at times, this will mean that the agencies will not be able to make staff available for collective work led by the business unit and will need to fund alternative arrangements. However, this appears to have become a default approach to resourcing the joint venture's work.

In our view, the Board needs to address the current approach to resourcing the joint venture's work. We understand that the joint venture's new operating model is helping to clarify both the role of the agencies involved and the resources those agencies should commit to the effective operation of the joint venture.

Recommendation 5
We recommend that the Board of the joint venture ensure that the joint venture has sufficient and appropriate resources to deliver the transformational change it was set up to achieve. This will include ensuring:
  • that the joint venture business unit is able to access people with the appropriate skills, knowledge, and experience to support and lead collective work; and
  • that staff within each joint venture agency have the capacity to prioritise joint venture work.