2019 Vote - Will Spensley Memorial Award for Innovation - PUBLIC SECTOR


We invite all AAGE Full Members (i.e. employer members) to vote for their favourite innovation entry from the selection below.


Each Full Member organisation can only cast one vote and cannot vote for their own organisations. The Finalists for this Award are the employers who received the most votes for their submission.

Please note that the AAGE has not authored any of the following content, and as such will accept no responsibility for any inaccuracies. Entries have been publicised below using the exact wording provided by each entrant.



If the employer has produced the innovation with the assistance of a third party supplier then the name of the supplier is shown.


Please also note that the entries for this award are displayed in order of submission.


Submission 1: Australian Taxation Office 

Development of the entry level program strategy to deliver programs which target particular professions and candidates to the ATO, delivering on our strategic workforce needs.


The ATO competes in a highly competitive graduate labour market, where talented graduates are difficult to attract and retain.  With an established Graduate program, the ATO is a well-regarded employer of graduates of taxation-related disciplines.  However, our changing professional profile has seen us struggle to attract in some new disciplines.

By aligning a suite of previously isolated entry level programs for undergraduates as well as introducing work based programs, we created an integrated pathway into the ATO.  The programs establish a relationship with participants, building our reputation as a prospective employer. 

The newly-aligned programs attracted candidates to hard to fill disciplines in the Graduate program, and has helped to address issues around attrition during recruitment.  

The ATO had three main existing entry level programs – Vocational Placements, Indigenous cadetships and the Graduate Program.  In 2017, the Entry Level Program team took responsibility for the fledgling University Partnership Employment Program (UPEP), a program which had been set up to provide casual employment to university students.  As well as these, the Opening Doors program, is designed to tap into a new a new talent pool by offering non ongoing employment to skilled people who came to Australia from refugee backgrounds. 

In late 2017, the ATO created a strategic linkage across its suite of entry level programs.  This enabled program participants to see a future in the ATO while also building a mechanism through which the ATO could strengthen both its recruitment outcomes, reputation and brand.The intent of the entry level program strategy was to deliver programs which targeted particular professions and candidates to the ATO, delivering on our strategic workforce needs.  

The strategy also provided the ATO with an introduction to key influencer within universities, in areas such as Analytics, where we had fewer linkages, this was particularly important. 

Submission 2: The Melbourne Metro Water Partnership

In partnership with Fusion Graduate Consultancy

The Melbourne Metro Water Partnership - A Collaborative Graduate Development Program

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Melbourne’s water authorities, Melbourne Water, Yarra Valley Water, South East Water and City West Water commenced a collaborative partnership to establish an integrated graduate development program. Our vision was to work together to increase opportunities to attract top talent to the water industry. We aim to grow a pipeline of talent to meet the workforce and capability demands of the future.


We worked as one partnership to create our overarching strategy aimed at developing the skills required to deliver exceptional outcomes for our customers, communities and the environment.


Our customised development program aims to deliver the following outcomes:

·         Develop a critical awareness of self and learning style to enhance own leadership capability

·         Build essential business skills to work efficiently and with success in the working landscape 

·         Develop resilience and agility to work effectively in the water industry, and deal with setbacks 

·         Gain experience working on a tailored project to make a real difference to the future of the water industry

·         Cultivate a network of young water industry professionals to learn and grow with for entire careers


Some of the key elements of the graduate program include a formal welcome event, 8 development workshops hosted by each of the organisations across a 2-year period, a water industry mentoring program, an innovation project and excursions to various water treatment and cultural heritage sites across Melbourne.


The partnership was formed early 2018, with the first graduate cohort commencing the development program in January 2019. 


What is so innovative about this?

As an industry, we are preparing for a future with less water to share. Therefore, collaboration is the key to our industry’s future success. What makes our program innovative is our four water authorities are cross collaborating to deliver outcomes for the benefit of our future industry and community through a tailored, best-practice Graduate program.

Submission 3: icare NSW

Growing Graduates into General Managers

Many graduate programs set out to develop future leaders, but how many measure and can say they actually achieved that goal? At icare, we have developed rigorous and innovative talent practices so our graduates step off our program into stretching, business-critical roles and are on track towards general management (GM) positions in 5-7 years.



Our program deliberately places grads outside their comfort zone: their first of 4 rotations is NEVER in their degree discipline. Graduates are coached to work through this discomfort by practicing curiosity, listening to deeply understand the business, and connecting the dots to their expertise. One rotation must also be in a core business line of ours, closer to our customers. 



Grads participate in robust development including on-job stretch projects, reflection time, workshops, mentoring and buddying. They are accountable to a GM so they can shadow their future role.  A 360 feedback survey typically used with senior leaders is a challenging but insightful part of their final rotation, so they can leave the program informed about how others see them.


Wellbeing ​

Our graduates work at pace, are thrown high stakes challenges are experience our business pressures early on. So they adapt and flourish, we provide ‘above and beyond’ optional wellbeing experiences – early detection leave to visit a specialist, Mental Health First Aid training, RUOK Day and Steptember, and even ‘bike and blend your own smoothie’ challenges.



Our first cohort of graduates (2017), recently completed their 2 year program. 

  • All completed with above average performance results.

  • 100% were retained. 

  • They voted us the no. 3 program in Banking & Finance (AAGE survey).

  • All stepped off at salary bands 1 or 2 higher than they left the program.

  • All currently report to a GM level role.

  • All went through competitive recruitment to compete for these roles!

Submission 4: Department of Finance

Virtual Assessment Centres - Modernising the recruitment process

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The Department of Finance has successfully embedded technology into its graduate recruitment process enabling candidates to participate on a global reach. During the recruitment process for the 2019 Graduate Program, PEXIP - a video conferencing app - was rolled out.  


Finance didn’t want to miss the talent of those who choose to broaden their horizons and recognised the need to be innovative. This technology provided the flexibility for candidates to be involved using their mobile devices in remote locations around the world while taking on new experiences, whether interning in South East Asia or volunteering in Africa.


Twelve candidates joined the virtual assessment centres using the PEXIP Infinity App from various countries. Four of these candidates made it into the merit pool. Furthermore, two accepted an offer to work at Finance and commenced in the 2019 Graduate Program. Assessment centres challenge participant’s ability at problem solving, teamwork and their leadership capacity. The app used facial identification technology to facilitate group discussion and expose candidates’ reactions in real time.  


Arlen took part in the assessment centre from Singapore, ‘I was impressed by the department’s innovative use of digital technology. It was a positive sign about working at Finance and ultimately helped me make my decision to work for the department’.  


From Tanzania, Timara joined the assessment centre, ‘Without this option, I couldn’t have participated. No other department that I applied for, as a graduate, offered such a flexible approach.


Although I was travelling, I felt my skills and circumstances were valued throughout the experience’. 


In preparation for the 2020 graduate recruitment process, Finance aims to leverage the PEXIP technology giving candidates the choice to physically attend or to participate in the virtual assessment saving on travel costs and facilitating engagement on a global reach.

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Submission 5: SA Water

Graduates recruiting Graduates - Mitigating Bias and utilising Graduate Recruitment as a tool for Graduate Development.

Mitigating bias and ensuring diversity of thought throughout recruitment processes is something that business’ today must consider and strive for. Developing our Graduates is also key to ensuring success of our programs. At SA Water we thought – why can’t our Graduate Recruitment process do both? 

Our Graduates, who are quite diverse in nature were brought together as a project team to recruit our 2020 intake.


Through the process they learnt the role of hiring manager, seeing how decisions are made and what recruiters and managers are looking for when assessing candidates. Being empowered to make decisions has accelerated their development and engagement but also provided them invaluable skills and knowledge to utilise when putting together their own future job applications. 


The process incorporated multiple concepts designed to mitigate bias and ensure ‘group think’ was eliminated including the following:

  • Applicants for each role were reviewed by a minimum of two Graduates who made shortlisting recommendations individually prior to coming together to compare and discuss. 

  • Assessment panels comprised of HR, discipline subject matter experts and Graduates – this ensured candidates were assessed by a group representing diversity of thought.

  • Assessment panels did not discuss their preferred applicants together but were to record their personal preferences which were then collated– this measure aimed to further mitigate bias and group think. Applicants which had the most votes were progressed to the final interview stage which had carefully constructed panels of individuals with various professional backgrounds and who do not work together.


Having Graduates recruit Graduates was certainly a different way to do things, raising eyebrows along the way, however the results speak for themselves. We now have a highly talented and diverse cohort of Graduates ready to start in 2020 along with current Graduates who are confident and engaged with newly acquired leadership skills.







Submission 6: Victorian Public Sector Commission


Disability pathway to the Victorian Government graduate program

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Inclusion by design

The Victorian public sector is committed to fairer representation of people with disability at all levels of our workforce, including our graduate programs. We are deliberately reducing barriers, especially invisible barriers of low expectations and mistaken assumptions. We aimed for 6% representation of people with disability in our 2020 cohort. 

Attraction first

In 2019, the Victorian Government graduate program cleared a new disability pathway to ensure equitable access. It began with marketing. We researched and tested with eligible students, including those with various disabilities. Our messages, advertising and website responded to what they told us. Our data collection statement specifically covered disability information and built trust early. 

Fair processes

We invited candidates to contact us early and responded personally to those opting into our pathway. They chose their communication channel and we answered questions that might have held them back.

Our assessors had disability confidence training. To avoid selecting out on the wrong things, we made over 80 adjustments across our 4-stage process. Many were very simple. We provided a separate interview room at assessment centres, so a Deaf person or someone with autism avoided background noise. We used larger fonts for printed materials for visually impaired candidates. We replaced videos with phone or in-person options where appropriate.  


Our new campaign doubled applications overall, but quadrupled applications from people with disability. 156 people opted into the pathway, and 150 more shared disability information. We’re smashing targets, with 10% of first intake offers going to high potential candidates with disability.  More expected in second intake!

That’s not all

We’re piloting a Workplace Adjustment Passport for 6 current graduates. The Passport allows the person with disability to carry their workplace adjustment with them. They needn’t negotiate new arrangements each rotation. They just get on with their marvelous careers. 

Submission 7: Water Corporation


Career Development Workshop – an innovative approach to prepare graduates for competitive job selection process

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Water Corporation offers a comprehensive three-year Graduate Program.  One of the highlights is the structured development and rotation program where graduates are given the opportunity to rotate through different parts of the business for 12 months in each placement.


In their final year, graduates seeking on-going employment are required to competitively apply for positions.  To enhance the skills of the graduate in applying for roles, a Career Development Workshop was delivered which has yielded successful results. Part of this involves a specialised end-to-end Recruitment and Selection process. 


After applying for a simulated role online, graduates are invited to the Career Development Workshop which begins with a common briefing. A group interview is then conducted in front of a panel which includes a hiring manager, recruitment representative and learning professional.


A generic question is directed at each graduate, followed by a tailored Technical and Human Resource question. The opportunity to hear peer responses add a level of complexity which provides a rich learning experience.  Graduates are encouraged to conclude the interview with any questions they have of their own.


After the interviews conclude, the panel must select the most suitable candidate and summarise individual feedback.  A feedback session is then conducted with each individual and a panel member, where the graduate’s application and resume is also reviewed.  


The final component of the process involves a common de-brief with all graduates and the recruitment team to explain who would have made the shortlist for an interview and the name of the person successful in securing the role. Learnings are shared and there is an opportunity to ask questions.  


Graduates participating in this process appreciate the opportunity to be stretched in a learning environment. They enjoy the positive learning environment in which they feel supported in and receiving detailed feedback.