Managing employee mental health effectively is a challenge faced by policing and first responder organisations around the world. This includes the Australian Federal Police (AFP) as the Australian Government’s primary policing agency responsible for the enforcement of Commonwealth laws and the protection of Australian interests from criminal activity, both domestically and overseas. To fulfil this role the AFP is responsible for a diverse range of functions, the delivery of which place a range of unique demands and stressors on AFP employees.
Safe Work Australia’s Work-Related Mental Disorders Profile 2015 concluded that first responders—police, emergency and health services—were the combined occupational group most likely to make a workplace compensation claim based on mental health injury, with incidence rates and costs substantially exceeding other occupational groups.
The objective of this audit was to examine the effectiveness of the Australian Federal Police in managing employee mental health.
To form a conclusion against the audit objective, the ANAO adopted the following high level criteria:
- Has the AFP implemented sound governance and risk management practices to manage employee mental health?
- Is the AFP effectively managing employee mental health throughout their career lifecycle?
- Are sound monitoring, reporting and evaluation arrangements in place to assess the effectiveness of the AFP’s management of mental health?
The audit found that the AFP lacks a comprehensive and consolidated organisational health and wellbeing framework to enable effective management and support of employee mental health. While the AFP offers a variety of mental health support services, there is no evidence that these services are effective and they are not supported by sound governance, risk management, evaluation or an articulated business rationale. Any reform of the portfolio of services available should be made in the context of available data on employee access, areas of high stress and risk, gap analysis, organisational culture and employee preferences.