Organisation: Department of Immigration and Border Protection
Job Title: APS5 Border Force Officer
Word Limit: 10,000 characters
Throughout my ten-year career with the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP), I have demonstrated the highest standards of professionalism and integrity in my conduct. I am often required to make decisions and deliver news to passengers for whom I have a great deal of sympathy, such as people whose entry to Australia I must refuse due to criminal convictions acquired many years ago. Despite feeling a personal empathy for the plight of the passenger, I ensure that each decision I make is taken in accordance with the relevant legislation and policy.
My commitment to my personal development is demonstrated through the ongoing training that I have undertaken in the pursuit of continuous improvement. While I have undertaken extensive training and professional development activities with DIPB, I have also chosen to contribute to my professional capacity through undertaking a Diploma of Counselling, which I am currently studying. Because my work in the Australian Border Force (ABF) involves frequent interaction with passengers who are aggressive or emotional, I hope to use the skills gained from my counselling training to defuse hostile or volatile situations and better manage my interactions with these clients.
As an Acting Team Leader at the Gold Coast International Airport, I currently lead a team of two ABF Officers, co-ordinating routine secondary immigration clearance operations of the shift team. In this role I manage the shift team, providing on-the-job training, direction and guidance to build staff capabilities to interpret and apply legislation and policy and follow a fair and reasonable decision–making process. I provide my team with ongoing mentoring and feedback, including through coaching team members to improve performance in response to feedback from Quality Assurance processes. By making myself available to my staff throughout their shifts, they are able to seek advice and ask questions to assist them in making decisions regarding the next steps to take in a passenger interview. When new information, policies or guidelines become available, I communicate these to my team members and ensure that they have a full understanding of how any changes will affect their priorities or actions on shift.
I am frequently required to liaise with external bodies and agencies. For example, during my tenure as a Removals Officer, a change in legislation meant that any non-Australian citizen who was sentenced to imprisonment for 12 months or more was subject to automatic visa cancellation. I was appointed as the Prison Parole Liaison Officer, liaising with the external stakeholders affected by this change, especially Queensland Corrective Services. Part of my role was to provide training to the Corrective Services staff, in particular the social workers and psychologists who were charged with informing the prisoners about this change. I also dealt with stakeholders such as detention centre management staff and transport providers who were required to execute logistical arrangements. In executing this liaison role, I demonstrated leadership through displaying thorough knowledge of the relevant legislation, generating solutions to logistical issues, and acting as a contact point for any concerns that arose.
Shapes strategic thinking
Following the 2015 merger of Immigration and Customs functions into the Australian Border Force, I have demonstrated my commitment to the strategic direction of the Department by acting as a champion of this change and responding with adaptability and a willingness to seize new opportunities. For example, coming from a background with an Immigration-focused career, I have taken a proactive approach to learning Customs-focused roles in order to gain an appreciation for the roles of my colleagues and develop a full understanding of the ABF functions. Having learned,
through self-teaching on the job, how to perform Customs roles such as processing and marshalling of passengers, I am able to step in to assist colleagues when they experience peak demands or staff shortages. This demonstration of shared purpose encourages other staff to take a positive view of the new ABF composition.
The decisions that I am required to make in my work require me to display excellent judgement and common sense, often in time-pressured and demanding circumstances. For example, in determining which passengers to approach, what line of questioning to pursue, and when to escalate an interview, I am required to process a range of available information, such as flight profiles, past experience, passenger body language and my assessment of their veracity, in order to make an on-the-spot assessment of the risk presented by that passenger. In some cases, grounds for discretionary visa cancellation emerge, and I must take a decision as to whether or not I believe a particular passenger presents a risk of failing to comply with their visa conditions. In past situations where I have decided to permit entry, despite having the option to cancel a visa open to me, subsequent checks have shown that the passenger later left the country as scheduled without any breach of visa conditions. Incidents such as this demonstrate my capacity to make correct decisions based on my assessment of the available information.
Managerial, planning and continuous improvement
As a Team Leader, I need to make daily decisions about how to allocate staff resources. My decisions in this regard are guided by the mandates that I receive and the priorities that are expressed by the Department. For example, in the Immigration sphere there is currently a higher priority placed on preventing the entry of people convicted of certain crimes in their home country, as compared to preventing the entry of people intending to work while on tourist visas. Knowing this Departmental priority, when I am facing a shortage of staff resources due to a team member being absent, and knowing that I cannot provide complete coverage of all passengers, I ensure that my remaining staff focus on organisational priorities. As a leader, I ensure that my team members are equipped with the knowledge, skills and information that they require to properly execute their roles. I do this through communicating priorities, changed circumstances and any new information at the commencement of each shift, and responding to any queries that arise throughout the shift.
My career with the DIPB has been diverse, as a result of frequently being offered or moved to new roles. This has allowed me to constantly develop new skills and knowledge, which I am then able to share with others and apply to new environments. I am quick to learn new roles, and readily adapt to changing circumstances. The enthusiasm with which I have been learning to perform Customs-based roles as a result of the new composition of the ABF is a demonstration of this.
Communicate with influence
My written and verbal communication skills are both highly developed. One way in which I demonstrate my written communication skills is through writing procedural documents to assist staff in the performance of their roles. While formal procedure and process documents exist, these are often highly technical and difficult for staff to comprehensively digest. Recognising the need for staff to have reliable information that is accessible and useful in time-pressured situations, when I commence a new role I make it a priority to develop user-friendly procedure documents that set out the essential elements of the role in a clear and concise way.
My verbal communication skills are often called upon in difficult circumstances, such as when I need to explain that a decision has been taken to refuse entry or cancel a visa. In these circumstances clients can become upset, hostile or even aggressive, and I tailor my communication
style appropriately to the situation to maintain control of the conversation and deal effectively with the emotional elements of the interaction. In dealing with the public, I also use my verbal communication skills to conduct conversations and interviews in order to elicit information on which immigration decisions can be made. This role requires me to interact with a diverse range of passengers, and I do this effectively by actively listening to each passenger I encounter and adapting my communication style so that it is appropriate for my audience.
My selection for (and success in) the role of Prison Parole Liaison Officer, demonstrates my capacity to communicate effectively with stakeholders. Speaking directly with psychologists, social workers and prisoners themselves, I was required to explain the changes in legislation which had occurred, what this meant for individual prisoner’s circumstances, and what rights prisoners had for appeal. This required me to be clear and concise in my communication and deal effectively with concerns that emerged.
Having held various roles within the Department of Immigration and Border Protection for over ten years, I possess a thorough knowledge of the legislation, policy and guidelines that govern the role of a Border Force Officer. Along with the in-depth knowledge of Immigration functions that I have gained over the course of my career, since July 2015 I have seized the opportunity to develop knowledge of Customs-focused roles within the new joint service of the Australian Border Force. I work collaboratively with my Immigration and Customs colleagues to pursue the organisation’s priorities. My long tenure with the department has also given me a thorough understanding of the organisational linkages, both between internal units and to external stakeholders. My successful record of collaboration and information sharing demonstrates my capacity to foster and maintain those linkages.