2008 Comcover Awards for Excellence

The winners of the 2008 Comcover Awards for Excellence in Risk Management were announced during a presentation ceremony at the National Convention Centre Canberra on Friday 7 November 2008. Paul Murphy, General Manager of Fisheries Operations Branch, Australian Fisheries Management Authority, presented the keynote address.

The Comcover Awards for Excellence recognise exceptional and inspiring examples of risk management and demonstrate how essential risk management is to the success of Australian Government agencies.

The nominations received in this year’s program indicate that agencies are demonstrating a greater focus on the accountability and responsibility for managing risk with governance structures for managing risk more apparent in agencies. As a result there is greater assurance that risks and their treatment strategies are communicated to senior executives, committees and boards on a regular basis. The regular monitoring and review of agencies’ risk systems and processes indicate a cycle of continuous improvement where risk management frameworks and programs are reviewed and updated regularly. This is occurring not only in a formal sense but also through more informal processes, such as adopting a lessons learnt approach to implementing key findings.

Mr Kevin Knight AM, Convenor of the ISO Working Group on Risk Management, announced the winners of the 2008 Awards for Excellence.

Click on the agency name to see what the judges had to say about each of the award winning agencies.


Bureau of Meteorology

Risk Initiative Category

Highly Commended

Department of Families Housing Community Services and Indigenous Affairs

Enterprise Wide Risk Management Category

Child Support Agency

Risk Initiative Category

Bureau of Meteorology, Geoscience Australia and Emergency Management Australia (joint nomination)

Risk Initiative Category

Honourable Mention

National Library of Australia

Enterprise Wide Risk Management Category

Australian Maritime Safety Authority

Enterprise Wide Risk Management Category

Department of the Senate

Enterprise Wide Risk Management Category

Royal Australian Air Force

Risk Initiative Category

Department of Veteran’s Affairs

Risk Initiative Category


Winner - Bureau of Meteorology

Bureau of Meteorology winners

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology is a recognised world-class national meteorological agency providing expertise and services to assist Australians in mitigating the harsh realities of our natural environment, including drought, floods, fires, storms, tsunami and tropical cyclones.

Through regular consultation and collaboration with other key agencies, the Disaster Mitigation Program contributes to a whole of government position, responding to the changing needs and expectations of Australian communities. Severe weather events that include tropical cyclones, severe thunderstorms and flash flooding present a significant risk to safety of the Australian community. However, there is always the risk that Australian community may not respond appropriately to any given warning and consequently suffer unnecessary loss. One of the Bureau’s primary roles therefore is to mitigate this risk through the provision of a comprehensive warning service.

The Bureau’s approach to implementing the program was driven by the need to comply with key pieces of legislation as well as the need to achieve the agency’s organisational objectives as outlined in the Agency’s Strategic Plan 2006-2011 and National Operational Plans. To ensure the successful delivery of key strategies of the Disaster Mitigation Policy, the Bureau has adopted a risk based decision making process which in the short term has enhanced the Bureau’s reputation with key stakeholders, at both the state and federal government levels.

Benefits have included a coordinated approach to disaster mitigation in the State and Federal government sector; more accurate warnings have increased the level of preparedness of communities to natural disasters leading to more informed decision making for state emergency management; and the Bureau’s reputation has been enhanced in the emergency management community and the media.

Highly Commended

Highly Commended – Department of Families Housing Community Services and Indigenous Affairs

Department of Families Housing Community Services and Indigenous Affairs winers

The Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA) is the Australian Government's principal source of advice on social policy and is responsible for about a quarter of the government's budgetary outlays, primarily in funding for over 50 programs for Australian families and communities. The programs range from the large income support payments of age pension and family tax benefit through to services to Indigenous communities and small discretionary grants programs. FaHCSIA works in partnership with other government and non-government organisations in the management of a diverse range of programs and services designed to support and improve the lives of Australians.

Recently FaHCSIA has undertaken a systematic, coordinated and executive-led review of departmental risk management practices and procedures. The department has sought to learn from the experience of other government departments and to address areas of weakness identified through audit evaluations. The result has been the development of a risk management system that is fully integrated into FaHCSIA’s corporate governance arrangements, is effectively promoted across the department and is increasingly embedded in the daily work practices of staff.

FaHCSIA have developed a number of channels to communicate their risk management policy and processes both internally and externally. Methods for communicating the management of risk internally includes the extensive use of the intranet through the creation of a risk management site containing links to key guidance material and articles published in the Department’s weekly newsletter.

FaHCSIA has achieved tangible benefits from the implementation of an enterprise wide risk management framework. The integration of risk management with the department’s overarching planning framework has led to greater engagement by staff and better integration of risk management information into business planning processes, better communication of risk issues at the senior management and executive level and sharing of the Department’s risk management processes and tools with peer agencies and stakeholders, leading to improved accountability and higher levels of success in program delivery.

Highly Commended – Child Support Agency

Child Support Agency winners

Child Support Agency’s role is to support separated parents to transfer payments for the benefit of their children. CSA aims to work with all areas of the government, community and private industry service providers to provide the best possible support to their customers. CSA is part of the Portfolio Department of Human Services (DHS). A Government decision in the 2006 budget recognised the need to review the Agency and introduce major changes to the child support scheme by enhancing its compliance program.

This change program required collaboration with other agencies across government and impacted on 3,500 staff and 1.5m clients. CSA’s planning was extensive and thorough and demonstrated that a risk management approach was applied to all levels of the decision making process.

CSA’s nomination indicates that focusing on effectively managing the implementation risks of the project provided the agency with opportunities. These included the development of enhanced IT systems, the establishment of a project management discipline within the agency, detailed customer information, more efficient work practices and approaches to workload management and scanning of customer responses achieving cost savings.

The delivery of this program was also able to demonstrate the achievement of longer term benefits which included improvements to the whole-of-government approach to policy implementation by recognising the importance of collaborating with other agencies.

Highly Commended – Bureau of Meteorology, Geoscience Australia and Emergency Management Australia (joint nomination)

Bureau of Meteorology, Geoscience Australia, Emergency Management Australia winners

As a direct result of the tsunami generated off the coast of Indonesia on 26 December 2004, the Australian Government saw a need for a warning capability to minimise the loss of life and economic impact to the Australian population and the region.

Under the Federal Budget of 2005, the Bureau of Meteorology, Geoscience Australia and Emergency Management Australia were consequently tasked with upgrading the Australian Tsunami Alert System to an operational, early warning system - the Australian Tsunami Warning System (ATWS) - by June 2009.

The project objectives were clearly articulated and the implementation strategy plan formed the foundation of the project’s risk management plan and risk register. This included the strategies to identify risks and the appropriate management actions for the treatment of key risks, ensuring the consistent management of risk across all three agencies.

As part of developing the implementation strategy plan, a broad range of risks were identified with a strong focus on the identification process which involved workshops with representatives from each of the agencies to develop the project risk register.

The successful engagement of stakeholders and regular communication of risk around the project was evident both in the nomination and at presentation. There was clear evidence of how risk management was used to monitor implementation challenges and how staff from the operational to executive levels of each of the three agencies were engaged in the risk process.

The benefits achieved from the project have assisted tri-agency communication resulting in timely and cost effective decision making in relation to the technical aspect of the project.

The experience each of the agencies have gained by managing a complex and high profile project such as this has assisted in developing high levels of risk management expertise in each of the agencies. The initiative has assisted the Government to meet its commitment to establish a tsunami warning system in Australia as well as to support the development of tsunami warnings for the international community.

Honourable Mention

Honourable Mention – National Library of Australia

National Library of Australia winners

The National Library of Australia (the Library) is responsible for ensuring that they provide documentary sources of national significance relating to Australia and the Australian people. They also provide significant non-Australian library materials that are collected, preserved and made accessible either through the Library itself or through collaborative arrangements with other libraries and information providers.

The National Library has in place a strong framework for the management of risk which is integrated with the agency’s overarching governance framework. Processes are well documented and strategies have been implemented to ensure that risk is monitored and managed by staff at all levels. The Library has in place effective strategies to share risk thereby ensuring key issues and retained risks are dealt with effectively.

The Library has completed a formal training needs assessment resulting in risk management training for staff with specific training in areas including fraud awareness, business continuity, OHS and project management.

The Library’s Business Continuity Management plan is reviewed, monitored and tested every year, with all emergency and disaster plans linked to the agency’s Business Continuity Framework. The lessons learnt from reviews are incorporated into plans on a regular basis. The Library works in partnership with other cultural institutions to share Business Continuity Management resources and expertise.

Monitoring and review are an essential element of the Library’s risk management framework with all risks and risk tolerance levels reviewed and monitored at budget and mid-year review cycles. At bi-monthly Emergency Planning Committee meetings, emerging risks are identified and monitored by Senior Executive.

Honourable Mention – Australian Maritime Safety Authority

Australian Maritime Safety Authority winners

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) is a Commonwealth Statutory Authority responsible for setting and regulating standards for the operation of commercial shipping. This includes the operation of an extensive network of marine navigation aids around the Australian coast, aviation and maritime search and rescue and the operation of a national plan for the protection of the marine environment.

Risk management is an integral component of AMSA’s overarching governance framework and is embedded in both the business and decision making processes of the agency. Senior management are responsible for the consideration and allocation of responsibility for the management of the key risks to the Department.

AMSA has implemented a comprehensive approach to the transfer of risk and there are well established processes for transferring risk via the effective use of insurance as well as non-insurance practices.

Their approach to communication and training is well considered and comprehensive with a strong focus on internal communications. The inclusion of risk management in induction training for new staff is effective and indicates a positive culture towards risk management in the agency.

The Executive Management Group review the risk profile of the agency every six months, focusing on what has changed and any new issues that have arisen.

Honourable Mention – Department of the Senate

Department of the Senate winners

The Department of the Senate is responsible for the provision of advisory and administrative support services to enable the Senate and senators to fulfil their representative and legislative duties. The department also runs education programs and prepares publications to promote an understanding of parliamentary processes.

In 2007, senior managers of the Department of the Senate recognised the need for a more cohesive approach to the management of risk and requested a review of their existing framework. In response, the Department has adopted an integrated approach to managing risk with senior managers, program managers and the Audit and Evaluation committee taking greater responsibility for the oversight and management of risk in the agency. Acknowledging that the Department is a small agency and constrained with limited resources, the level of documentation supporting the framework was impressive.

The Department’s response to the implementation of its Business Continuity framework demonstrated it addressed the critical elements of recovering key business systems and processes were in place.

The Department has a strong focus on internal communication with its risk management framework available on the intranet and the key risks of the Department discussed in Senior Management Advisory Group meetings.

The risk management team are responsible for conducting an annual training program and engage with all staff on risk issues through the staff bulletin and Intranet.

Honourable Mention – Royal Australian Air Force

Royal Australian Air Force winners

The Air Force vision is to be a balanced, expeditionary, networked air force capable of achieving the Government's objectives through the swift and decisive application of air and space power in joint operations (i.e. operating with the Navy and/or Army) or as a part of a larger coalition force.

In 2005, it was recognised that there was a benefit in integrating strategic planning and risk management to adopt a more holistic approach to planning and as a result ensure greater accountability and assurance that key initiatives were being implemented and reported at regular intervals to senior executive.

The Air Force demonstrated a well planned approach to the management of risk in the implementation of this initiative.

The initial stages of the project included extensive consultation with both internal and external stakeholders from across Air Force and Defence at the senior management level. This ensured the allocation of resources to oversee the management of risk to the organisation which included a team of four staff and the development of a strategic management information system. The system is a key tool used to capture risk management and strategic/business data as well as facilitate the ongoing monitoring and review of individual work plans during implementation.

Key Result Indicators have been developed to measure the status of individual risks with regular reports being provided to the senior management of Air Force including the Chief of Air Force Advisory committee and the Chief of Air Force.

There have been significant benefits to the Air Force of integrating enterprise risk management and strategic planning; including a simplified consistent approach to planning across the organisation; the alignment of all business plans with an overarching strategic plan; accountability for the achievement of operational outcomes and strategic goals; and the cost effective allocation of resources.

This approach has built a solid platform for embedding risk management into the overarching governance framework of the organisation.

Honourable Mention – Department of Veterans’ Affairs

Department of Veterans' Affairs winners

The priority for the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) is to ensure veterans and their families have access to benefits and support to which they are entitled. If this access is compromised, it can undermine a client’s quality of life and well-being, potentially damaging DVA’s reputation and the confidence of veterans.

The Client Liaison Unit (CLU) was created as part of a strategy for managing this major risk as well as improving service delivery standards for clients of all ages and needs. It represents an important shift for DVA from process or function based client service towards a holistic, proactive approach of coordinated client care. The approach was comprehensively planned within the context of the broader business of the agency.

Prior to establishment of the CLU there was extensive stakeholder consultation, in particular with internal work areas of DVA. This then provided the platform for integration of this new approach within the agency’s current operating environment.

The CLU developed a predictive modelling system to help identify at-risk client behaviours demonstrating a creative and innovative approach to managing risk.

There was support from the senior management level for the review of the key risks to the program as well as the strategic direction of the CLU.

The CLU has been proactive in encouraging inter-agency discussions and has demonstrated the benefit of using risk management to assist decision-making and the development of organisational strategy.

Contact for information on this page: Contact Comcover Member Services