National Collaboration Framework

Effective cross entity agreement making

Under the PGPA Act, accountable authorities are required to encourage officials to cooperate with others (s17). The National Collaboration Framework (NCF) was created to assist Commonwealth entities, state, territory and local jurisdictions to work collaboratively to achieve government objectives. The NCF:

  • can be used for any intra or cross-jurisdictional project that would typically use a memorandum of understanding
  • provides a tiered approach for entities to follow when seeking to collaborate and reduces costs, time and risk associated with program or project development and delivery
  • provides processes and tools, including a suite of template agreements (which includes a Collaborative Head Agreement).

The former Online Communications Council endorsed the NCF as the preferred agreement-making mechanism for collaborative service delivery across the Commonwealth, and across jurisdictions.

The NCF has been successfully implemented by all levels of government (local, state and federal). If you have used the NCF for your initiative, please take a moment to add to the NCF Register.


Helping Agencies Share Information Efficiently

The NCF is a structured approach to collaborative service delivery across traditional boundaries. The framework provides a tiered approach for Commonwealth entities to follow when seeking to collaborate. The framework defines a process where parties first agree on collaboration principles. It also provides a suite of re-usable documents and tools (including a template for collaborative head agreements) that aim to provide enhanced collaborative service delivery arrangements across entities.

The framework consists of five tiers:

NCF Tier 1: Principles to Collaborate

Tier 1 involves establishing overarching principles to collaborate that identify vision, value, scope, cost, benefits and security that guide the integration of services. The principles should explicitly recognise and capture the principles and values that guide collaborative service delivery across jurisdictions.

NCF Tier 2: Statements of Intent

Tier 2 involves agreement on statements about how organisations plan to do business together. Statements of intent provide an agreement in advance of the business basis to collaborate across multiple initiatives.

NCF Tier 3: Collaborative Head Agreement

Tier 3 is a Collaborative Head Agreement (CHA) representing commitment to those elements that apply to multiple projects across a jurisdiction/s. A CHA is an agreement in advance of those elements of a cross entity agreement that can be reapplied to multiple collaborative initiatives.

NCF Tier 4: Project Agreement

Tier 4 involves parties creating project specific agreements. These are agreements to those elements that are specific to a particular project/initiative.

NCF Tier 5: User Guide

Tier 5 provides a user guide that includes checklists specific to collaborative service delivery.

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Whole of government benefits of the NCF include:

  • improved service delivery, through quicker agreement making and improved risk management
  • more effective leveraging of the Government’s information assets
  • less duplication of cost and effort across agencies
  • enhanced flexibility during future machinery of government changes.

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Frequently asked questions

1. When is it appropriate to use the NCF for my intra-jurisdictional or cross-jurisdictional arrangement? 

The purpose of the NCF is to support collaboration projects within and between all levels of government. As a general guide, the NCF can be used for any intra-jurisdictional or cross-jurisdictional project for which your entity would typically use a memorandum of understanding.

Note that the NCF agreements are not legally binding. The collaborative head agreements and project agreements should not be used for commercial arrangements. For commercial arrangements a legally binding relationship should be established in accordance with the Commonwealth Procurement Rules. 

Some high-level examples of projects for which the NCF may be appropriate include:

  • data collection and provision between entities
  • where two or more entities collaborate to jointly implement or undertake a project (e.g. joint surveys, mapping, climate change initiatives)
  • where entities collaborate in the delivery of services to the public (e.g. collaboration between a policy entity and service delivery entity).

2. How does a collaborative head agreement and project agreement differ from procurement arrangements that typically result from an approach to market in accordance with the Commonwealth Procurement Rules?

Collaborative head agreements and project agreements are not intended for use in commercial arrangements. Rather, the focus of the NCF (through the collaborative head agreements and project agreements) is to support collaboration between government entities.

While the collaborative head agreement and project agreements are not intended to create legally binding contractual arrangements (i.e. these arrangements are akin to a memorandum of understanding).  If the parties are separate legal entities (for example, a Commonwealth entity and a state or territory Department or a non-corporate Commonwealth entity and a corporate Commonwealth entity), the parties can agree to make a collaborative head agreement and/or project agreement legally binding. 

The Commonwealth Procurement Rules (CPRs) apply to decisions by Commonwealth entities to purchase goods or services. The CPRs focus on achieving value for money from an arrangement. The NCF agreements focus on supporting collaboration.

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Further information

In 2011 Finance conducted a series of information sessions to promote the NCF:

Glenn Archer

First Assistant Secretary, Policy and Planning, Finance

Introduction to the NCF


Matt Cahill

Executive Director, ANAO

Findings of the ANAO’s recent review of cross-entity agreements


Helen Knight

Coordinator of NCF, AGIMO

Key principles and tools which make up the NCF


Debra Tippett

Minter Ellison Lawyers

Legal aspects of the NCF


Paul Trezise

Executive Officer, Geoscience Australia, DRET

Geoscience Australia’s experiences using the NCF


For further information about the NCF see the following brochure:

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For further information contact:

Last updated: 15 June 2015