What is an annual report?

An annual report is a document prepared each year by the accountable authority of a Commonwealth entity.


The report provides a broad statement of an entity's capability and performance, including results against targets published previously for the corresponding year in the Portfolio Budget Statements. It allows accountable authorities to report to their minister on the efficiency and effectiveness of the public administration that the minister is ultimately responsible for. The annual report must be presented to the Parliament by the responsible Minister.

Annual report principles

When corporate Commonwealth entities are preparing an annual report, they should consider the following principles. An annual report should:

Annual report principles icons

Be written in plain English and provide sufficient information and analysis for the Parliament to make a fully informed judgment on the entity’s performance.
Align with the overall Commonwealth resource management framework, Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 (PGPA Act), Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Rule 2014 (PGPA Rule) and the Commonwealth performance framework.
Show the relationship between the reporting requirements within government (including corporate plans, Portfolio Budget Statements and other portfolio statements accompanying any other additional appropriation bills), and between the government and non‑government sectors.

Accountable authorities have discretion as to the extent of information to include in annual reports and the sequence in which it is presented. The requirements for information set out in the PGPA Rule must be met.

Other legislative requirements

The operations that an entity reports on in its annual report can be affected by other legislation or legislative instruments. Such legislation can either be general in nature or specific enabling legislation of the entity.

Information required by other Acts or instruments to be included in the annual report must be included in one or more appendices to the report.

Below provides an overview of the other legislative requirements applicable to many entities. It is the responsibility of entities to consider whether the legislation applies to them.

Work Health and Safety Act 2011

Section 4 Annual reports

  • Each of the following entities must include the matters mentioned in subclause (2) in its annual report for a financial year:
    • A non-corporate Commonwealth entity within the meaning of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013;
    • a public authority.
  • The matters are:
    • initiatives taken during the year to ensure the health, safety and welfare of workers who carry out work for the entity; and
    • health and safety outcomes (including the impact on injury rates of workers) achieved as a result of initiatives mentioned under paragraph (a) or previous initiatives; and
    • statistics of any notifiable incidents of which the entity becomes aware during the year that arose out of the conduct of businesses or undertakings by the entity; and
    • any investigations conducted during the year that relate to businesses or undertakings conducted by the entity, including details of all notices given to the entity during the year under Part 10 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011; and
    • such other matters as are required by guidelines approved on behalf of the Parliament by the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit.
For further information on the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 please see the Comcare website. If there are any questions please contact Comcare at general.enquiries@comcare.gov.au.

Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918

Section 311A Annual returns of income and expenditure of Commonwealth Departments

  • Subject to this section, the principal officer of each Commonwealth Department must attach a statement to its annual report setting out particulars of all amounts paid by, or on behalf of, the Commonwealth Department during the financial year to:
    • advertising agencies;
    • market research organisations;
    • polling organisations;
    • direct mail organisations; and
    • media advertising organisations;
    • and the persons or organisations to whom those amounts were paid.

Nothing in subsection(1) requires particulars of a payment made by a Commonwealth Department in a financial year to be included in a return if the value of the payment is less than or equal to the disclosure threshold.

The first return under this section need only contain particulars in relation to the period starting on the commencement of this section and ending on the next 30 June.

In this section:

  • Commonwealth Department means:
    • a Department of State of the Commonwealth; or
    • a Department of the Parliament established under the Parliamentary Service Act 1999; or
    • an Agency (within the meaning of the Public Service Act 1999).
  • Principal officer means:
    • in relation to a Department—the person holding, or performing the duties of, the office of Secretary of the Department; and
    • in relation to an Agency—the Agency Head (within the meaning of the Public Service Act 1999) of the Agency.

Reporting on advertising and market research is not restricted to electoral matters. See Types of advertising for further guidance.

The reporting threshold for each year is available from the Australian Electoral Commission.

Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999

Section 516A  Annual reports to deal with environmental matters

Content of report

  • A report described in subsection (1), (4) or (5) relating to a body or person (the reporter) for a period must:
    • include a report on how the activities of, and the administration (if any) of legislation by, the reporter during the period accorded with the principles of ecologically sustainable development
    • identify how the outcomes (if any) specified for the reporter in an Appropriations Act relating to the period contribute to ecologically sustainable development
    • document the effect of the reporter’s activities on the environment
    • identify any measures the reporter is taking to minimise the impact of activities by the reporter on the environment
    • identify the mechanisms (if any) for reviewing and increasing the effectiveness of those measures.

Note: The Auditor‑General Act 1997 lets the Auditor‑General audit a reporter’s compliance with these requirements.

  • In subsection:

      activities includes:
    • developing and implementing policies, plans, programs and legislation
    • the operations of a department, authority, company or agency referred to in this section.

The Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment has Section 516A Reporting Guidelines available on their website. The additional guidance helps entities decide which of their activities to report on. Sets of generic indicators have also been provided to assist agencies with ongoing monitoring of their Ecologically Sustainable Development and environmental performance.

Questions about the application of these requirements should be directed to esd.enquiries@environment.gov.au.

In the case of an entity that is defined as a ‘public service care agency’, compliance with the entity’s obligations under the Carer Recognition Act 2010 is required.

A public service care agency is defined in section 4 of the Carer Recognition Act 2010 to mean an agency as defined in the Public Service Act 1999 that is responsible for the development, implementation, provision or evaluation of policies, programs or services directed to carers or the persons for whom they care.

For further information about the obligations of entities under the Carer Recognition Act 2010, see the Carer Recognition Act Guidelines on the Department of Social Services website. Questions about the application of these requirements should be directed to carersupport@dss.gov.au.

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