The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) works to make Australia stronger, safer and more prosperous.

As the leading agency managing Australia’s international presence, DFAT manages a network of 121 overseas ports in five continents. The department upholds and promotes the Australian Public Service Values: impartial, committed to service, accountable, respectful and ethical.

The Benchmark program was launched in 2016 in response to a number of important needs in the organisation. Developed in close cooperation with three L&D members and with many leaders in the organisation, the purpose of Benchmark is to develop a consistent applied set of management practices in support of DFAT’s mission, culture and values.

Benchmark is designed to strengthen, improve and modernise leadership practices of executive leaders.


The educational program is targeted at level 6 and ELs. From the outset, the program was augmented by two elements to promote transfer of content to the workplace: newsletters and masterclasses.

Seven different masterclasses were offered on a rotation basis, with each masterclass presented once a year. The topics were either a deep-dive into existing course content, or new topics not included in the three-day course. These were:

  1. Negotiation skills
  2. Communication
  3. Performance
  4. Team culture and collaboration
  5. Productivity
  6. Change
  7. Transforming teams


The program received excellent ratings, with a high standard maintained throughout.

Of 38 programs — held in Canberra, Victoria, Bangkok, Jakarta and Dubai — the lowest rating for any course was 79% and three courses received the highest rating of 91%.

The most popular modules were:

  • Productivity
  • Managing for performance
  • Being strategic
  • Managing change and improvement

All feedback was taken seriously, and participant comments were used to continuously improve the course. We were able to subtly adjust content to keep up with general changes and the evolution of the program, ensuring all content remained relevant, engaging and educational for new and returning participants.

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