Australian Government Mobile Offices are mobile offices providing a range of government payments and services, making it easier for people in rural communities to conduct their business with Centrelink.
The genesis for today’s mobile services was the peak of drought in mid 2006 when over 70 per cent of the Australia’s agricultural land was officially drought declared and over 25,000 farmers were receiving drought assistance income support. In October 2006, the Minister for Human Services articulated his requirement for a mobile service to support Australians affected by drought. Centrelink was asked to take the lead in providing mobile servicing vehicles and personnel to focus initially on the provision of mobile Centrelink and Medicare services. The first ‘Drought Bus’ was on the road eight days later.
Department of Human Services
The initial Drought Bus concept was delivered in 2006. In late 2009, the mobile service expanded to the current two Australian Government Mobile Offices that currently travel the roads of Australia visiting rural and remote towns and communities. The mobile service offer continues to evolve as new and improved ways to deliver Australian Government information, support and assistance to rural communities is discovered.
Options Considered and Approach Taken
It quickly became apparent that there was a strong demand for such a service as over 60 per cent of people visiting the Mobile Offices were ‘new’ customers. Anecdotal and empirical evidence showed that most of these people, for a range of reasons, would be unlikely to enter a normal Centrelink Customer Service Centre, and, had the Mobile Offices not been in service, they would have been unlikely to seek assistance. The development of visiting itineraries has evolved over time to enable a service offer that is tailored to meet the needs of a community. Engaging local staff and stakeholders in the early stages of itinerary development has been a key to the success of the service.
Due to the success of the program two new more advanced Mobile Offices were commissioned in 2009. The Australian Government Mobile Offices replaced the previous ‘Drought Buses’ in late 2009 with many of the technical and operational impediments experienced in the previous vehicles addressed and resolved within the new design structure.
Each Mobile Office is complete with meeting rooms, waiting area, hearing room and computers linked to Centrelink using wireless networks.
It also became apparent that the units have a crucial role to play in responding to emergencies and natural disasters. There have been occasions when the Mobile Offices have been diverted from their scheduled visits to respond to a series of natural disasters, demonstrating the flexibility of the resource.
Over time there has been an increasing demand for the delivery of services outside of the traditional drought assistance. Additional services were gradually added to the mobile service offer, including more information and support from the wider Human Services Portfolio and, from time to time, services from other Commonwealth and State agencies.
The program has continued to develop and embrace innovative technical solutions to overcome a range of IT issues, particularly through advances in remote access services and satellite technology. Mobile services will continue to seek improvements with the aim of providing equivalent IT functionality as is seen in our fixed office network.
Since the inception of the program in 2006 the Mobile Offices have made over 1,250 visits to over 700 rural communities and has helped over 47,000 people.
Addition details or information
Government Technology Review - Page 19 (June 20100)
Types: Service delivery.