Jobs and Small Business

As part of the Jobs and Small Business portfolio, the Department of Jobs and Small Business has a central role in advising and delivering policies and programs that assist families, communities and small business to prosper. These initiatives seek to facilitate jobs growth, promote greater workplace productivity and increase workforce participation — especially for vulnerable Australians. Small business is supported to continue the valuable contribution they make to jobs creation, innovation and the growth of the Australian economy, including in regional Australia.

The 2019-20 Budget includes regionally tailored approaches that will help provide opportunities through targeted support for vulnerable and at-risk job seekers, promote future jobs growth, support small business to thrive in their local economies and help communities respond to change.

As at 31 December 2018, the Jobs and Small Business portfolio employed 4234 staff under the Public Service Act. Of this total, 3511 staff (82.92 per cent) are employed in Canberra, central Melbourne and central Sydney, 534 staff (12.62 per cent) in other capital cities and 189 staff (4.46 per cent) in regional areas.

The Department of Jobs and Small Business’ Service Delivery Group (Delivery and Engagement) has a presence in 14 locations across Australia including all capital cities. The Delivery and Engagement regional footprint includes staff located in Darwin, Townsville, Mackay, Rockhampton, Brisbane, Newcastle, Orange, Bendigo, Hobart, Adelaide and Perth. 

Under the Jobs and Small Business portfolio, Comcare currently has offices located in most states around Australia to align with where its clients are based.  Under the Government’s Decentralisation Agenda, Comcare will establish new offices in Darwin and Launceston from 1 January 2020.  These locations have a growing demand for Comcare Services, particularly for work health and safety inspectors.

New Initiatives

New Employment Services Model—Pilot and transitional arrangements

The Australian Government will reform mainstream employment services to get more job seekers into jobs and make it easier for employers to get the workers they need, when they need them.

From July 2022, job-ready job seekers will largely self-service through a new digital platform which will provide them access to the assistance they need, when they need it. More resources will be invested in supporting those job seekers who need more help to find and maintain work. All job seekers will benefit from a new mutual obligations framework that will encourage a more flexible and self-directed approach to undertaking activities to help a job seeker into employment.

Employment services providers will be incentivised to provide higher quality services, tailored to meet the specific needs of the regions in which they operate through a new licensing framework, performance management measures and a payment structure.

From July 2019, the Australian Government will pilot key elements of the new model in two employment regions, Adelaide South in South Australia and Mid North Coast in New South Wales. The pilots will test the new settings and enable co-design with job-seekers, employment services providers and employers before the model is rolled out nationally. The pilot locations will enable testing of whether the new employment services model meets the needs of job seekers and employers in regional locations.

The current employment services contracts will be extended until June 2022 while the new model is piloted.

Harvest Labour Services—reforms to encourage Australian jobseekers to take up seasonal work

From 1 July 2020, the Australian Government is investing $24.1 million in initiatives to increase the number of Australians taking up seasonal work opportunities.

As part of this measure, the existing Harvest Labour Service (HLS) will be expanded to cover up to five additional horticulture regions with both significant demand for labour and labour supply difficulties, making it easier for growers to find workers when they need it most. HLS providers will also receive new financial incentives when they place and keep Australian job seekers in seasonal work, which will help job seekers to gain work experience and move off welfare. These incentives will encourage HLS providers to address the main barriers faced by local job seekers when taking up seasonal work such as a lack of transport and access to suitable accommodation, as well as raising job seeker awareness of seasonal work and the career progression opportunities.

In addition, between 1 July 2020 to 30 June 2022, peak bodies will be invited to put forward co-funded industry based proposals aimed at promoting seasonal work opportunities to Australian job seekers and promoting the benefits of hiring Australian job seekers to growers.

This measure will have the greatest impact on those regions in which the horticulture sector is a major element of the local economy.

Seasonal Worker Programme—pilot to address regional workforce shortages

The Seasonal Worker Programme 12-month pilot will be implemented in up to three selected regions with known agriculture workforce shortages. The Pilot will help smaller Australian farmers and growers to employ seasonal workers on their farms to meet harvest requirements. The Pilot will support smaller farmers’ workforce needs and seasonal workers to gain valuable work experience and financial benefit. Appropriate processes will be in place to ensure the welfare and wellbeing of seasonal workers, while maintaining flexibility to benefit smaller farmers and seasonal workers.

Inspectors from the Office of the Fair Work Ombudsman and dedicated Regional Coordinators from the Department of Jobs and Small Business will work closely with the employers and farmers on the ground, including undertaking monitoring visits, to ensure worker protections under the pilot.

Protecting Vulnerable Workers—National Labour Hire Registration Scheme and other measures

As part of its commitment to protect vulnerable workers, the Government established the Migrant Workers’ Taskforce in October 2016. The Taskforce was chaired by Professor Allan Fels AO, with Dr David Cousins AM as the Deputy Chair.

The Migrant Workers Taskforce report was released in March 2019. The report includes 22 recommendations, all of which the Government has agreed to in principle. The Government has included the following measures for immediate action within the 2019-20 Budget:

· An information and education campaign designed to raise migrant workers’ awareness and understanding of their rights in Australian workplaces, and to encourage them to seek help with workplace matters when required;

· Additional funding for the Fair Work Ombudsman to increase the regulator’s capacity to conduct investigations into underpayment matters and related issues, as well as deter further non-compliance; and

· Establishment of a National Labour Hire Registration Scheme that will reduce worker exploitation, improve accountability, provide greater transparency and drive behavioural change, without causing major disruption to the labour hire industry.

As well as providing further protections to migrant workers, these measures will have a positive impact on regional Australia through improving its reputation as a place for migrants to work and visit. It will also help level the playing field for law abiding businesses in regional areas who currently employ migrant workers in accordance with applicable workplace laws.

Addressing Sham Contracting

The measure to address sham contracting will provide additional resourcing and ASL for the Fair Work Ombudsman to establish a dedicated sham contracting unit and amend the Fair Work Act 2009 to introduce a ‘serious’ category of sham contracting.

The new sham contracting unit will see Fair Work Ombudsman officers provide targeted proactive educational and communication activities, expand engagement with community stakeholders and increase compliance and enforcement activities, including ensuring appropriate cases are litigated to help with general deterrence. Increasing penalties by introducing a new ‘serious’ category will align penalties with other contraventions under the Act, and further deter the practice of sham contracting.

The proposal will have a positive impact on vulnerable workers, particularly migrant workers in regional areas and gig economy workers.

This complements the work the Australian Government is undertaking to eliminate the exploitation of vulnerable workers as part of the response to the Migrant Workers’ Taskforce. The measure will also help level the playing field, including for small and regional businesses, so that those who take advantage of workers do not have a competitive advantage over employers who are complying with workplace laws.

Australian Small Business Advisory Services Northern Australia Tourism Initiative—extension

Developing northern Australia through tourism is a government priority.

The Australian Small Business Advisory Services Northern Australia Tourism Initiative (ASBAS-NATI) provides small business advisory services in northern Australia with grants to deliver low-cost advice and information services to tourism small businesses; and those intending to start a tourism small business.

An extension of ASBAS-NATI from 1 July 2019 will provide five established not-for-profit small business advisory providers with additional funding to continue six existing projects in northern Australia.

Current Initiatives

Small Business Digital Champions

Under the Small Business Digital Champions project, 100 Australian small businesses, including some in regional Australia, will receive a digital transformation for their business valued at up to $20,000. Their success stories will be showcased among the small business community to inspire others to improve their digital potential. The project aims to showcase how diverse small businesses are in Australia and how embracing digital technology can help improve any type of business.

Of those 100 businesses, 15 will be selected to become Digital Champions with each then paired with a high-profile small business leader who has leveraged technology for business success. This innovator will provide individualised advice and guide them on their digital transformation journey. The journeys of the Digital Champions will be featured in online, interactive case studies that will provide the small business community with real-life insights into the business benefits of adopting digital technology.

Regional Employment Trials Program

The $18.4 million Regional Employment Trials Program was introduced in 10 disadvantaged regions on 1 October 2018. The trials will inform the delivery of future employment services and help Australians in selected disadvantaged regions to better access localised employment pathways and economic growth opportunities.

To better respond to the particular employment challenges of trial regions, a $1.0 million grant program per region is being implemented to help stimulate communities to deliver tailored employment solutions at a local level.  Additionally, the Department of Jobs and Small Business has engaged employment facilitators to work with Regional Development Australia committees to generate projects, connect with local stakeholders and promote economic opportunities as they arise.

Stronger Transitions—transition of retrenched workers into future jobs

The $10.3 million Stronger Transitions package was implemented on 1 July 2018 in five regions: Mandurah, North/North-West Tasmania, North Queensland, Adelaide and Melbourne North/West. The package supports workers in industries and regions significantly impacted by industry transformation to transition to future jobs.

Elements of this package include:

  • skills and training support—this component includes forming partnerships with employers to help workers prior to retrenchment, e.g. career advice, training and recognition of prior learning, skills assessment, and online job search support;
  • employment support—this component will provide immediate access to Stream B jobactive services post retrenchment, including an additional $550 Employment Fund credits;
  • better connecting skilled workers to employers and training—local employment facilitators will work directly with retrenched workers to connect with training, job opportunities and support services. Jobs Fairs will be held to connect job seekers and employers. In addition to the employment facilitators employed under Stronger Transitions and the Regional Employment Trials, the Department has also engaged employment facilitators in Adelaide and Geelong;
  • supporting workers to relocate for work—this component will provide workers with immediate access to the Relocation Assistance To Take Up a Job Program;
  • access for small business opportunities—this component will support retrenched workers to pursue small business opportunities through the New Enterprise Incentive Scheme (NEIS).

Employment Facilitators

Employment Facilitators provide a local presence for the department in identified regions. They help to facilitate government initiatives such as the recently commenced Regional Employment Trials (RET) and the Stronger Transitions program. They also work directly with companies retrenching workers and retrenched workers to connect them with training, job opportunities and to link them with other existing support. The Employment Facilitators’ activities complement jobactive services.

Employment Facilitators are engaged to facilitate government initiatives but can also be engaged in exceptional circumstances after careful assessment on a case-by-case basis.

The department currently manages Employment Facilitators across 12 regions.


ParentsNext is a pre-employment program that connects parents of young children to services in their local community and helps them plan and prepare for employment by the time their children start school. From 1 July 2018, the ParentsNext program expanded nationally, including to all non-remote regional areas of Australia to allow more parents to access personalised assistance to improve their work readiness.

The national expansion is delivered in two streams—an intensive stream and a targeted stream. Both streams connect parents to a wide range of services, including pre-employment education and training, assistance accessing child care, mentoring, work experience and job opportunities. The intensive stream provides services in 30 locations—10 where the program has been delivered since April 2016 and a further 20 where there is a high proportion of Indigenous Parenting Payment recipients. The targeted stream provides services in the remainder of the 51 Employment Regions. The intensive stream areas, where a higher level of support is provided, are frequently in regional communities across Australia.


Since its introduction nearly four years ago, the jobactive employment services model has been successfully meeting the needs of job seekers and employers and promoting stronger workforce participation as part of building a prosperous economy. jobactive is delivered from around 1,700 sites across Australia with providers having flexibility to deliver services based on the needs of job seekers and employers that are tailored to local labour market conditions. It has performed well and at a lower cost than previous programs. It has achieved more than 1.2 million job placements since July 2015 and continues to achieve around 1,000 job placements a day. The jobactive employment services contracts will be extended until June 2022 while the new employment services model is piloted.

Youth Jobs PaTH—(Prepare—Trial—Hire)

Youth Jobs PaTH is part of the Australian Government’s Youth Employment Package announced in the 2016-17 Budget. It has three elements:

  • Prepare: Employability Skills Training ensures young people understand what employers expect of them in the workplace, and equip them with the skills, attitudes and behaviours for them to be successful in a job. Since April 2017, job seekers in jobactive who are aged under 25 years receive training in the basic employability skills that businesses need, such as reliability, team work and punctuality. For most job seekers, the training becomes compulsory after five months in jobactive.
  • Trial: PaTH Internships of four to 12 weeks help young people 17 to 24 years gain the skills and work experience they need to get and keep a job.
  • Hire: a Youth Bonus wage subsidy of up to $10,000 (GST inclusive) encourages the employment of young people 15 to 24 years.

More Choices for a Longer Life—jobs and skills for mature age Australians

The More Choices for a Longer Life package announced in the 2018-19 Budget included funding of $189.7 million for a range of jobs and skills measures to assist mature age Australians, including those in regional areas. These measures provide mature age Australians with practical assistance to stay in the workforce, share their skills and experience with younger workers and importantly continue to benefit from the economic and social wellbeing that having a job brings. The package includes seven initiatives focused on jobs and skills:

  • Facilitating a life-long approach for skills development for mature age people
    To facilitate a life-long approach to skills development among mature age people, the Australian Government introduced the Skills and Training Incentive to encourage mature age workers aged 45-­70, and their employers, to co-invest with the Government in skills development. This will help mature age workers become more resilient to future changes in the workforce by encouraging further investment in their skills and training.

    An incentive of up to $2 200 (GST inclusive) per person must be matched either by the worker or the employer. Participants first complete a Skills Checkpoint assessment, through the Skills Checkpoint for Older Workers program, which may identify suitable training linked to the worker’s current job (e.g. upgrading skills), a future job opportunity, or an industry or skill in demand.

    The incentive is available nationwide with two providers delivering it across all states and territories, including in regional Australia.
  • Collaborative Partnership on Mature Age Employment
    A Collaborative Partnership on Mature Age Employment has been established between the Department of Jobs and Small Business, the Age Discrimination Commissioner, business, industry peak bodies, and other experts. The objective of the partnership is to increase the employment of older Australians by promoting the benefits of a diverse workforce, the advantages of recruiting and retaining older workers and the benefits of flexible work arrangements.
  • Restart wage subsidies—additional places and securing funding for future years
    New funding arrangements ensure that wage subsidies will continue to be available to encourage employers to hire and retain disadvantaged job seekers. This includes the Restart wage subsidy, which provides employers with a strong incentive to hire and retain mature age people aged 50 and over.
  • Career Transition Assistance Program—bringing forward the national rollout and extending eligibility
    The national rollout of the Career Transition Assistance (CTA) Program, announced in the 2017-18 Budget, will be brought forward by a year, to 1 July 2019. Furthermore eligibility will be expanded to include people aged 45 to 49 years (currently it is for those aged 50 years and over).
  • Encouraging Entrepreneurship among Older Australians
    From January 2019, the number of Entrepreneurship Facilitators (introduced as part of a 2016-17 Budget measure) has been expanded to encourage entrepreneurship and self-employment among older Australians with an additional 20 facilitators, with 10 of them operating in regional locations. New facilitators deliver services to all people in their regions; however, their primary focus is on mature age people. The three existing facilitators located in Cairns, the Hunter valley (including Newcastle), and Launceston and North East Tasmania have a focus on young people.

The 20 new Entrepreneurship Facilitators are located in the following regions:

New South WalesQueensland

Coffs Harbour—Grafton


  • Ballina
  • Tweed Heads

 Sydney—South West:

  • Liverpool
  • Campbelltown

Southern Highlands and Shoalhaven



Wide Bay

  • Gympie
  • Bundaberg
South Australia


Barossa—Yorke— Mid North

VictoriaWestern Australia



Melbourne—South East:

  • Dandenong
  • Pakenham


Perth—North East


Greater Hobart and South-East Tasmania

Northern Territory
  • ‘Job Change’ initiative to assist mature age workers to remain in employment

    The Job Change initiatives provide mature age Australians and job seekers with practical assistance to reskill, stay in the workforce or find a new job. These include: a new online Skills Transferability Tool to assist workers to find jobs that match their skills and attributes (to be available on the Job Outlook website), providing retrenched workers and their partners with early access to employment services, and holding Jobs Fairs to connect job seekers and employers in regions undergoing structural change.

Transition to Work

The Transition to Work service for youth aged 15 to 21 years offers  intensive pre‑employment support to participants, including those in regional Australia, to improve their work readiness and help them into work or education. The service providers support young people through strong connections with employers, community services and schools in their local area.

Structural Adjustment Packages

A range of assistance is in place to assist retrenched workers to quickly transition to new employment.

The Government provides Structural Adjustment Packages on a case by case basis to assist workers in areas where expectations of future employment opportunities in industries that are low or where large scale closures may impact on the local labour market. This helps to reduce the regional impacts of large scale redundancies by:

  • providing retrenched workers from eligible companies with immediate access to intensive jobactive employment support services;
  • delivering Jobs Fairs to help connect retrenched workers to new employers and employment opportunities; and
  • providing a local Employment Facilitator to assist retrenched workers in specific regions to connect with training, job opportunities and to link them with other existing support.

Wage Subsidies

Wage subsidies support the Australian Government’s broader objectives of increasing workforce participation by providing a financial incentive to employers to hire eligible job seekers. There are a number of wage subsidies available, including for job seekers who are long‑term unemployed, Indigenous, parents, youth (under 30 years of age), and mature age (50 years or over) under the Restart Program. The wage subsidies vary from $6,500 to $10,000 (GST inclusive).

Time to Work Employment Service

The Time to Work Employment Service (the service) is a national in-prison employment service for adult Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prisoners. The $17.6 million service aims to better prepare prisoners for employment upon their release from prison and improve the likelihood of them connecting with employment services and other support post-release. 

Participants receive an assessment of their barriers to employment, assistance to develop a plan to overcome these barriers and a facilitated transfer to a post-release employment service provider.

The service is being implemented progressively in non-remote prisons across Australia and is currently operating in the Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales, South Australia and Tasmania. Services will commence in Victoria, Queensland, the Northern Territory and Western Australia in 2019.

Encouraging Entrepreneurship and Self-Employment

New Business Assistance with the New Enterprise Incentive Scheme (NEIS) helps people not in employment, education or training to start their own business. NEIS provides accredited training, business mentoring and advice, and for eligible participants, up to 39 weeks NEIS Allowance. NEIS has been helping people to create their own job for over 30 years and supports up to 8,600 people each financial year.

NEIS providers also deliver two-week “Exploring Being My Own Boss” workshops to give up to 1,000 individuals a taste of what is involved in self-employment.

Funding of $481.0 million over four years from 2018-19 has been provided to help people start their own business with the help of a NEIS provider.

The SelfStart online hub is a starting point for people who wish to explore and develop their business ideas. SelfStart supports people during the first stages or their business by providing targeted information and connecting them to existing services to help them start their own business.

Entrepreneurship Facilitators

Entrepreneurship Facilitators promote entrepreneurship and support people to establish their own businesses in regional areas including by connecting them with existing services such as New Business Assistance with NEIS. The Entrepreneurship Facilitators operate in 23 locations around Australia. Funding of $17.7 million has been provided from 2018-19 to 2021-22 for this initiative.

Relocation Assistance to Take Up a Job Program

The Relocation Assistance to Take Up a Job Program helps to connect Australians to regional jobs by providing practical and financial assistance to eligible long‑term unemployed who relocate to take up work. The Relocation Assistance to Take Up a Job Program provides assistance of up to $6,000 who move to a regional area or up to $3,000 for eligible job seekers who move to a metropolitan area. Families with dependent children can receive assistance of up to an extra $3,000.

Harvest Labour Services and National Harvest Information Service

Harvest Labour Services help employers in horticultural areas to supplement local labour with out of area workers where there is an acknowledged shortfall in the local labour market. Harvest Labour Services are delivered by five organisations through 15 sites across 11 harvest areas, in the Northern Territory and all states except Tasmania. The service offered to employers includes advertising positions, followed by screening and matching workers to the needs of the business. The National Harvest Labour Information Service coordinates and disseminates information about harvest related work opportunities across Australia, including those areas not serviced by Harvest Labour Services. This information is provided through the Harvest Trail website, a telephone service and Harvest Guide.

Launch Into Work

The Launch into Work program is a small program that trials pre-employment projects, co-designed with employers, which provide training, work experience and mentoring to job seekers to increase their skills, experience and confidence. Projects are intended to train job seekers for specific roles within the organisation, and may be conducted in a variety of industries across all non-remote regions.

Career Revive Initiative

The $1.5 million Career Revive initiative will provide assistance for regional employers to support women who are seeking a return to work after a career break. Supported returner programs are employer-funded, paid employment opportunities that support women to transition back into the workforce through training, mentoring and work experience.

The Department of Jobs and Small Business will engage one or more consultants with expertise in regional business development to work with employers and develop tailored action plans to implement supported returner programs. Online resources will also be developed targeting regional employers to guide them to set up similar supported returner programs in their business.

Employee Assistance—Protection for Unpaid Employee Entitlements

The Australian Government’s Fair Entitlements Guarantee is a safety net of last resort.  It protects employees, including those in regional Australia, who lose their job through liquidation or bankruptcy of their employer and are left with unpaid employment entitlements. Employees in this situation may claim financial assistance under the Fair Entitlements Guarantee for unpaid wages, annual leave, long service leave, payment in lieu of notice and redundancy pay. Some eligibility conditions and payment thresholds apply.

Australian Small Business Advisory Services (ASBAS) Digital Solutions

Small business contributes to jobs creation, innovation and the growth of the Australian economy, including in regional Australia. The Australian Small Business Advisory Services (ASBAS) Digital Solutions program is the Australian Government’s primary small business advisory initiative that provides small business with access to low cost, high-quality digital services advice to build sustainable and productive businesses.

Beginning in July 2018, the Australian Government is providing $18 million across three years to business service providers, including those in regional Australia, to improve the digital capabilities of small businesses in the following areas: website and selling online; social media and digital marketing; using small business software; and online security and data privacy.

Small businesses have access to specialist advisers who can help employers capitalise on new opportunities available in the digital economy and services are offered proportionately across metropolitan and regional areas.

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