Western Australian Industrial Relations Commission

What is a 'government officer'?

A government officer is defined in s 80C(1) of the Industrial Relations Act 1979 (WA).  Government officers are: 

  1. every person employed on the salaried staff of a public authority;
  2. public service officers;
  3. parliamentary and electoral office staff;
  4. members of the Governor’s Establishment; or
  5. some employees appointed before 1 March 1985.

Most public servants will come within points 1 or 2. 

Government officers are not

  1. teachers;
  2. some railway officers; or
  3. post‑secondary academics.


  1. Every person employed on the salaried staff of a public authority

To decide whether an employee falls within this definition of ‘government officer’, look at the circumstances of the employee (to decide whether they are ‘on the salaried staff’) and the characteristics of the employer (to decide whether it is ‘a public authority’).  Both of these things must be satisfied for an employee to be a government officer. 

(a)     Salaried staff

An employee ‘on the salaried staff’ must receive a salary.  In general, a salary is a fixed amount paid at regular intervals.  Salaries are generally paid to ‘administrative, technical and professional’ staff, rather than staff who perform manual tasks (who may be referred to as ‘wages employees’). 

If an employee is paid by wages or commissions, they are probably not ‘on the salaried staff’ of their employer. 

(b)     Public authority

Broadly speaking, ‘public authority’ includes all State government bodies, including State government departments, statutory bodies, agencies and Ministers of the Crown.  However, local governments and regional local governments are not public authorities.  See s 7(1) of the Industrial Relations Act 1979 for the full definition. 

For more information on this definition, see: 

  • The Totalisator Agency Board v Fisher (1997) 77 WAIG 1889
  • McGinty v Department of Corrective Services [2012] WAIRC 54; (2012) 92 WAIG 190
  • Capewell v Department of Corrective Services [2013] WAIRC 390; (2013) 93 WAIG 1454
  • Berke v Director General, Department of Education [2014] WAIRC 478; (2014) 94 WAIG 755
  1. Public Service Officers

To find out what a public service officer is, see Public Service Officers

  1. Parliamentary and Electoral Office staff

To come within this definition, an employee must be: 

  • a ‘member of a department of the staff of Parliament’; or
  • an ‘electorate officer’.

(a)        Members of the department of the staff of Parliament are employees of the: 

  • Department of the Legislative Council;
  • Department of the Legislative Assembly;
  • Department of the Parliamentary Reporting Staff;
  • Department of the Parliamentary Library; or
  • Joint House Department.

Employees of subdivisions of these departments are also members of the department of the staff of Parliament.

(b)        Electorate officers are expressly appointed to be electorate officers.  Their job is to assist a member of State Parliament with constituency matters, or to assist the secretary of a parliamentary party. 

  1. Members of the Governor’s Establishment

Members of the Governor’s Establishment are people employed as a member of the staff at Government House, Perth.  Government House includes the grounds belonging to it. 

  1. Some employees appointed before 1 March 1985

If an employee was appointed after 1 March 1985, this definition does not apply. 

This definition provides for employees who were appointed before 1 March 1985, who were government officers pursuant to the definition at that time.  It means that those employees continue as government officers despite amendments to the legislation.  

This definition captures a small, and probably theoretical, group of employees who are not public service officers or salaried staff of a public authority yet were government officers before the definition was amended in 1985. 

Before 1 March 1985, government officers were: 

  • employees appointed under the Public Service Act 1978 (WA);
  • people who were eligible to be members of the Civil Service Association, and were on the salaried staff of:
    1. the Commissioner of Main Roads;
    2. the Forests Department;
  • the Commissioner of Transport;
  1. the Metropolitan Market Trust;
  2. A public hospital controlled by a Minister of the Crown; or
  3. Any port authority, harbour trust or harbour board.

For the complete definition of ‘government officer’ as it was before 1 March 1985, see:  Industrial Arbitration Act 1979 (WA) (reprint 21 March 1983) s 96 (page 113). 

  1. Teachers

A teacher is not a government officer. 

A teacher is someone employed by the Department of Education as a member of the teaching staff, or a teacher in a registered kindergarten.  

A public servant who is required to have teaching qualifications is not a ‘teacher’. 

  1. Some railway officers

Some railway officers are not government officers. 

These railway officers have a specific definition under s 80M of the Industrial Relations Act 1979 (WA).  This definition only concerns railway officers who were appointed before 1 July 2003.  Not all railway officers come within this definition.  The railway officers who are excluded:

  • were employed by a predecessor to the Public Transport Authority before 1 July 2003; and
  • continue to be employed by the Public Transport Authority; and
  • were and continue to be covered by one of these Awards:
    1. Government Railways Locomotive Enginemen’s Award 1973-1990 No. 13 of 1990;
    2. Railway Employees Award No. 18 of 1969.

If (a), (b) and (c) are satisfied, the employee is a railway officer under s 80M of the Industrial Relations Act 1979 (WA).  Therefore, they are not government officers. 

  1. Post‑secondary academics

Post‑secondary academics are not government officers.  Post‑secondary academics are academic staff of institutions established under these Acts: 

  • University of Western Australia Act 1911 (WA)
  • Curtin University Act 1966 (WA)
  • Murdoch University Act 1973 (WA)
  • Edith Cowan University Act 1984 (WA)

Vocational Education and Training Act 1996 (WA)


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