My Australian Government Career
Spanned the period September 1990 to June 2001
Having arrived in Canberra, the National Capital, after experiencing life in a very rural NSW village I was offered an initial contract role with this Government protective security agency to support the newly created airport Counter Terrorism First Response function (that was poorly named). It was an interesting appointment as I had been fortunate to have hosted this agency during a visit they made to Toronto airport to see how the airport security force operated.
They had made inquiries about me and my performance when they found out I was immigrating to Australia – unknown to me. My approach to their Toronto airport learning experience seemed to have ensured me a role in Australia – lucky me. So what was this organisation?
On the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the establishment of the Australian Protective Service (APS) (20 October 1984 – 1994) a history of the organisation was written by Peter Donovan, called “Changing of the Guard”. It’s introduction probably is the best explanation. At any time of the day or night there are APS men and women on duty protecting sensitive facilities throughout Australia. On January 1994 there were 9967 uniformed officers who were responsible for security at 59 stations. The former atomic bomb testing site at Maralinga in remote South Australia was geographically the largest, but required only two officers on rotation from Woomera; the Sydney airport was the largest station with 88 staff.
There were 57 other stations that differed greatly from one another in terms of staffing and responsibility such as top-secret defense establishment and immigration detention facilities, diplomatic and consular guarding, official establishments of the Prime Minister and Governor General and other sensitive Government offices. In addition to guarding these premises officers performed ad hoc tasks such as escorting deportees’, travelling are exhibitions and guarding VIP aircraft. The range of activities and functions was far greater than those inherited by the APS in 1984. While it was only 10 years old its roots can be traced as far back as 1925.
So here I was back in a uniform with legislative role. This career lasted for just over 10 years and I became the National Operations Manager that included leading the APS Sydney airport security team for the 2000 Sydney Olympics. These were the roles I was involved in during my tenure.
1 Airport Security First Response
My initial role was to work with some other recently retired senior armed services types that had been employed to provide Airport CTFR function Management along with new station commanders involving the following airports:
- Alice Springs
This role allowed me to interact with the airport, airline and Policing jurisdictions in these various locations and great new networks. At the time the airports were mainly operated by the Federal Airports Corporation, a Government business enterprise, with the exception of a few smaller airports. This provided a network of airports managed from a central office with similar policies.
The provision of the CTFR service was cost recoverable from airlines who were initially very skeptical and not convinced of this new Government service. Through time and participation the relationship with the Australian aviation industry improved. As a post script note – since I left the APS the Government in its post Sept 11, 2001 changes to aviation security disbanded this organisation and it was subsumed into the Australian Federal Police, once more. It had its origins with the AFP. Likewise the government business enterprise airports were leased to private operators – a major change to aviation in Australia.
I had the opportunity to travel around Australia to the airports which offered me the unique advantage of seeing the whole country. It was really great for me to see the different cities and environments around Australia. This also allowed me to sample many different food offerings from all the States and Northern Territories. My visits would be to meet our clients on the ground, review station operations with the commanders and to speak with staff. I also was required to undertake the odd internal inquiry as well.
Getting out and around Australia increased my network in the aviation industry. I was able to attend industry meetings with Government particularly the Department of Transport, the aviation industry (airlines and airports) and also participated in some overseas conferences to ensure the APS was abreast of current aviation security matters. This would all benefit me in my later airport career – as it turns out.
2. National Operations Manager with oversight of operations, policy and clients for:
- Immigration Detention Centers
- Defence Force facilities
- Governor General and Prime Minister residence
- Diplomatic and Consular Protection
- Key Government Office facilities
- Pre Olympic Sydney airport tender
For all my hard work and dedication I was recognised on a few occasions with tokens of appreciations. While it’s never necessary it is very nice to have peers applaud your efforts. I was presented with an APS Directors Award for exemplary performance and outstanding achievements and the “Oustanding AVSEC Official Award” by the ASIA Pacific Security Conference in Singapore in April 2000.
I also had the opportunity for more international travel attending the annual AVSEC conference hosted by IATA & ACI at various locations throughout the world. I was most fortunate to attend such world destinations as Hong Kong,China; Vancouver, Canada; Chicago, Illinois; Minneapolis, Minnesota: Singapore; Athens, Greece; Geneva, Switzerland and others during my time. This allowed me to expand my international aviation security knowledge and built a network of world professionals.
I was fortunate enough to represent our Director at a graduation ceremony of APS staff at the ATF training facility in Front Royal, Virginia outside of Washington DC. This occurred as I recall in December and my return to Australia coincided with Christmas eve and busy travel time. This turned out to be in my favor as the flight out of London was full and due to my frequent flyer status I was upgraded to First Class for my return to Sydney – ok, someone had to do it.
3. Olympic Security Overlay – Sydney Airport
This was a major turning point for the APS in airports. The Sydney airport tendered the security services between the APS and the NSW Police force, as potential suppliers, and I had the opportunity to be part of a team to coordinate the bid. A long and complex process to respond to the tender, present it and eventually win as the successful agency was a significant milestone for me. This turned out to be a new and even bigger challenge to implement the new strategy that had been promised.
I was asked to oversee the implementation of the various components of the plan. Lets just say that it was a major human resources, training, logistics, integration, strategic and operationally complex project. In the end a whole new security force was established and ready for service. I had a great implementation team to support the work and this showed in the results.
For the Olympics I remained in Sydney and took over as the airport commander of the APS and I continued to be supported by a wonderful team of managers. We worked closely with airport operations and security teams, NSW Police and other agencies in the planning, lead up and delivery of the security overlay. It was a complex and pragmatic plan that saw heightened levels of security that required unique coordination.
The Sydney Olympics were noted as the best games ever and from an airport security perspective they certainly were. New cooperative working arrangements were forged that remained for years afterwards among many agencies.
I had gotten to enjoy Sydney during my tenure and when it was time to return to Canberra to take up my National Operations Manager position once again, a new opportunity presented itself.
4. My Departure for Sydney Airport
The airport security manager had taken on a new role at the airport and the job was advertised. I had gotten to know the airport management team during the Olympics and I was encouraged to apply for the role. As I really wanted to remain in Sydney this was an opportunity to good to pass up. I went through the application and interview process and was successful in being selected. It turned out to be fairly rushed appointment so it was a few months after leaving the APS that I was asked to return to a farewell function one special night.