Sydney Airport from July 2001 to December 2013.
It was another fascinating journey for me to have a career with Sydney Airport. Having spent some previous time involved with the airport, during the 2000 Sydney Olympics preparation and delivery phase, I was somewhat familiar with the people and environment. I was looking forward to being part of this airport community.
This period in my career life was probably the most complex and the busiest of all my roles. The pace of events and changes were so rapid and unrelenting I soon learned the art of multitasking and prioritizing in order to manage day-to-day. I had to improve the art of delegation to my efficient and effective teams to achieve the expectations. So how best to share a story about nearly 13 years of a life dedicated to this airport and all the hard work, time and effort that was involved? I think the words “working with a great team and collaboration” sums up how it all transpired.
The airport initially was part of a Government business enterprise when I first joined the company, but it moved through the process of being corporatised and then onto privatization during my tenure. These activities while a good learning experience all complicated and added to the intensive workload of the airport.
Heading the Aviation Services Standards Group in the Aviation Services Team was my allocated role when I decided to retire, or retreat from the daily grind, with my last day on the 6 December 2013. It was the culmination of some 45 years of a working life.
Being offered a role as Manager Airport Security in July 2001 was an exciting change from my past in Government service. It was something that I was keen to try out – surely the private sector was not as bureaucratic – not really.
My new responsibility was to ensure aviation security was risk managed, appropriate and compliant with the extensive Government regulatory requirements and that security systems, contracts, infrastructure and costs were efficiently managed.
I felt confident in my ability due to my previous experiences but shortly after commencing work at the airport the major terrorist events of 11 September 2001 occurred and the aviation security environment and threat profile both in Australia and internationally changed significantly, as did the role of the Manager Airport Security.
The intervening years were filled with drama, media focus and ever-changing government requirements along with heavy business pressures to reduce operating costs and to be more efficient.
Owing to new airport management and focus, in December 2012, I was appointed the Head of Services Standards taking on a much broader role with continued responsibilities for aviation security and new responsibilities for safety management systems, emergency & contingency planning and aviation service support contracts such as cleaning, waste, trolleys and air-side busing. Wow this was going to be busy and some of these areas were all new to me – but I was up for a challenge.
I had always placed a heavy reliance on my professional leadership approach and to achieve outcomes my focus was on service quality and integrity and I continued this focus in my broader role. I had a larger team, new contractors to meet and new standards to maintain – the pace of life just got more intense.
During my tenure, I was a significant participant in the Australian Governments National Aviation Security Committee and provided industry leadership to a significant number of Government Security Policy working groups. Trips to Canberra or to other airports for meetings and working groups was something that occurred on a routine basis. There was considerable collaboration in this industry which was fantastic.
I have set out a little later some of the initiatives that I participated in both at the Government policy level and in operational implementation and management. In 2003 I received the Australian Security Industry Award for Excellence in Aviation Security having previously received the “Outstanding AVSEC Official Merit Award” in 2000 at the 5th ASIA Pacific Security Conference in Singapore for my contribution to aviation security.
My membership of the American Society of Industrial Security and the Australian Institute of Management ensured i maintained awareness of contemporary views of security and management.
While having a wide range of experience and knowledge in aviation security, I had a particular interest in leadership and improvements to the human factors aspect of this industry. My view was that without the dedicated involvement of the workforce superior outcomes and achievements would not be possible – so we needed to engage with the human factors and created the One Aviation Security Team – an approach of working collaboratively with my team and the service provider team.
With this passion, I have always been driven by the vision of “Professional Security with Service and Integrity” to ensure better practice aviation security outcomes. I took this ethos into the new role in Service Standards to work collaboratively with other service contractors.
I was a member of the Airport Council International (ACI) World and Asia-Pacific Region Standing Security Committees and enjoyed a role as task force leader for an ACI project to develop a better practice guidance document for screening point customer service quality, through collaboration with world airports. This was a particularly wonderful opportunity to network with peers from around the world.
This offered me the opportunity to travel to such destinations as Abu Dhabi, UAE; Singapore; Munich, Germany; Cape Town, South Africa; Phuket, Thailand; Washington, DC. Having relationships and a network of world airport security professionals provided me a greater insight and knowledge to support me in my role and to better dialogue with our Australian Transport Regulator. I also got to travel to Vancouver, Canada as part of a worldwide group to undertake a peer review of the 2010 Vancouver Airport Winter Olympic planning progress in 2009.
Achievements are created by teamwork and collaboration and I was greatly supported by my team and in particular my fantastic administrative support person, Debbie. We had a wonderful time working together, lots of laughs, and too much pressure but always got along and enjoyed working together. I miss her very much.
There were so many initiatives and activities that I was part of or implemented during my time at the airport. I said that it was the busiest and most hectic career so below gives you a sense of the scale and complexity of activity during my work period:
- Implementation of new security systems and workplace culture post-September 11, 2000;
- Developed new security standards and quality management systems that were positively acknowledged by the Regulator
- Chairmanship of the Airport Security Committee and Airport Security Consultative Groups
- Systems for the delivery of security coordination, information sharing and stakeholder engagement
- Key participant on Government work groups to redevelop the Aviation Transport Security Act and Regulations in 2004
- New policy initiatives such as Aviation Screening Notice obligations and processes including;
- Explosive trace detection
- 100% checked baggage screening
- Liquid, Aerosols & Gels screening
- Body scanning
- Enhanced inspection of the air-side area
- Driving significant security infrastructure enhancements and developing new equipment installations, in collaboration with others in the team, involving:
- Enhancements to CCTV cameras systems and access control points
- New systems for ID center management of 20,000 identity and access control cards
- Installing 33 Explosive Trace detection systems installed
- Installing 100% checked baggage screening systems integrated into the airport baggage handling System
- Explosive Trace Detection equipment and process
- LAG x-rays & body scanner equipment and process
- Enhanced Inspections airside systems & facilities
- Water perimeter buoy and radar detection systems
- Perimeter security fence enhancements
Security Services Contracts
- Significant security services tenders, contracting, and management that involved:
- Introduction of partnership approach involving One Security Team contract with Sydney Night Patrol (SNP) & Inquiry Limited.
- The contract required passenger and checked baggage screening operations, CCTV surveillance, security patrols, and access control operations involving some 850 security officers.
- This was a large contract and 24-hour operations.
- The close collaborative arrangements with SNP for contract management and continuous improvement was a new approach to managing security contracting.
- It took considerable effort and dedication from both the airport and SNP to deliver the significant changes realized during my tenure.
- Working the Tom the MD, his team of HR, Finance, and Operational managers provided the airport and the security team with opportunities for growth and improvements.
- installation and maintenance of electronic, physical, and security screening systems with supplier companies Smiths Detection and Honeywell. Working with their teams was also a tremendous collaboration and they offered wonderful support.
Significant key events of my journey
- Corporatization moves from a Government business enterprise
- Privatization & re-structures of the airport business
- September 11 (9/11) Terrorism Implications for aviation security and customer service
- Ansett Airlines collapse implications and terminal takeover
- Bali Bombings & Implications for Security
- Shapelle Corby Bali drug events, camel head affair, and inquiries
- Leaked Customs Report inquiries
- Sir John Wheeler Review of aviation security and Policing
- Beal Review of Airport Policing
- Major airport events such as World Youth Day in 2008 with hundreds of thousands of travelers being processed through the airport.
Federal Police Changes
- Development and management of the Australian Federal (airport) Police working relationships MOU.
- Support for the change over from APS to AFP
Operations Support and Hygiene Services
- New cleaning contractor – change over on short notice
- Cleaning contract management systems & improvement journey
- Cleaning & Service contracts partnership approach
- Contract management of airside-busing and trolley services
- New airport Safety Culture and enhancements
- Redevelopment of safety management system documentation
- Heightened training and awareness focus
Emergency & Fire Compliance Management
- Planning and preparation of policies and procedures
- Airport engagement strategies
- Committee and equipment
- Drills and exercises
Heavy levels of governance and reporting
Being a private company and heavily regulated required lots of reporting, recording and written governance documents. I had monthly Board and management meetings that required papers. The large contracts required considerable legal documents and operations standards to be documented. The Government insisted on considerable reporting and documentation and a quality control system was important to ensure compliance and standards for all these obligations.
There were always presentations to prepare for internal and external use. The cost management and budgeting obligations were also significant given the large scale of the contracts and operating costs for my responsibilities. All this offered me greater business and leadership skills and experiences.
I proactively engaged with the Aviation regulator, airlines, and airport stakeholders to ensure collaboration and customer focus. I believe I had wonderful relations with those that were important to ensure smooth operations and preparations for unforeseen events. It was thrilling to have been a part of this for almost 13 years but it was time to retreat to a more tranquil life. I am also grateful for the opportunities and knowledge I gained during this period of my life and for the people I was lucky enough to work with and interact with.
Check out my Tranquil in Thailand section about life after the airport.