Australian Protective Security Renaissance


By Maksym Szewczuk

Protective security culture in Australia is undergoing a renaissance of proactive consideration across multiple dimensions and sectors.

In the shadow of the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks of 2001, and in the absence of any similar cataclysmic triggers, Australian companies, critical infrastructure owners/operators and government entities are experiencing a revitalised appetite for proactive and practical approaches. Particularly in, capital investment in protective security, crime prevention, security risk management and intelligence collection.

Such levels of collective investment in protective security have not been observed since the September 11th attacks, forced a global re-assessment of protective security arrangements by all levels of organisations and government.


A large proportion of the commentary and analysis has focused on the strategic policy aspects of national security, counter terrorism, and policing. But seldom has the lens of analysis fallen on the current state of protective security arrangements within Australia.

As state and federal intelligence agencies continue outstanding work in detecting and preventing terrorist attacks, the onus of protecting assets remain with the owners and operators of infrastructure and public spaces. And it appears that these owners and operators are taking this responsibility seriously, with realistic risk. That is, risk based on preventative approaches and not relying solely on policing and intelligence agencies for prevention of terrorism and serious crime.


An increasingly large host of Australian multidisciplinary consulting firms have commenced security consulting offerings. This is in response to demand from government and private enterprise. These bodies are requesting more and more the need for knowledgeable advice in the realms of protective security, crime prevention and security risk management.

Judging by the number of security consulting and corporate security management roles being advertised or remaining unfilled in the market, there appears to be a significant uptake in security risk management related capability.

This does display a commitment to security assurance, resilience, and client value creation through provision of sound safety and security strategies for the benefit of clients or visitors. However, it also displays a proactive approach to protection of national critical infrastructure, public and crowded places. This is occurring in the absence of regulatory requirements or single critical event to warrant such an approach.


In response to renewed interest, a similar trend has emerged in the higher education sector as greater numbers of universities commence national security, terrorism, intelligence related streams. Australian National University is now adding an International Security Studies program, joining the likes of Edith Cowen, Sydney, Macquarie, Charles Sturt and Murdoch Universities, to name but a few.

The University of Technology Sydney has also invested in a Designing Out Crime Research Centre, which is a partnership between the NSW Government, Department of Attorney General & Justice and UTS. It aims to develop innovative design-led approaches to complex crime problems.


On the face of it, counter IED transparent bins or impact rated bollards may not garner the same level of importance as counter terrorism financing, but it is these downstream considerations which are now the focus of asset owners and operators looking to protect themselves against future security threats.

Our national (homeland) security and intelligence spending remains high, buoyed by large capital spending on new platforms such as the F35 fighter, and now US sourced nuclear submarines. This however shifts our defence posture to an offensive capability, and a commensurate shifting of positions is occurring within the national protective security apparatus.


The nation’s collective protective security culture appears to have shifted from one of reaction or compliance to a proactive value and assurance lead approach. This ultimately places safety and security of the asset and its users as a core value.

Additionally, this is further evidenced by the empirical research and industry development of integrated protective security. That is, one designed to seamlessly blend protective security treatments with building architecture.

Moreover, it seeks to heighten the level of protective security maturity, which aims to keep buildings and spaces publicly accessible in the context of counter-terrorism guidelines.


In addition to existing and enhanced cyber security, countering violent extremism, money laundering and terrorism financing requirements, is the development of the Security Legislation Amendment (Critical Infrastructure) Bill 2020.

It requires greater provisions for security assurance by owners and operators of critical infrastructure. But it also seeks to strengthen Australia’s infrastructure resilience.

While this legislation provides a focus on cyber security assurance, it does touch on risk management requirements and expands the categories of that which is considered Critical Infrastructure.

Without solely relying on the state intelligence apparatus to prevent terrorism or serious security incidents, owners and operations of the nation’s critical infrastructure and public crowded spaces appear to be proactively applying deterrents. That is, preventative mitigation protective security measures in the absence of any forced shifting of security culture, such as was experienced after September 11th.

A handful of lone wolf style attacks have been perpetrated via unsophisticated methods with vehicles as weapons, edged weapons, and in the case of the Lindt Siege and attack on Parramatta Police Headquarters. However, stolen or illegal guns, the screening of personnel and goods along with access control to sensitive or crowded areas remain prevalent within the community.


Federal authorities, led by the Department of Home Affairs, continue to develop pragmatic advice for asset owners and operators. This includes a National Counter-Terrorism Plan, Australia’s Strategy for Protecting Crowded Places from Terrorism, Active Armed Offender Guidelines, Improvised Explosive Device Guidelines, Chemical Weapon Guidelines and Hostile Vehicle Guidelines for Crowded Places.

In conjunction with protective security and counter-terrorism advise provided by ASIO and state police, this approach by policing and intelligence authorities demonstrates a positive approach to assisting the up scaling of protective security arrangements within Australia.

The Australian government and its law enforcement agencies, state authorities and owners/operators of critical infrastructure, are shifting the collective approach to protective security, risk management and crime prevention. This is by moving away from a reactionary approaches to yesterday’s attacks while proactively moving to mitigate against tomorrow’s attacks. This maturing of security culture which emphasises the value of security, safety and infrastructure resilience is a positive step by all. And moreover, it compliments state-based crime prevention and counter terrorism approaches.

About the Author

Maksym Szewczuk is a security advisor with 15 years’ experience in critical infrastructure protection and is currently a member of the NSW Police Security Industry Advisory Council.


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