Stronger protections for frontline staff

In May this year, our Government announced an urgent review into staff safety at Services Australia in response to a serious physical attack on a staff member at Services Australia’s Airport West Service Centre in Melbourne.

The Government will act on all 44 recommendations of the Security Risk Management Review for Services Australia by former Chief Commissioner of Victoria Police, Graham Ashton AM APM (the Ashton Review).

As part of the Government’s response to the Ashton Review, the Government has committed more than $40 million to strengthening security at Services Australia and work is already underway to improve safety.

The Government will also prioritise stronger legislation to combat violence and aggression against public sector workers as recommended by the Ashton Review.

There are currently more than 170,000 Commonwealth public servants and 100,000 of those are operational staff who work in places like Services Australia, the Australian Taxation Office, passport offices, airports and the Australian Electoral Commission.

The amendments will strengthen offences for acts of aggression or violence against Commonwealth public servants and establish a Commonwealth Workplace Protection Order scheme.

This scheme will remove the need for staff to apply for protection orders individually.

Security boosts at Services Australia includes:

  • 278 additional guards, bringing the total to 513.
  • Five large service centres will receive additional security features, such as enhanced lobby design with a customer self-check-in kiosk. These features will continue to be implemented in future centre upgrades.
  • Enhanced IT systems with greater security alerts and information for agency staff.
  • 500 frontline service delivery staff will receive Advanced Customer Aggression Training.

Quotes attributable to Minister for Government Services, the Hon. Bill Shorten MP:

There are 10 million Australians who visit Services Australia each year. We need keep people safe.

“On 24 May I announced a review into staff safety at Services Australia in response to a serious physical attack on a staff member at Services Australia’s Airport West Service Centre in Melbourne.

“The incident at Airport West was a terrible crime, committed against a well-respected, well-loved and experienced public servant, Joeanne Cassar.

“Public servants do an important and difficult job for their community, and they should feel confident that they can turn up to work and not face abhorrent violence.

“Mr Ashton’s review will be an important step in ensuring that staff are protected and adequately safeguarded from anti-social behaviour and aggression from customers.

“I thank each and every person who contributed to the review and Mr Ashton for his comprehensive insights into how we can strengthen staff safety.”

Ashton Review and Services Australia facts and figures:

  • Mr Ashton made 44 recommendations to improve staff safety and reduce customer aggression.
  • Services Australia will act on all of these recommendations.
  • Services Australia has 318 service centres across Australia, with more than 6000 staff providing face to face support to Australians.
  • During 2022-23, over 10 million contacts occurred through service centres.
  • In the same period there were almost 9,000 customer aggression incidents in the face-to-face category.
  • As of 31 May 2023, the agency employed 654 social workers with 422 of these located in service centres.
  • Ashton Review: security risk management review key findings and recommendations