Protecting Australia’s missions and staff overseas: follow-on

Auditing Diplomacy National security Australia
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The objective of this audit was to examine the effectiveness of measures taken to strengthen the protection of Australia’s posts and staff overseas.

To form a conclusion against the audit objective, the ANAO assessed whether:

  • a robust security framework that articulates an appropriate risk management and security standards regime to assess and reflect risks at overseas posts was in place;
  • appropriate security guidance, training and resourcing arrangements enabled the protection of Australia’s overseas posts and staff;
  • security measures are effectively deployed, maintained and procedures are kept up-to-date, and lessons learned are captured to improve security at overseas posts; and
  • arrangements to monitor and consult on the effectiveness of the security arrangements at overseas posts are effective.


The ANAO’s review of Australia’s overseas missions identified that DFAT has arrangements in place to provide security to overseas missions and staff. Aspects of the delivery of the overseas security, in particular the strategic planning, management of security measures and elements of the framework supporting staff training, have not been fully effective.

DFAT has a comprehensive Security Manual setting out policy, procedures and processes. DFAT undertakes threat and risk assessments of locations where DFAT has overseas posts. Implementation of the recommendations arising from DFAT’s security reviews would be more effective if a comprehensive plan was in place that encompasses the internal review recommendations, as well as a forward looking plan that articulates the desired end state for DFAT overseas security. A comprehensive plan would drive more consistent monitoring of reform activities underway. DFAT would also benefit from enhancing the recording of overseas post security measures to better inform the monitoring of post security risks.

DFAT’s arrangements to provide overseas security training have been generally effective. DFAT has established an overseas security training framework to support the delivery of training to overseas staff, and staff with dedicated security advisory roles. There are opportunities to further enhance security training and guidance for deployed and specialist security staff, as well as DFAT’s ability to monitor and analyse staff training across posts.

DFAT has arrangements in place to specify overseas physical security measures and select and deploy the measures to posts. The manner in which these measures have been deployed and managed has not been effective in all cases. Improving the specifications and guidance for all physical and operational security measures at posts would help mitigate security risks. DFAT has in place overseas security inspection arrangements to provide assurance on the effectiveness of security measures in place at posts. The effectiveness of these inspections could be enhanced through a centrally coordinated process for planning and recording security inspections.

DFAT has in place monitoring and reporting on security at overseas posts, however the effectiveness of the monitoring and reporting is limited as it is not consistently implemented or verified. This reduces the assurance provided by these arrangements that security at overseas posts is effectively mitigating risks.

The ANAO notes the department’s view that it has made progress in strengthening its security arrangements during the time of the audit.

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