Just as with the police profession, training requirements for the private security industry have evolved over time. For many years security officers were poorly chosen and poorly trained (if at all), partly because security companies who contracted with clients in private industry were paid very little for their security services. For the most part, contracts were awarded to security officer companies through a competition process and the final selection was often made based on cost rather than the experience or professionalism of the security guard company. That changed drastically on September 11, 2001 when radical terrorists attacked the United States. The event moved corporate threat concerns to the top of the priority list for most security guard contracts started being awarded based on professionalism. More money was invested in security so more money became available for training of security guards. The term ‘security professional’ began to surface and large private security companies like Blackwater, USA began offering training services for the private security industry that approached the level of training provided by the military. Security companies began paying enough to attract people with significant backgrounds in law enforcement and the military, often in special operations.
Any person who conducts a business or is employed in a security-related field within Australia is required to be licensed. Each of the six states and two territories of Australia have separate legislation that covers all security activities. Licensing management in each state/territory is varied and is carried out by either Police, Attorney General’s Department, Justice Department or the Department of Consumer Affairs.
All of this legislation was intended to enhance the integrity of the private security industry.
All persons licensed to perform security activities are required to undertake a course of professional development in associated streams that are recognised nationally. This has not always been the case and the introduction of this requirement is expected to regulate the educational standards and knowledge base so that the particular job can be competently performed. Strict requirements are laid down as to the type of uniform and badge used by security companies. Uniforms or badges that may be confused with a police officer are prohibited. Also, the use of the titles ‘Security Police’ or ‘Private Detective’ are unacceptable. While the term security guard is used by companies, government bodies and individuals, the term security officer is deemed more suitable. Bouncers use the title Crowd Controllers, and Store Detectives use the title Loss Prevention or Asset Protection Officers. Security Officers may carry firearms, handcuffs or batons where their role requires them to do so and then only when working and have the appropriate sub-class accreditation to their license.
The review found the industry had a similar gender profile to police (24% female, 76% male), however security had a wider, and older age profile – 35% of security officers were 45 to 64 years old, while 44% of police were concentrated between 30 and 39 years. The review noted that as of 2009, private security outnumbered police two to one; it expected that this rate would continue to slow as security technology become more readily-accessible, especially CCTV camera systems, which are often seen as being more cost-effective than guarding/mobile patrol service.
The review referenced a 2007 report from IBISworld (2007:24) that indicated four out of five of the largest private security companies in Australia were foreign-owned, accounting for 44.5% of the market share at the time.
A 2018 report authored by Anthony Bergin, Donald Williams, and Christopher Dixon and published by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, focused on the current role of private security in countering hostile threats. An evolving understanding of threats has resulted in private security playing a greater part in responding to critical incidents, such as terrorist attacks.
The report provided a low end estimate of the total number of licensed security personnel across Australia as 120,000 (54,753 employed full-time, up from 52,768 in 2006). It said the security industry is nationally characterized as high-volume and high-turnover, given the conflict between a highly prescriptive selection process by employers and regulators who seek to ensure only fit and proper people are licensed. As such, approximately 47% of the industry consists of casual security officers.
In 2018, referencing data provided by ASIAL, the report states that the private security industry has an annual turnover of AUD8 billion – split evenly between manpower and the electronics sector. Despite various companies being amalgamated or split up, there continues to be a high rate of foreign-ownership of major security providers; the industry overall however remains split between a small number of national companies and a large number of small, specialized businesses.
Technological advancements in regards to drones, facial recognition, and robotics are expected to continue to augment the private security landscape in Australia.