Safety of Australians visiting Services Australia boosted in Budget

Dept of Social Services

The Albanese Government will help keep Australians safer when they visit Services Australia centres, with new funding invested to improve staff and customer safety.

The Government will invest $314 million over two years to significantly strengthen safety and security at Services Australia centres in communities.

In 2022-23, there were 10 million visitors to Services Australia service centres to access government payments, including Centrelink, Medicare and the Aged Pension.

In the same year, there were 9,000 incidents of aggression in service centres, situated in local community hubs and shopping centres.

Minister for Government Services Bill Shorten MP commissioned Graham Ashton to undertake an urgent review into safety at service centres following a serious physical attack on a Services Australia staff member in May last year.

The attack occurred in the service centre at a Westfield Shopping Centre in Melbourne’s north and left her severely injured.

The new $314 million of funding will improve staff and customer safety, including:

  • Funding for up to 606 security guards;
  • Better security features in all service centres;
  • Establishing a centralised Security Operations Centre, with live monitoring capabilities through upgraded CCTV;
  • Better liaison with local law enforcement; and
  • Enhanced service centre design for an additional 35 service centres at risk of high levels of customer aggression.

The new funding is on top of the $46.9 million the Albanese Government has already committed to strengthening security at Services Australia, following the release of the review in October.

Services Australia is implementing all 44 recommendations from the Security Risk Management Review.

These measures will work alongside the Government’s Criminal Code Amendment (Protecting Commonwealth Frontline Workers) Bill 2024, introduced to Parliament last month.

This will increase the maximum penalties for conduct that causes harm to a frontline worker.

This will help protect the 100,000 frontline public servants who work in places like Services Australia, the Australian Taxation Office, passport offices, airports and the Australian Electoral Commission.

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

“It’s our job to do everything we can to provide a safe environment for the 10 million customers who visit Services Australia sites each year.

“Services Australia centres are located in the heart of local communities and we must ensure customers and staff are kept safe when there is any act of violence or aggression.

“The security upgrades will help the agency work with local law enforcement to prevent incidents of aggression impacting the local community.

“Services Australia has more than 6,200 staff working across 318 service centres. These staff do an important and difficult job for their community. We want to make sure they return home from work safely every day.”

Ashton Review and Services Australia facts and figures:

  • Mr Ashton made 44 recommendations to improve staff safety and reduce customer aggression.
  • Services Australia is acting on all of these recommendations.
  • Services Australia has 318 service centres across Australia, with more than 6,200 staff providing face to face support to Australians.
  • In 2022-23:
    • there were around 10 million contacts in service centres.
    • there were almost 9,000 face-to-face customer aggression incidents.
  • As at 31 March 2024, the agency has 652 social workers to support vulnerable customers, with 376 of these located in service centres.
  • Ashton Review: Security risk management review key findings and recommendations

/Public Release. View in full here.