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Provide a secure and effective overseas presence

Our global diplomatic network enables us to pursue Australia’s interests and to help Australian citizens and businesses overseas.

The department operates in an unpredictable and challenging security environment, and our network of 109 diplomatic posts (with an additional 11 managed by Austrade) is exposed to a range of security threats—from terrorism, politically motivated violence, crime and civil disorder to espionage.

Our efforts to provide a secure and effective overseas Australian Government presence centred on:

  • protecting the security of our people and our assets
  • equipping our staff to anticipate and manage security risks in their local operating environments
  • investing in efficient, cost-effective and fit-for-purpose information and communications technologies
  • securing our information and assets from cyber threats
  • managing our property estate across diverse geographic regions
  • rolling out the largest expansion of Australia’s diplomatic network in 40 years, with new posts in Funafuti (Tuvalu), Kolkata (India) and Shenyang (China).
Solar panels helping to power the Australian High Commission in Accra, Ghana [DFAT]
Accra High Commission is using solar power as the primary energy source—the first Australian mission to do so. Once the final stage of the project is complete the system will deliver 75–80 per cent savings on our electricity bill and pay for itself within 12 months [DFAT]

Security of our network

Performance measuresHow we rate our performance*
Effective protective security guided by the DFAT Security Framework.On track
Source: Corporate Plan 2018–19, p. 22 | Funding: PBS 2018–19 programs 1.1 and 3.1
Staff engagement with security materials and products, and evidence of risk-based decision-making on security issues using the DFAT Security Framework security risk management tools.On track
Source: Corporate Plan 2018–19, p. 22 | Funding: PBS 2018–19 programs 1.1 and 3.1
Application of the DFAT Security Framework risk management tools by staff in Australia and overseas.On track
Source: PBS 2018–19 program 3.1, p. 45 | Funding: PBS 2018–19 programs 1.1 and 3.1
Positive engagement by staff reflected in breach data, contact reporting, security incident reporting, and staff engagement with security awareness materials.On track
Source: PBS 2018–19 program 3.1, p. 45 | Funding: PBS 2018–19 programs 1.1 and 3.1

Our performance

The department delivered strong outcomes in securing our diplomatic network during the year. We rate our performance as ‘on track’ against these measures while acknowledging that ongoing efforts will be required to embed a robust risk management approach to security across the department’s overseas operations.

Protective security measures

The government’s decision in December to provide $339 million over five years for the department’s Security Enhancements Program will strengthen management of security assets and infrastructure, modernise processes, professionalise security personnel and improve service delivery. In the program’s first year, we progressed interim chancery solutions in Abuja and Tehran and began fitting out the department’s new Global Security Operations Centre in Canberra.

Using risk-based analysis, we upgraded physical security measures to mitigate threats at posts in Abuja, The Hague, Dublin, Riyadh, Singapore, Manila, Tokyo and Hanoi.

We launched the online Security Clearance Management System, resulting in an improved vetting process that will deliver efficiencies and enhanced integrity features. Within six weeks of its launch, more than 200 Change of Circumstance reports were completed using the new system.

We strengthened our security practices and processes in response to reviews by the Australian National Audit Office and the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit into the security of our overseas missions. We responded to both reviews and addressed 12 of the 17 recommendations, with four of the remaining recommendations to be addressed through the Security Enhancements Program, and one to be addressed through the department’s Cyber Security Improvement Program.

Throughout 2018–19 we raised security awareness among staff through outreach sessions and training courses in Canberra and at state and territory offices. We inspected 36 posts and conducted 59 security-related visits to overseas missions, including to support post relocations and refurbishments. Our work was recognised in the 2018 Comcover Awards for Excellence in Risk Management, indicating we are on the right track.

Embedding a strong security culture

Our officers have a high level of security awareness. This was confirmed by results from a survey of 1,148 staff members conducted by an independent research consultant during the year.

We know a positive security culture requires continual reinforcement. We rolled out an innovative communication campaign to engage directly with staff in Canberra and overseas. Our efforts halved security transgressions over November 2018 to January 2019. Security incident reporting also decreased by about 10 per cent from the previous year. Conversely, there was an increase in reporting suspicious, unusual, ongoing or persistent contact with foreign nationals, indicating staff understand the importance of reporting such contact.

While the department has had success in raising security awareness among staff, our efforts to embed a risk management approach to the department’s protective security challenges require ongoing training, advice and support. The DFAT Security Framework provides an agile, risk management approach that gives staff the principles and tools to assess situations and respond according to local conditions. An internal audit found implementation of the framework was mixed. Not all posts completed the new risk assessment reporting requirements on time. We will continue to provide training and work directly with post security officers to improve the quality of security risk reporting.

Fit-for-purpose and secure information and communications technology

Performance measuresHow we rate our performance*
Fit-for-purpose and secure ICT systems which support enhanced efficiencies, including the Hub-and-Spoke operating model.On track
Source: Corporate Plan 2018–19, p. 23; and PBS 2018–19 program 3.1, p. 45 | Funding: PBS 2018–19 programs 1.1 and 3.1
Establishing new service provisioning models and emerging technologies to deliver improved ICT capabilities that are sustainable, affordable and fit for purpose.On track
Source: PBS 2018–19 program 3.1, p. 46 | Funding: PBS 2018–19 programs 1.1 and 3.1

Our performance

We continued to invest in efficient and cost-effective technologies to support our overseas engagement. Effective, reliable and high-performance information and communications technology (ICT) solutions, infrastructure and software are fundamental to enabling the department to deliver outcomes for the government and Australian people into the future.

Our rating of ‘on track’ against our performance measures is tempered by an acknowledgement that we face a significant challenge in our ability to support fit-for-purpose ICT for our expanding overseas network with the finite resources available. We responded to this challenge by implementing our Business Technology Strategy, which has provided an innovative roadmap for aligning ICT capabilities with the department’s future needs.

In May the department’s Strategic Policy Committee endorsed a new principles-based approach for ICT prioritisation. This aims to ensure that ICT investments are targeted, fit for purpose and benefit the highest number of users. This approach increases value for money and ensures we can continue to provide efficient and cost-effective technologies to support operations.

During the year the department provided secure ICT services for 47 partner agencies at 174 sites globally under an ICT memorandum of understanding (see appendix 9).

We focused on investing in technology options and operating models to deliver improved capabilities to support our global and mobile workforce. In 2018–19 we implemented a range of new ICT services including:

  • Post-in-a-Box: a secure diplomatic network communications capability to meet the challenges of deploying into crisis situations efficiently and quickly. Post-in-a-Box was successfully deployed and is a proven model for rapid post deployment.
  • Rapid application delivery: we implemented a contacts and events application under the rapid application delivery model to 120 locations across the globe. This is an easy-to-use, cloud-based web application that enables staff to manage contacts. We are developing a case management application which will enable effective administration of cases on the go. Both applications will improve business operations by reducing time to manage manual processes, reducing training, enhancing information sharing, and improving quality of information and data.
  • Data centres: we delivered two fit-for-purpose data centres that provide high availability and disaster recovery capabilities for our critical services. These significantly enhance our business continuity. The additional redundancy in services reduced disruptions to the department’s business by 29 per cent from the previous financial year.


It is a portable secure diplomatic communications network that is no larger than carry-on baggage.

The department’s award-winning Post-in-a-Box can support up to 100 simultaneous users and offers all the same ICT applications and services as a standard overseas mission.

Post-in-a-Box can be used for:

  • crisis or humanitarian situations
  • ministerial visits
  • international conferences at small posts
  • temporary openings of overseas missions.

Post-in-a-Box has revolutionised the process of establishing small, new or temporary posts and will play an important role in the future expansion of our overseas diplomatic footprint.

The live deployment of Post-in-a-Box to Rabat in Morocco in July 2018 improved performance and productivity of the embassy. We subsequently used it at the Pacific Islands Forum and more recently in Tehran, Abuja, Kolkata and Funafuti.

Post-in-a-Box won the 2019 Public Sector Innovation Award in the Digital and Data category.

Secretary Frances Adamson congratulating the department’s Strategy and Architecture Team on receiving the Australia Day 2019 Achievement Award for Excellence in Innovation for the successful deployment of Post-in-a-Box mobile ICT services in Rabat, Morocco [DFAT]
Good things come in small packages. DFAT’s Strategy and Architecture Team receive the Australia Day 2019 Achievement Award for Excellence in Innovation for the successful deployment of the Post-in-a-Box mobile ICT services in Rabat [DFAT]

A mature cyber security posture

Performance measureHow we rate our performance*
Maturing the department’s cyber security posture.On track

Source: PBS 2018–19 program 3.1, p. 45 | Funding: PBS 2018–19 programs 1.1 and 3.1

Our performance

Cyberspace remains a high risk operating environment. Our role as the core international policy agency for the Australian Government makes the department a priority target for sophisticated state actors. As technology evolves, so does the capability of cyber actors and their targeting methods. While we are unlikely to ever be completely cyber-resilient, we rate our performance under this measure as ‘on track’.

Our new Cyber Security and ICT Risk Branch led key initiatives including developing a Cyber Security Improvement Program, which enhances the department’s existing cyber security controls and implements new defensive capabilities. This includes technologies relating to:

  • vulnerability management
  • change detection
  • anti-malware
  • application whitelisting.

These controls significantly enhanced our ability to detect and prevent cyber intrusion attempts, and reduced our overall cyber security risk.

As part of the Security Enhancements Program, we are developing technical security controls to help identify and mitigate the risk of unauthorised access to—and use of—our systems.

A November 2017 independent review of the department’s compliance with the Essential Eight Strategies to Mitigate Cyber incidents (E8) identified a number of risks to our operations and made recommendations to further improve the department’s cyber security posture. A number of these recommendations have been or are being implemented.

In February the Australian Cyber Security Centre updated the E8 and corresponding maturity level framework. We are reassessing the department’s compliance with the recently updated E8 model and developing a work program to upgrade our cyber security posture to the highest maturity level.

We conducted training to build additional depth in our ICT workforce. Negotiations are under way for staff secondments to leverage the cyber skills and expertise of key domestic and international Five Eyes partners. We also redeveloped the department’s cyber security awareness training. This was positively received by staff and will be a foundation for future awareness and education campaigns.

Effectively managing our property

Performance measuresHow we rate our performance*
The construction and refurbishment of departmental overseas property estate completed within agreed timeframes and budgets.On track
Source: Corporate Plan 2018–19, p. 23; PBS 2018–19 program 3.2, p. 47 | Funding: PBS 2018–19 program 3.2
Completion of the major construction project in Nairobi, leading to occupancy of the new chancery.Achieved
Source: PBS 2018–19 program 3.2, p. 47 | Funding: PBS 2018–19 program 3.2
Management and refurbishment of the domestic property portfolio, including the state and territory offices, to meet government requirements and deliver operational efficiencies.On track
Source: Corporate Plan 2018–19, p. 23 | Funding: PBS 2018–19 program 3.2

Our performance

On balance we rate our performance against the measures related to our overseas work as ‘on track’. We delivered our capital works projects within budget but, on occasion, beyond the agreed program timetable. This reflects the varying complexity of projects and the challenging construction environments in which we operate.

In 2018–19 we completed works in Nairobi, Paris, London, Athens, Abu Dhabi and Funafuti.

The new chancery compound in Nairobi opened on 6 May 2019. This contemporary facility provides all of the high commission’s necessary functions in a highly secure environment.

Globally we delivered more than 19,100 square metres of construction and fit-out works with a lost time injury frequency lower than comparable Australian industry benchmarks. In Nairobi 3,275,000 person-hours of construction work were delivered with no lost time injuries recorded. This is an exceptional outcome in a country with a 20 times greater chance of death on a construction site than in Australia. The Nairobi site was considered by local industry as a best practice model for Kenya.

On 1 July 2019 after 18 months of fit-out works, our tenants in the Australian Embassy, France—the International Energy Agency and the Australian delegation to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development—recommenced operations in contemporary office accommodation and bespoke conference facilities.

We are on track to deliver an interim chancery in Washington in the fourth quarter of 2019.

Our first off-site constructed chancery for the Australian Embassy in Morocco involves manufacturing the building structure in Sydney and shipping this to the Canadian embassy compound in Rabat to be erected. Operations in the new chancery will commence in the first quarter of 2020. Off-site construction of chanceries is an innovative model on which we are collaborating with industry.

In line with the Pacific Step-up we completed on time and within budget several capital works projects, including the Honiara, Solomon Islands chancery refurbishment and the Suva, Fiji chancery mechanical services replacement project.

We finalised an approach to market which identified a preferred developer to deliver a leased residential compound in Honiara, with construction expected to commence in early 2020. We also completed the design work to replace the chancery and five staff houses in Tarawa, Kiribati.

The quality of residential property available in the Pacific is often poor. To guide future upgrades and refurbishments of our residential properties throughout the Pacific, we developed new guidelines, specifying which products should be used to ensure durability, serviceability and sustainability. We trialled the guidelines for residential refurbishments in Port Vila, Vanuatu and Suva. Longer term, they will help achieve consistency in accommodation standards and reduce maintenance costs across the Pacific portfolio.

In a tight budgetary environment, we rate our performance in relation to our domestic property portfolio as ‘on track’ as we delivered a number of improvements, including:

  • refurbishing the crisis centre into a state-of-the-art facility that can support coordinated whole-of-government responses to international crises and events
  • increasing capacity for the Office of the Pacific to accommodate significant growth in staff numbers
  • refitting the Diplomatic Security Division.

Managing our assets

Performance measureHow we rate our performance*
Asset management plans are in place for all owned properties in the overseas estate.Achieved

Source: Corporate Plan 2018–19, p. 23; PBS 2018–19 program 3.2, p. 47 | Funding: PBS 2018–19 program 3.2

Our performance

We ensured that asset management plans were in place for all properties in the department’s overseas estate. The objective of asset management plans is to provide a roadmap to achieve value from the asset and optimise performance over its lifecycle.

Asset management plans inform strategic planning for our property. They provide information on which to base decisions about acquisition, development and divestment. In 2018–19 we focused on integrating performance metrics on safety, security and foreign policy priorities with property performance metrics, to ensure they align with the department’s strategic objectives. This improved decisions on prioritising and funding programs and projects over the full asset lifecycle.

Client satisfaction with property services

Performance measureHow we rate our performance*
Satisfaction ratings on the performance of the service provider and the Overseas Property Office with specific target of greater than 80 per cent satisfaction.Achieved

Source: Corporate Plan 2018–19, p. 23; PBS 2018–19 program 3.2, p. 47 | Funding: PBS 2018–19 program 3.2

Our performance

Independent research group ORIMA Research conducted an online survey during the year on client satisfaction with the management of the Australian Government’s domestic and international property network.

Our properties around the world, both owned and leased, are managed by global real estate services provider Jones Lang Lasalle and the department’s Overseas Property Office and Services (OPO).

The 2019 survey received 253 individual responses from 102 locations. It recorded ratings of 84 per cent satisfaction for JLL, and 97 per cent satisfaction for OPO. Improvements were most evident among overseas-based respondents. Responses from staff in Australia have remained broadly consistent over the past five years.

To improve client satisfaction, we stepped up communication with posts and identified issues proactively. During the year, we completed approximately 15,000 preventative and 20,000 reactive maintenance tasks initiated by staff at posts and in Canberra.

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