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Corrections and Public Safety


This page provides high level information and data on the Corrections and Public Safety industry which comprises the following industry sectors:

For more information on any of the above, please visit the respective sector page.

All data sources are available at the end of the page.

Industry cluster snapshot

Employment and training snapshot

Though employment in the Public Order and Safety Services industry has fluctuated between 2001 and 2021, levels have grown overall by over two thirds (68%) during this time with a peak of approximately 227,300 in 2021. Employment levels in the Defence industry have fluctuated and peaked at around 34,300 in 2012, however after an increase to about 31,300 in 2020 employment levels have declined to 29,000 in 2021. It is projected that employment levels for the Defence industry will remain relatively unchanged at 28,400 by 2025, while levels will decline slightly to 224,100 in the Public Order and Safety Services industry.

Police are the largest proportion of the Public Order and Safety Services workforce, at just under 30%. Employment levels for all VET related occupations in the Public Order and Safety Services industry are projected to increase by 2025, with the strongest increase expected for Security Officers and Guards (10%). For analysis of Defence occupations, see the Defence sector page. Note due to exemptions, training data for this industry is limited, and should be considered as a general trend indicator.

After fluctuating between 2016 and 2018, program enrolments in Corrections and Public Safety-related qualifications increased to 22,280 in 2019 then declined to 18,490 in 2020. Program completions steadily increased from close to 4,780 in 2016 up to  just under 8,610 in 2019 before declining slightly to around 8,090 in 2020. The proportion of enrolments being undertaken as part of a nationally recognised program has varied over the years, with a low of 43% in 2018 and a peak of 53% in 2016. In 2020 approximately 49% of enrolments were delivered as part of a nationally recognised program. 

Industry insights on skills needs

Job vacancy data indicates that the top generic skills in demand for the Corrections and Public Safety industry are:

  • Communication skills
  • Planning skills
  • Written Communication
  • Computer literacy
  • Microsoft Word.

This data also identifies Police, Security Officers and Guards, and Prison Officers as the top occupations in demand, with New South Wales government and the Commonwealth government listed as the top employers for the industry.

Two general trends identified in the Corrections and Public Safety industry by the Corrections IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast and the Public Safety IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast is the impact of technological development across industries, and the importance of soft skills.

Workers are required to use continuously updating digital technologies, and in areas such as Police or Defence, organisations must address technology-related crime. In some cases, this adds complexity to existing roles, requires new skills, or creates new roles which require workers with high levels of digital literacy.

The Corrections IRC’s 2020 Skills Forecast highlights the prevalence of mental illness and mental health issues in the prison population, with 40% of the prison population having a mental health condition and 87% of young people in custody have a past or present psychological disorder.

This is supported in the Corrections IRC’s 2021 Industry Outlook, which finds the prevalence of trauma is incredibly common among prisoners who often come from disadvantaged backgrounds. Trauma affected prisoners suffer from complex mental health issues often due to traumatic past experiences and is more common among female inmates. While women generally serve shorter sentences than men in prisons, they have a higher recidivism rate.

In order to make a positive impact on offenders and reduce the chance of recidivism, the Corrections workforce needs to be equipped with specialised skills to not only understand inmates’ patterns of behaviour and thoughts, but also to have the skills to de-escalate stressful situations and engage effectively with inmates.

For specific analysis of skills needs in this industry, see the respective sector pages.

COVID-19 impact

It’s been reported by the ABC News in North Queensland that COVID-19 has had an almost immediate impact on the Defence sector, with recruitment applications up by 42% in comparison to the previous year. The figure is even higher for female applicants (up by 78%), and a large proportion of the applicants overall are from the significantly impacted aviation and tourism industries. These spikes are synonymous with economic downturns, with the last sharp increase seen during the 2008 Global Financial Crisis.

This trend is supported by a report in the Sydney Morning Herald, noting that all areas of the Australian Defence Force - the navy, army, air force and reserves - have seen a significant increase in interest from aspiring recruits. This includes an increase in applications from women, with an increase of women’s applications in NSW up 25% in the first half of 2020.

Links and resources

Below is a list of industry-relevant research, organisations and associations. Hyperlinks have been included where available.

IRC and skills forecasts

Corrections Industry Reference Committee 

 Public Safety Industry Reference Committee


Relevant research

Defence Recruiting Soars as Australians Look for Work Amid Downturn – ABC North Queensland

Drawn to Serve: Pandemic Sees Spike in Number of ADF Recruits - Sydney Morning Herald


Industry associations and advisory bodies

ACT Corrective Services

Australian Council of State Emergency Services

Australian Institute for Disaster Resilience

Australia New Zealand Policing Advisory Agency

Australian Federal Police

Australian Government Department of Defence

Australasian Fire and Emergency Service Authorities Council

Corrective Services New South Wales

New South Wales Police Force

Northern Territory Correctional Services

Northern Territory Police Force

Probation and Community Corrections Officers’ Association

Queensland Corrective Services

Queensland Police

South Australia Police

South Australian Department for Correctional Services

Tasmania Police

Tasmania Prison Service

Victorian Department of Justice and Community Safety

Western Australia Department of Justice

Western Australia Police Force



ACT Parks and Conservation Service

Australian Red Cross

Australasian Road Rescue Organisation

Australian Government Department of Defence

Forestry Corporation of New South Wales

Forestry Tasmania

Forestry SA

G4S Australia and New Zealand

GEO Group Australia Pty Ltd

Geoscience Australia

HQ Plantations Pty Ltd

Life Saving Victoria

Melbourne Water

New South Wales State Emergency Service

SA State Emergency Services

Serco Australia

Surf Life Saving Australia

Tasmania State Emergency Service

Victoria State Emergency Service


Employee associations

Australian Prison Officers Association

Australian Professional Ocean Lifeguard Association Inc.

Australian Services Union

Community and Public Sector Union

Defence Force Welfare Association

NSW SES Volunteers Association

National SES Volunteers Association

Police Federation of Australia

Public Service Association NSW

United Firefighters Union of Australia (UFUA)

United Firefighters Union of Australia – Victoria Branch (UFU VICTORIA)

United Professional Firefighters Union of Western Australia (UFU of WA)

United Firefighters Union of South Australia (UFU of SA)

United Firefighters Union of Queensland (UFUQ)

United Firefighters Union of Tasmania (UFUA TAS)

United Firefighters Union of Australia - ACT Branch (UFUA ACT)

United Firefighters Union of Australia - Aviation (UFUAV)


Licensing / Regulatory bodies

Australian Maritime Safety Authority

Safe Work Australia

Data sources and notes

Department of Employment 2021, Employment Projections, available from the Labour Market Information Portal

  • by ANZSIC 3 digit 760 Defence Industry and 771 Public Order and Safety Services Industry, employment projections to May 2025.
  • by ANZSCO, selected occupations, employment projections to May 2025
    • 1391 Commissioned Officers (Management)
    • 1392 Senior Non-commissioned Defence Force Members
    • 3231 Aircraft Maintenance Engineers
    • 4411 Defence Force Members - Other Ranks
    • 4412 Fire and Emergency Workers
    • 4413 Police
    • 4421 Prison Officers
    • 4422 Security Officers and Guards
    • 5311 General Clerks
    • 8999 Other Miscellaneous Labourers.

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2021, 6291.0.55.001 - EQ08 - Employed persons by Occupation unit group of main job (ANZSCO), Sex, State and Territory, August 1986 onwards, viewed 1 August 2021,

  • Employed total by ANZSIC 3 digit 760 Defence Industry and 771 Public Order and Safety Services Industry, 2001 to 2021, May Quarter.

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2017, 2016 Census – employment, income and unpaid work, TableBuilder. Findings based on use of ABS TableBuilder data.

  • Employment level by 3 digit 760 Defence Industry and 771 Public Order and Safety Services Industry, and 4 digit level occupations to identify the relevant VET-related occupations in the industry as a proportion of the total workforce.

Training data has been extracted from the National VET Provider CollectionTotal VET Students and Courses from the Correctional Services Training Package, Defence Training Package, Police Training Package and Public Safety Training Package.

Job vacancy data have been extracted from Burning Glass Technologies 2021, Labour Insight Real-time Labour Market Information Tool, Burning Glass Technologies, Boston, viewed July 2021,

Data shown represent most requested generic skills, occupations and employers according to internet job postings in Australia between July 2018 and June 2021 filtered by ANZSIC and ANZSCO classification levels listed below.

  • Generic skills / Occupations
    • Community and Personal Service Workers
    • 771 Public Order and Safety Services, excluding 7712 Investigation and Security Services.
  • Employers
    • 4422 Security Officers and Guards 
    • 4413 Police
    • 4421 Prison Officers
    • 4117 Welfare Support Workers
    • 4114 Enrolled and Mothercraft Nurses
    • 771 Public Order and Safety Services, excluding 7712 Investigation and Security Services.
Updated: 20 Jan 2022
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