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Corrections and Public Safety

Overview

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 2002 and 2022, levels have grown overall by over half (57%) during this time with a peak of approximately 237,800 in 2022. Employment levels in the Defence industry have also fluctuated and more than doubled over the same period, peaking in 2022 at around 39,800. Employment projections for both industries indicate a decline by 2025, falling to approximately 224,100 for the Public Order and Safety Services industry and 28,400 for Defence.

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 2026, with the strongest increase expected for Other Miscellaneous Labourers (11%) followed by Police (8%). For an analysis of Defence occupations, see the Defence sector page. Note that due to exemptions, this industry's training data is limited and should be considered a general trend indicator.

Program enrolments in Corrections and Public Safety-related qualifications increased each year from 2017 to 2019 and then declined to 17,580 in 2021. Program completions steadily increased from around 5,180 in 2017 to just over 8,950 in 2020 before declining slightly to around 8,910 in 2021. The proportion of enrolments being undertaken as part of a nationally recognised program has fluctuated over the years, falling to a low of just over 41% in 2021. 

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
  • Leadership
  • Planning
  • Building effective relationships
  • Computer literacy.

This data also identifies Prison Officers, Security Officers and Guards, and Police as the top occupations in demand, with the 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 was 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 and New Zealand National Council for Fire and Emergency Services (AFAC)

Australian Federal Police

Australian Government Department of Defence

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

 

Employers

ACT Parks and Conservation Service

Australian Red Cross

Australasian Road Rescue Organisation

Australian Government Department of Defence

Forestry Corporation of New South Wales

ForestrySA

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 Pool and 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, Industry Employment Projections viewed 1 August 2021, Labour Market Information Portal

  • by ANZSIC 3 digit 760 Defence Industry and 771 Public Order and Safety Services Industry, employment projections to May 2025

National Skills Commission 2022, Occupation Employment Projections viewed 10 August 2022, https://www.nationalskillscommission.gov.au/topics/employment-projections

  • by ANZSCO, selected occupations, employment projections to May 2026
    • 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 2022, 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 2022, https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/labour/employment-and-unemployment/labour-force-australia-detailed/may-2022

  • Employed total by ANZSIC 3 digit 760 Defence Industry and 771 Public Order and Safety Services Industry, 2002 to 2022, 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 Lightcast 2022, Labor Insight Real-time Labor Market Information Tool, Boston, viewed August 2022, https://lightcast.io/apac.

Data shown represent most requested generic skills, occupations and employers according to internet job postings in Australia between July 2019 and June 2022 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: 29 Nov 2022
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