Interview With Don Williams CPP RSecP. A Recipient Of The Australian Security Medal In 2013.

Don, you have been awarded an Australian Security Foundation Medal, what does this mean to you?

It sounds trite, but it is true that the most rewarding and most humbling praise is that awarded by your peers. They are the ones best placed to judge, so to receive their recognition is a great honour. Your peers can also be the biggest and best critics; they understand what you are trying to achieve, what you do and can provide accurate feedback and guidance.

Personally it means that the effort over the years has been of value, something which you can question at times. Probably as importantly, was the recognition my wife got for her support and she saw that others appreciated what we had done.

Most of us don’t do things to garner accolades, but it is very nice to be thanked.

Your citation mentions your involvement in establishing the Australian Council of Security Professionals and the Security Professionals Register, can you tell us more about that?

About eight years ago, four colleagues from the security industry, including myself, sat around a coffee table bemoaning the fact that professionals in the security industry were not seen as ‘professionals’ in the traditional business sense of the word, in the same way that lawyers, or engineers or accountants might be seen as professionals. This led to the ‘so what can we do?’ question. Our first step was to find out if we were the only ones thinking like this. With the help of Athol Yates of the Australian Security Research Centre, we held a congress in Melbourne in 2008 to discuss the issue. We invited all the professional and industry associations/institutes we could identify and a few hundred people paid their own way to attend. At the end of the three days it was decided that there were problems: there was no recognised security profession, those that claimed to be security professionals did not always behave in a professional manner, and there were no standards to define a security professional. An interim task force was established to suggest a way ahead. The federal Attorney General’s Department provided funding to enable us to seek ideas and input.

In 2009, another congress was held to present the findings which basically recommended the establishment of an Australasian Council of Security Professionals to act as an overarching collegiate body and to lead on the recommendations related to: professional standards, codes of conduct, and the establishment and recognition of a ‘security profession’ in Australia and New Zealand. The Council was established in September 2009 and one of its first tasks was to establish a register for security professionals. This was designed and developed based in part on the Engineer and Nurses’ models. The Registry was launched in 2012.

My role was that of general ‘doer’, the person who pulled together the paper work, helped guide discussions and actions, implemented the guidance of the committees and, on occasion, wielded the whip to get things done. As a result, I was the Secretary for the Council, handing over in June 2012 to Steve van Zwieten. I am currently the Executive Officer of the Registry.

I am incredibly proud of what we have achieved in such a short time. I think we have demonstrated that there is a definable and recognisable security profession. There is still much to be done, not least of which is making the rest of the security industry aware of the standards expected of those operating at the professional level and also in educating the client base (businesses) that there is a profession and they should apply to us the same standards they require of other managerial advisors.

As one who works in the industry and focusses largely on industry development, what do you see as being the value of the Awards to the industry?

The Awards provide a focus for the security industry to take pride in itself and its people; most of the mainstream media relating to the security industry is about the infiltration of organised crime or a security licence holder assaulting a member of the public. There was a great need for recognition of the incredible work done to protect the people and businesses of Australia.

The Valour Awards in particular are essential. We expect security staff to recognise a hazard and then stand between it and us, for this we pay them less than anyone else in the building. Over the three years that the Awards have been issued, we have heard amazing stories of security staff endangering themselves to protect not just their clients but the general public.

The industry should use the Awards to promote the role it has in society. This should be done not just in the in-house media but across the broader spectrum. Local, neighbourhood newspaper and websites should be used to highlight ‘local person receives award stories’. The industry associations should use the awards to respond to the negative publicity all too common around security. Industry associations should also use the Awards to counter the perception that the industry is pervaded by organised crime with no interest in actually providing security.

Do you think the work the Australian Security Medals Foundation is doing is important?

I think the Awards are incredibly important. Recognition of both the individuals and the industry as a whole is long overdue and I hope they can get more mainstream media coverage of the bravery and commitment of the security personnel.

The involvement with the Foundation of some of the most senior security managers in Australia, and indeed in the world, is a reflection of their recognition of the important work the security industry has in protecting Australian society and business.

What synergy do you see between the work the Australia Security Medals Foundation is doing and the work being done by the Council?

I can no longer speak as a member of the Council but I think they both have the same ultimate aim: to establish in the mind-set of Australians that security is a legitimate, important and respectable function. The Council is doing this by bringing together the professional associations, the academic and research institutes and elected senior security professionals; the Foundation by highlighting the work being done by members of the security industry and profession.

The synergy exists at a number of levels. Firstly, some Council members also sit on the Foundation Board, this reflects that it is often the same people who are willing to commit the time and effort to do what needs to be done. Also, both organisations are dedicated to promoting private security as a function of Australian society. The work of the Foundation provides verifiable evidence of the value of dedicated, committed security practitioners which supports the arguments the Council makes to governments, academia and the corporate sector on the need for a defined, recognised and respected security sector.

You keep differentiating between the industry and the profession, would you care to explain why?

I believe there is continuum of security providers. Like most areas of endeavour, there is an industry end, a middle level supervisor/artificer sector and a professional end, think builder/architect, bookkeeper/accountant, etc. The security industry and the security profession have different roles and skill sets but work together to provide secure places for us to work, live and play. One of the problems we have faced is that the industry end is reasonably well defined with training requirements, award wages, licences and employment categories. The ‘professional’ end, that provides managerial advice, has not been well defined, there is little in the way of recognisable qualifications, and licencing is haphazard between States in its application and interpretation. The biggest problems are with the professional end, hence the need for the Council and the Register to set and apply standards.

What message would you like to pass on?

It was a great honour to receive the award from my peers for doing what I thought needed to be done. I think the message I would like to pass on is “if you see something that needs doing, do it”. Often we know that there is a problem, we may not know what the answers are, nor where we will end up, but it is only by getting off the chair and doing something that things change. Too often there is discussion and complaints about issues but nothing happens. Find out if others agree that there is an issue, get started on defining the problem and finding solutions. If you get a group of active people together, at the end something may have changed for the better.