Now in its ninth year, the Australian Security Medals Foundation Inc. (ASMF) has grown from what started as an idea around a dinner table to an industry institution recognising bravery and contributions to security.
With this year’s medals being presented during a sold-out black-tie charity dinner at the Museum of Contemporary Art at the Rocks in Sydney, ASMF Chairman Paul Maihi said, “Not only is it a huge honour to recognise individuals for their bravery and contribution, but to be able to do so at such an amazing venue and in front of a room filled with their peers and colleagues speaks volumes for how far the Foundation has come in such a short space of time.”
The ASMF awards two categories of medal each year: the Australian Security Medal of Valour and the Australian Security Medal. This year, three Australian Security Medals for Valour (ASMV) were awarded. According to the ASMF Patron, former MP the Honorable Philip Ruddock, “The ASMV is awarded to recognise security operatives for an outstanding act or acts of valour; an action or actions demonstrating valour, courage and decisiveness above and beyond the call of duty.”
The first recipient of the ASMV for the evening was security officer David Downing of MSS Security – who, despite significant risk to his own safety, intervened when an agitated male attempted to set himself on fire.
Security officer Downing’s story exemplifies the types of stories and courage that have become the hallmark of the Australian Security Medals. According to reports, security officer Downing was first alerted to potential danger when he received notification that a male had gained access to the secure site where Downing was posted. Upon entering the site, the male informed staff that he was in possession of a bottle containing petrol and intended to cause himself injury.
The male then walked into an adjoining room and proceeded to use the petrol to douse himself. It was at this point that security officers arrived, whereupon they began negotiating with the male, who ignored their pleas and proceeded to ignite a cigarette lighter with the clear intent to set himself alight.
With little concern for his own safety, security officer Downing immediately leapt forth, attempting to knock the lighter from the person’s hand, receiving burns to his hands and face in the process. While Downing was unable to completely prevent the male from setting himself alight, he was ultimately able to quell the fire with the assistance of the building’s fire suppression systems. Through his selfless actions, security officer Downing demonstrated considerable bravery and courage, for which he was awarded the ASMV.
The second and third medals of valour for the evening were awarded to security officers Novica Ilic and Ahmad El Masri of Glad Group who, while working at a large shopping centre in Sydney, answered a call for assistance. According to the report, two large groups totalling approximately 40 to 50 youths had been spotted acting in a threatening manner on the rooftop car park of the centre.
Upon arriving at the location of the youths, officers Ilic and El Masri witnessed the two groups commence brawling. Both officers immediately and without regard for their own safety placed themselves between the groups in an effort to separate them and prevent further violence. Despite their efforts, the brawl escalated, spilling into the centre. At this point, security officer El Masri spotted a male armed with a knife moving towards a retreating member of the other group. Even though security officer El Masri was engaged in preventing another male from entering the melee at that moment, he was able to use his free hand to grab and disarm the knife-wielding male, preventing further harm and injury.
At the same moment, approximately 25 members from one of the groups began to pursue a number of retreating members of the second group. Acting quickly and without regard for personal safety, security officer Ilic immediately placed himself at the top of an escalator, using his body as a barricade to prevent access by the first group to the second, exposing himself to great risk of physical assault by a large number of agitated youths. Thankfully, back up and police assistance arrived quickly to help contain the scene.
According to their citations, the quick and selfless actions of these officers almost certainly prevented serious injury to those present, in addition to officer El Masri preventing a knife attack from occurring. Both men exhibited considerable bravery with a disregard for their own safety.
In addition to the ASMV, a number of Australian Security Medals (ASM) were presented on the evening.
“The ASM is awarded to recognise the outstanding career and character of the security professional receiving it,” said Ruddock. “ASM recipients have demonstrated a consistent, high-level contribution to the wider community, sometimes through innovative non-core business activities and projects, or through extraordinary performance in their professional role. This award is about more than how a person runs their business or operates in an organisation, but emphasises what they do above and beyond their day-to-day responsibilities.”
Senior corporate security managers form the judging panel for the medals. “This means that the nominations are carefully considered by major buyers of security and peers to fellow security managers,” said Maihi. “The panel not only discusses – at length – the merits of each case, but follow up where necessary with further investigation and checking references.”
Not every nomination is successful, but is nonetheless worthy of mention, in which case a Certificate of Meritorious Conduct is sent to the person’s employer for presentation to the individual.
This year saw the awarding of three Australian Security Medals. The first was awarded to Brendan Noble who has demonstrated his consistent commitment to the role of security, both in a crime prevention and a customer service capacity throughout his career. He has received many written letters of thanks from both customers and staff of the centre where he works and is held in high esteem by all he meets.
The second ASM was awarded to security officer Noah Magnus who, in 2003, developed the Training Awareness Program (TAP) as a way of engaging with young people banned from the Erina Fair Shopping Centre in an effort to establish better working relationships with the people who had been subject to bans, in addition to their friends and their families.
Through TAP., young people who have been issued prohibition notices are given the opportunity to reduce the length of the notice by attending a TAP. workshop, where they interact with security officers and others, with a view to better understanding appropriate behaviours and consequences.
Based on attendance and behaviours, arrangements can be made to remove, reduce or reassess conditions of the prohibition and banning notices. The success of the program has been measured through its history of positive social outcomes, including a reduction in incidents, improved employment opportunities and improved relationships through the community and local council.
In addition to the TAP program and in partnership with the HUB youth entertainment venue, Noah has also developed Rising Stars Empowerment – a martial arts training program with a philosophy based on overcoming opposition, improving one’s position and rising above adversity. This program has produced a number of state, national and world champions in various martial arts. Program participants have represented Australia and secured victories against champions from countries around the world.
Furthermore, Noah has developed Rising Stars Employment Strategy, a program that provides a series of sessions to assist young people to develop techniques to find gainful employment, including topics on professional presentation, a successful interview strategy and the importance of references and resumes.
Over 100 attendees of the program have used the skills they gained through the experiences; with more than 50 percent of those participants having gone on to become security operatives. Noah’s partnerships and programs have been extended beyond Erina Fair and local council to include NSW Government and public education students with a history of disruptive behaviour, at risk of alienation and community disengagement.
The third and final ASM of the evening was awarded posthumously to Steve Jackson, former Chairman of the ASMF and Chief Security Officer for Qantas. Mr Jackson had been a senior leader, mentor and driving force within the security industry for almost two decades. In addition to his most recent role, in which he served as the Chief Security Officer for the Qantas Group for over 13 years, Steve enjoyed a long and illustrious career spanning the Royal Navy in the UK through to the Australian Federal Police.
Prior to his role with Qantas, Steve served with the Australian Federal Police where he undertook a range of significant assignments, including acting as the lead investigator for the Bali Bombing (for which he was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia) and the operational commander for the Sydney Olympics, among many other things.
In addition to his role at Qantas, Steve was an active participant in many industry associations, including roles as Chair of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Security Group; a member of the oneworld Security Committee; a member of the International Security Management Association; an adviser to the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA) Security Committee; and a member of the Australian Institute of Police Management Governance and Risk Committee. He also played active roles in the Security Professionals Association and was instrumental in establishing the ASMF.
In attendance on the evening was Steve’s wife Marlene, who accepted his award on his behalf, along with his children Aaron, Beth and Emma. Steve’s loss is a great blow to the Australian security industry and he will be sorely missed.
The evening also saw the awarding of numerous Save A Life awards, bestowed upon security personnel who have used their training to literally save a person’s life. St John Ambulance Chief Executive Len Fiori handed out three awards, to Manatuki Pryor, Norman Hill and Mary Theofanidis.
Funds raised from the night will go to this year’s nominated charity, The Chris O’Brien Lifehouse – a not-for-profit, independent comprehensive centre specialising in state-of-the-art advanced treatment and research for public and private patients who are suffering from rare and complex cancer cases.
“The ASMF is very much about changing the perception of security by sharing stories about its heroes and leaders, doing good within the wider community and supporting those that need help within its own community,” says Maihi.
“Security is an integral part of business and society, and the Foundation is currently formulating plans to raise further awareness about the work in the security domain, which contributes to the security and wellbeing of millions of Australians.”
To find out more about the ASMF, please visit www.inspiringsecurity.com