In the conflict and disaster zones where Australia’s military, representatives and aid workers have deployed in the past two decades, private security companies (PSCs) have been a feature of the operating environment, used by other governments, militaries, non-government organisations and multinational companies. Now, PSCs have become an integral part of Australian Government operations overseas. They are employed to secure diplomats in high threat environments, assess security at Australian facilities, and to protect government officials during overseas visits. In Australia’s region too, PSCs are becoming more common, particularly in Papua New Guinea and on commercial shipping in the Indian Ocean.
This paper tracks the development of the private security industry and its relevance to Australia. It illustrates how and where PSCs operate and considers the lessons learned from a decade of employing PSCs—particularly those operating in war zones. It tracks the various international efforts underway to regulate and improve the private security industry, as well as the current and future issues Australians should be aware of when interacting with PSCs.