Australian Federal Police
Badge of the Australian Federal Police
Badge of the Australian Federal Police
Flag of the Australian Federal Police
Flag of the Australian Federal Police
Agency overview
Formed1979; 45 years ago (1979)
Preceding agencies
Employees7,077 (2022–2023)[1]
VolunteersSmall numbers for non-operations related activity.
Annual budgetA$1.73 billion (2022–2023)[1]
Legal personalityPolice force
Jurisdictional structure
Federal agencyAustralia
Operations jurisdictionAustralia
Governing bodyGovernment of Australia
Constituting instrument
General nature
Operational structure
HeadquartersEdmund Barton Building, Canberra
Minister responsible
Agency executive
  • Counter Terrorism
  • Protection Operations
  • Organised Crime and Cyber
  • Crime Operations
  • International Operations
  • Border Investigations
  • Technology and Innovation
  • Specialist Operations
  • Support Capability
  • Australian Institute of Police Management
  • ACT Policing
  • Adelaide Office
  • Brisbane Office
  • Darwin Office
  • Hobart Office
  • Melbourne Office
  • Perth Office
  • Sydney Office
  • Cairns Office
  • Winchester Centre, ACT
The Australian Federal Police, while a federal agency, provides policing to dependent Australian (on and offshore) Commonwealth Territories.
Former Australian Federal Police Headquarters

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) is the national and principal federal law enforcement agency of the Australian Government with the unique role of investigating crime and protecting the national security of the Commonwealth of Australia. The AFP is an independent agency of the Attorney-General's Department and is responsible to the Attorney-General and accountable to the Parliament of Australia.[2] As of October 2019 the Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police is Reece Kershaw, formerly the Northern Territory Police Commissioner.[3][4]

The AFP has a focus on preventing, investigating and disrupting transnational, serious, complex and organised crime including terrorism and violent extremism, cybercrime, child exploitation, drug smuggling, and human trafficking. The AFP is also responsible for delivering community policing in the Australian Capital Territory through ACT Policing and to other dependent territories, providing protective security in major airports and close protection for dignitaries including the prime minister of Australia and foreign diplomatic missions, delivering law enforcement training for Asia-Pacific partner agencies, acting as Australia's international law enforcement and policing representative, and contributing to United Nations peacekeeping around the world. The AFP is also a member of the National Intelligence Community and works closely with the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, the Australian Border Force, and the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission.


The Australian Federal Police was formed on 19 October 1979 under the Australian Federal Police Act 1979[5] after the merging of the former Commonwealth Police and the Australian Capital Territory Police. This followed a review of Australia's anti-terrorism capacity by Sir Robert Mark, former commissioner of the Metropolitan Police in the UK, which was commissioned by the Fraser government following the 1978 Hilton bombing. In November 1979, the Federal Narcotics Bureau was transferred to the new agency.[6] In 1984 the protective service component of the AFP was separated forming the Australian Protective Service under the administrative service and later governed by Attorney-General's Department; that agency was transferred back to the AFP in 2004 and is now known as Australian Federal Police Specialist Protective Command or as "Uniform Protection" internally.


The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Law Enforcement, a joint committee of members of the Australian House and Senate, has responsibility for oversight of the AFP and the Australian Crime Commission.[7]

Separately, the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) is charged with investigating systemic corruption in the AFP and other commonwealth agencies. [8]

Roles and functions

The AFP's role is to enforce Australian criminal law, contribute to combating complex, transnational, serious and organised crime impacting Australia's national security and to protect Commonwealth interests from criminal activity in Australia and overseas.

The AFP is responsible to The Attorney-General's Department. Key priorities of the AFP are set by the Attorney-General, through a "ministerial direction" issued under the Australian Federal Police Act 1979.[9] Areas of operational emphasis include:

Continued responsibilities include providing:

National operations

Federal agents are based in each Australian state and territory, internationally and form the largest component of the AFP staff, federal agents chiefly perform criminal investigative duties.

Current areas of focus for the AFP:

The AFP hosts a National Missing Persons Coordination Unit and the Australian Interpol National Central Bureau.

In Australian Capital Territory and other territories

Main article: ACT Policing

AFP vehicles in Melbourne

In addition to its federal role, the AFP provides policing services to the Australian Capital Territory and the external territories, including Christmas Island, Cocos (Keeling) Islands, Norfolk Island, and Jervis Bay Territory.[10]

Specialist Protective Command

An AFP vehicle on duty at Gold Coast Airport in Queensland

The AFP Specialist Protective Command provides physical protection for the Australian government at key locations throughout Australia and internationally. Uniform protection officers (identified as Protective Service Officers or PSOs) are firearms and defensive tactics trained, and perform duties which include armed escorts, bomb appraisals, bomb detection canines, visitor control, static guarding, alarm monitoring and response, mobile, foot and bicycle patrols, maintain civil order, security consultancy services, counter-terrorism first response at many Commonwealth establishments. Protective Service Officers have powers under Section 14 of the AFP Act 1979 to stop, request identification, search and arrest within their jurisdiction. Uniform protection officers undertake an essential role in protecting Australia's critical infrastructure and assist in providing protection for Australian high office holders, diplomatic, consular personnel and other foreign nationals.

Specialist Protective Command officers providing an armed uniform capability are located at federal establishments including Parliament House in Canberra; the residences of the prime minister and governor-general; foreign embassies and consulates in Canberra, Sydney, Melbourne and Perth; the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, joint defence facilities such as the Australian Defence Force Headquarters in Canberra, Holsworthy Barracks, Garden Island Naval Base, Victoria Barracks, the Pine Gap US defence installation, and sensitive covert locations in Australia and internationally.

Aviation Uniform Police (AUP) are the primary law enforcement agency responsible for aviation security at the nine major Australian airports; Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane, Darwin, Cairns, Gold Coast and Perth.[11] On 6 December 2019 the AFP announced that the Protective Operations Response Team (PORT) members located at the nine designated Australian airports will carry the Daniel Defense Mk.18 Short Barreled Rifle.[12] The increase in AFP aviation protection capability was part of the Aviation Security Enhancement Program (ASEP), the short barreled firearms specifically for the purpose of delivering a Counter Terrorist First Response (CTFR) role.[13]

International peacekeeping

Since its inception, the AFP has had a long tradition of involvement in international peacekeeping, policing and capacity development. International Deployment Group (IDG) is an AFP portfolio that has increased rapidly in a short time since its inception in 2004. Since 1964, Australia has contributed police officers to the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus. AFP officers have also previously served with the United Nations in East Timor (Timor-Leste) and South Sudan.

In recent years, Australian government efforts to assist neighbouring and remote countries with institutional capacity building has led to AFP deployments to Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands (Under the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands), Timor-Leste (Under the Timor-Leste Police Development Program TLPDP), Nauru, Tonga, Vanuatu, Afghanistan, Samoa and Vanuatu. Previous peacekeeping missions have included Haiti, Mozambique, Thailand, Namibia, and Somalia.

IDG uses the Specialist Response Group for particular medium and high risk planned operations or emergency incidents in addition to assisting with capacity building and force protection operations.

Ceremonial and protocol

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The AFP Ceremonial and Protocol Team conducts and participates in a variety of police and community functions and ceremonies.

Ceremonial events include the annual National Police Remembrance Day Service at the National Police Memorial in Canberra on 29 September, medal presentations, parades, police funerals, memorial services, official opening of police stations and policing facilities, AFP pipes and drums concerts, inauguration events and public relations events. The Ceremonial Team coordinates the AFP Ceremonial and Protocol Officer (CAPO) Network and the AFP Pipes and Drums to perform ceremonial duties at these functions and ceremonies.

Formerly the Ceremonial team also included the AFP Ceremonial Mounted Cadre. The AFP Ceremonial Mounted Cadre was raised on 29 September 2006 at the dedication of the National Police Memorial. The ceremonial uniform comprises linkages to former mounted policing units of the AFP's predecessor organisations, namely the Commonwealth Police and the Peace Officer guard, as well as mounted policing units from the NSW Police Force which patrolled the geographic area of the ACT. The Mounted Cadre was disbanded shortly after their final appearance at the opening of the AFP's new Headquarters in Barton on 7 April 2011.[14]

The AFP Ceremonial and Protocol team currently provide drill instructor accreditation for both the AFP and the NSW Police Force, and ceremonial and protocol officer accreditation for all of Australia's policing jurisdictions.

International liaison

The AFP has an international network to assist with inquiries and liaison with police agencies around the world. The AFP represents Australian state/territory police agencies internationally. AFP's International Liaison Officer Network has 85 AFP appointees in 30 countries around the world. AFP International Liaison Officers are the Australian Government's law enforcement representatives overseas.[15]


Joint Counter-Terrorism Teams

The Joint Counter Terrorism Teams (JCTTs) in each state and territory jurisdiction consist of AFP, state and territory police, and Australian Security Intelligence Organisation officers. JCTTs conduct investigations to prevent and disrupt terrorism and violent extremism. The JCTT model can be seen as the Australian version of the United States' Joint Terrorism Task Force, Canada's Integrated National Security Enforcement Teams and the United Kingdom's National Counter Terrorism Policing Network.[16]

The National Disruption Group (NDG) is an AFP-led interagency team which consolidates the capabilities of participating agencies to prevent, disrupt and prosecute Australian nationals who travel or intend to travel offshore to engage in hostilities and/or undertake terrorism training and support to terrorist entities. The NDG brings together the AFP and its partner agencies to coordinate operational disruption activities nationally and internationally with the aim of countering the enduring threat posed by foreign fighters.[17][18]

Australian Federal Police College

The Australian Federal Police College in Barton, A.C.T. is the training facility for the force.[19]


The highest ranked AFP officer is the commissioner, appointed under Section 17 of the Australian Federal Police Act 1979.

Commissioner of Australian Federal Police
Reece Kershaw
since 2 October 2019
The Attorney-General's Department
Member ofAttorney General Portfolio Board
Reports toAttorney General
ResidenceCanberra, Australian Capital Territory
SeatEdmund Barton Building
NominatorAttorney General
Term length7 years, renewable at the Governor-General's pleasure.[20]
Constituting instrumentAustralian Federal Police Act 1979
PrecursorCommissioner of the Commonwealth Police
Inaugural holderColin Woods
Formation1 August 1979
Rank Name Post-nominals Term began Term ended Time in appointment
Commissioner of the AFP
Commissioner Sir Colin Woods KCVO, CBE, QPM 1 August 1979 1 January 1982 2 years, 74 days
Commissioner (Major General) Ronald Grey AO, DSO 1 January 1982 30 November 1988 6 years, 334 days
Commissioner Peter McAulay AO, QPM 30 November 1988 1 June 1994 5 years, 183 days
Commissioner Michael Palmer AO, APM 1 June 1994 2 April 2001 6 years, 335 days
Commissioner Mick Keelty AO, APM 2 April 2001 2 September 2009 8 years, 123 days
Commissioner Tony Negus APM 7 September 2009 30 September 2014 5 years, 23 days
Commissioner Andrew Colvin APM, OAM 30 September 2014 1 October 2019 5 years, 0 days
Commissioner Reece Kershaw APM 2 October 2019 Incumbent

4 years, 275 days


Main article: Australian police ranks

AFP members performing duties in ACT Policing, External Territories, Aviation, International Deployment Group (mission component) use uniform and community policing ranks. All other members use the title Federal Agent. Where applicable qualified members are also entitled to use Detective designation.

AFP Commissioner's Order 1 (Administration) states that every AFP Member holds a rank (as detailed below), with the corresponding title and role adopted.[22]

Uniform and Community Policing Rank/Title Broadband Rank Role National Operations Title
Constable Constable Team Member Federal Agent
First Class Constable
Senior Constable Team Member
Leading Senior Constable
Sergeant Sergeant Team Leader Federal Agent
Team Leader
Inspector Inspector Officer In Charge Federal Agent
Officer In Charge
Superintendent Superintendent Coordinator Federal Agent
Commander Commander Manager Commander
Assistant Commissioner Assistant Commissioner National Manager Assistant Commissioner
National Manager
Deputy Commissioner Deputy Commissioner Deputy Commissioner Deputy Commissioner
Commissioner Commissioner Commissioner Commissioner

First Class Constable is a reflection of four years of service. Senior Constable is a minimum of six years service. Leading Senior Constable is a reflection of at least 12–15 years of service. From there, promotion to Sergeant etc. is by application/merit and so on.


Haneef affair

On 2 July 2007, Muhamed Haneef was arrested and held by the AFP and Border officers for terror-related incidents, as he was leaving the country. It was the longest detention without charge under recent anti-terror laws and was found to be unjustified. He received an apology and compensation after this.[23]

Martens conviction

In October 2006 a Cairns jury convicted pilot Frederic Arthur Martens under sex tourism laws of having intercourse with a 14-year-old girl in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. However, Martens was not in Port Moresby at the time, and flight records could prove this. The AFP refused to retrieve those records despite numerous requests, and Martins could not retrieve them as he was in jail. When the records were eventually retrieved by Martens' partner the convictions were quashed, with strong criticism of the AFP by Justice Chesterman. The AFP also froze all of Marten's funds while he was in custody, which prevented treatment for his daughter in Port Moresby, who died as a result.[24]

Bali Nine

The AFP were contacted by a member of the Bali Nine drug courier gang's father, and they said they would keep a watch on him. They could not stop them travelling to Indonesia to smuggle drugs. Instead, they contacted the Indonesian police which led to their arrest in Indonesia rather than when returning to Australia. The leaders of the gang, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, were executed on 29 April 2015.[25] The others are still serving prison sentences.

Harun Causevic

Over 200 heavily armed police conducted raids at 3:00 am at various houses in Victoria on 19 April 2015, and then held Harun Causevic on a Preventative Detention Order (PDO), before charging him with terrorist offences.[26] Victorian premier Daniel Andrews said this was the first time a PDO had been used, and validated their importance.[27]

However, after Causevic spent three months in jail awaiting trial the federal police decided to drop the terrorism charges.[28] Causevic's defence lawyer, Rob Stary, said there was never any real evidence against Causevic, and that this eroded confidence in the authorities. He was also critical of the earlier "grandstanding" of Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Premier Daniel Andrews.[29]

Raids on media

See also: Smethurst v Commissioner of Police

On 4 June 2019 the AFP conducted a raid on the home of News Corp journalist Annika Smethurst, looking for information connected to a story she had written a few years earlier about new laws that would give the security forces new powers for surveillance over Australian citizens.[30] Radio host Ben Fordham also claimed that he was under investigation for some of his reporting.[31]

The next day the police raided the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) over a story about alleged war crimes in Afghanistan.[32] The search warrant allowed the police to "add, copy, delete or alter" any files they found on the computers.[33]

The incidents caused an outcry of condemnation from international media outlets, including the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and The New York Times.[34] However, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that "it never troubles me that our laws are being upheld".[30] The AFP have not ruled out the possibility that reporters may also be charged in relation to the alleged offences being investigated.[35]

On 15 April 2020, the High Court of Australia ruled that the warrant used in the Smethurst raid was invalid.[36]

Lehrmann rape trial

The Australian Federal Police withheld evidence provided by ACT Policing investigators to ACT prosecutors in 2021 Australian Parliament House sexual misconduct allegations to an inquiry into the handling of the matter due to laws preventing the agency from disclosing certain information. This led to accusations the agency was refusing to hand over the evidence.[37][38] The inquiry was created in the wake of accusations of mishandling made by both the ACT's Director of Public Prosecutions, Shane Drumgold, and the Australian Federal Police against each other.[39][40]

Member's conditions

The AFP changed rules around how firearms are checked out after a series of suicides in their offices, these changes were criticised by the Australian Federal Police Association (AFPA) as a quick fix.[41][42] The AFP has been criticised for low salaries, with accusations of having some of the lowest salaries of any police agency in Australia and some members being forced to find further employment.[43][44] The AFPA has claimed that the AFP had become the lowest paid law enforcement agency in Australia and is losing dozens of officers to other agencies each month. [45]

Operation Bourglinster

The AFP was criticised for an operation in which it targeted a young boy with autism spectrum disorder who had developed a fixation on a terrorist organisation. The boy's parent reported their concerns to authorities, leading to the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, Victoria Police, and AFP joint counter-terrorism team (JCTT) to begin Operation Bourglinster. Officers of the JCTT were accused of encouraging the boy's ideation with terrorism, leading to a Victorian court to impose a permanent stay on charges. [46]

Media portrayal

The AFP has appeared in several fictional television series and documentaries. The AFP was the focus of a documentary series called AFP (TV series), which followed AFP operations and training in Australia and internationally. AFP members have also appeared in other documentary series such as Border Security: Australia's Front Line and the Keeping Australia Safe mini-series.

The AFP is portrayed in the true crime-drama series Underbelly and is also portrayed in the military action series NCIS: Sydney along with the United States Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS).

See also


  1. ^ a b "Corporate Plan 2022–23" (PDF). Australian Federal Police. 2022.
  2. ^ Agency, Digital Transformation. "Australian Federal Police |". Retrieved 5 August 2022.
  3. ^ James, Felicity (24 July 2019). "Australia's new police commissioner: Who is Reece Kershaw?". ABC News. Australia. Retrieved 6 January 2020.
  4. ^ "Reece Kershaw to be sworn in as AFP Commissioner" (Press release). Australian Federal Police. 2 October 2019. Retrieved 6 January 2020.
  5. ^ "AFP governance framework". Archived from the original on 29 August 2007. Retrieved 25 August 2007.
  6. ^ National Archives of Australia, Documenting a Democracy, Australian Government, archived from the original on 16 July 2005
  7. ^ "History of the Committee"., Parliamentary Joint Committee on Law Enforcement, Parliament of Australia.
  8. ^ "What can the NACC investigate". National Anti-Corruption Commission. Retrieved 12 December 2023.
  9. ^ "Ministerial Direction - AFP". Archived from the original on 21 October 2009. Retrieved 1 September 2009.
  10. ^ "Our organisation". February 2016., Australian Federal Police.
  11. ^ "AFP airport operations". Australian Federal Police. 6 April 2016. Retrieved 22 December 2019.
  12. ^ "Short-Barrelled Rifles roll out at designated Australian airports". Australian Federal Police. 6 December 2019. Retrieved 22 December 2019.
  13. ^ "Aviation Security Enhancement Program". Australian Federal Police. 6 December 2019. Retrieved 22 December 2019.
  14. ^ "Gillard opens new AFP headquarters". The Courier Mail.
  15. ^ "International network". Archived from the original on 5 March 2016.
  16. ^ "Fighting terrorism – Australian Federal Police". Archived from the original on 28 December 2014. Retrieved 2 January 2015. AFP fighting terrorism information
  17. ^ "Fighting terrorism ► National efforts". 30 August 2016. Australian Federal Police
  18. ^ "AFP plan to disrupt, divert". The Point Magazine
  19. ^ "Training at the AFP College". Australian Federal Police. Retrieved 6 April 2022.
  20. ^ "Australian Federal Police Act 1979 – Part III, Division I, Section 17". Federal Register of Legislation. 1979.
  21. ^ "Remuneration Tribunal (Remuneration and Allowances for Holders of Full-time Public Office) Determination 2021" (PDF). Remuneration Tribunal. 21 August 2021.
  22. ^ "The Australian Federal Police Commissioner's Order on Administration (CO1)" (PDF). Retrieved 3 November 2022.
  23. ^ "Haneef to get $1m payout from Oz govt for false terror tag". The Times of India. 22 December 2010. Archived from the original on 4 November 2012.
  24. ^ "AFP blasted over rape evidence". 13 November 2009. Retrieved 20 December 2016.
  25. ^ "Bali nine executions: AFP defends its role in arrests".
  26. ^ "Victorian police granted order to hold man without charge following Melbourne raids".
  27. ^ Alcorn, Gay (20 April 2015). "Victoria police defend force used during terrorist raids despite claims of injury". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 December 2016.
  28. ^ "Federal police drop Anzac Day terrorism charges against Harun Causevic".
  29. ^ "'Terrible injustice': Lawyer calls for apology for teen terror accused Harun Causevic".
  30. ^ a b "PM defends AFP raid on journalist Annika Smethurst's home". ABC News. 5 June 2019. Retrieved 6 June 2019.
  31. ^ "Ben Fordham targeted after AFP raid journo's home". NewsComAu. 4 June 2019. Retrieved 6 June 2019.
  32. ^ Knowles, Lorna; Worthington, Elise; Blumer, Clare (5 June 2019). "Police leave ABC headquarters with files after hours-long raid over special forces stories". ABC News. Retrieved 6 June 2019.
  33. ^ "Australia: ABC offices raided by police in connection with 'Afghan Files' series". Retrieved 6 June 2019.
  34. ^ Bolger, Rosemary (6 June 2019). "World media condemns Australian Federal Police raids targeting journalists". Special Broadcasting Service. Retrieved 4 October 2019.
  35. ^ "Possible prosecution of journalists sends shockwaves through Australian media". The Sydney Morning Herald. 6 June 2019. Retrieved 7 June 2019.
  36. ^ Byrne, Elizabeth; Doran, Matthew (15 April 2020). "High Court throws out AFP warrant against News Corp journalist Annika Smethurst". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
  37. ^ Taylor, Josh (30 March 2023). "Australian federal police fails to hand over evidence from investigation into alleged rape of Brittany Higgins to inquiry". The Guardian. Retrieved 31 March 2023.
  38. ^ Thompson, Angus (30 March 2023). "AFP withholding evidence from inquiry into Lehrmann rape trial". The Age.
  39. ^ Knaus, Christopher (8 December 2022). "Prosecutor alleges police 'aligned with defence' in Bruce Lehrmann case and claims 'inappropriate interference'". The Guardian. Retrieved 31 March 2023.
  40. ^ "Police union hits back at ACT's top prosecutor after he criticised officers' actions during Bruce Lehrmann trial". ABC News. 8 December 2022. Retrieved 31 March 2023.
  41. ^ "Access to guns restricted among Australian Federal Police following workplace suicides". ABC News. 14 January 2019. Retrieved 31 March 2023.
  42. ^ Edwards, Grant (1 August 2019). "I was a federal police officer and Australia's strongest man – but my mental illness almost killed me". The Guardian. Retrieved 31 March 2023.
  43. ^ "David Pocock enters khaki election, urges better supported federal police". The Canberra Times. 25 April 2022. Retrieved 31 March 2023.
  44. ^ Loussikian, Kylar. "AFP officers forced to work second jobs to make ends meet". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 31 March 2023.
  45. ^ "Australian Federal Police chase 20 per cent pay rise". The West Australian. 2 October 2023. Retrieved 3 December 2023.
  46. ^ Bucci, Nino; Justice, Nino Bucci; reporter, courts (2 February 2024). "How Australian undercover police 'fed' an autistic 13-year-old's fixation with Islamic State". The Guardian.