Person of Interest: Hamish Hansford
As the recently appointed Head of Cyber and Infrastructure Security Centre at the Department of Home Affairs for the Australian government, Hamish Hansford holds what is arguably one of the most important roles in Government security today.
The Cyber and Infrastructure Security Centre brings together Australia’s ‘all hazards’ protection of 11 critical infrastructure sectors of the Australian economy.
Furthermore, the Cyber and Infrastructure Security Centre has a direct regulatory sectoral responsibility for aviation and maritime security and telecommunications security.
Hamish is the quintessential example of what one can achieve with drive and ambition. While he has held security-related roles in the Australian government for over 21 years, his background is not typical of the police, military or Government trajectory into security.
“My first job in the public service was standing on the door at the National Museum and answering questions for visitors. That was my first job straight out of school, ” says Hamish.
“I had a strong background at school in history, and so when the National Museum opened in 2001, it seemed like a great fit. That role helped me develop great communication skills and resilience as it involved spending a lot of my day having to think on the spot, answer questions, manage groups of children and deal with people.”
In 2005, a now infamous incident occurred at Sydney airport where a passenger spotted a baggage handler being driven across the tarmac wearing the camel head mask that the passenger had just checked as luggage. The incident occurred around the same time as the trial of Schapelle Corby, who was on trial at the time for smuggling cannabis into Bali. The incident raised significant concerns around airport security amidst Corby’s claims that airport staff had tampered with her bags. Occurring only a few years after the tragic incidents of September 11, 2001, airport security was once again in the spotlight.
“An opportunity arose for me to join the then Office of Transport Security, and I haven’t moved out of security principally since that time”, explains Hamish.
“Now, some 21 years later, it seems ironic that my current role as Head of the Cyber Infrastructure Security Centre includes the Office of Transport Security, which facilitates the old Office of Transport Security function. So I’ve returned to the beginning of my career by looking at transport security again.”
In reflecting on his career to date, we asked Hamish what he felt was one of the most important factors in building a successful career in security.
“I think that the most important thing in security is building a robust collaborative network because the nature of security changes so much. Some of the fundamentals don’t change, but the threat environment is changing so rapidly. The more contacts, more engagement and more understanding and situational awareness that I have that people have, the better you are at your job, whether that’s securing something, developing policy or developing intelligence on security-related issues. So I think networks are increasingly important, and communication and engagement are the pinnacles of any role in security.
Hamish’s career as the government’s most important role in the security industry
Hamish has had a distinguished and successful career in security to date, including Senior Executive positions in the former Department of Immigration and Border Protection and the former Australian Crime Commission. He has also served in a range of intelligence, policy, planning, and program delivery roles in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Attorney General’s Department, the Australian Senate and the former Office of Transport Security. According to Hamish, success on any level is as much about curiosity and engagement as any other skills one might bring to a role.
“I strongly believe that the more curious and engaged you are, the more people will look to you, both in terms of giving you jobs and challenges. So I think the attribute that has made a difference in my career is being curious about a range of different situations, enjoying my work, and being passionate about it.
As head of a government department that could easily be described as ‘the tip of the spear’ in the modern world of cyber conflict and infrastructure protection, I was curious to know what Hamish felt were today’s most pressing security challenges.
“I think a widespread cyber incident moving at machine-to-machine speed across the world is a very challenging and troubling scenario. Space weather events (such as mass solar storms) are also alarming. Still, I think the digital environment and the cyber environment have the potential to create tough challenges ahead if unmanaged.