History of the AFP

Federal Policing in Australia

While the AFP began operations on 19 October 1979, federal policing in Australia can trace its origins to the closing stages of World War 1 to an incident when Queensland Police would not follow the directions of Prime Minister William Hughes.

On 29 November 1917 while campaigning to introduce military conscription, Hughes was the target of eggs thrown by protestors when he arrived at Warwick Railway Station in southern Queensland. Prime Minister Hughes was incensed that the attending Queensland Police would not arrest the offenders under federal law, so when he returned to Parliament he set about drafting legislation to create the Commonwealth Police Force (CPF). The 'Warwick Incident' was the last straw for the Prime Minister who was engaged in a range of jurisdictional struggles with the Queensland Government at the time.

While the CPF operated for only two years, it was the first time the Australian Government clearly recognised that it needed a law enforcement agency at the federal level. During the following years a variety of federal agencies were formed to meet the Government's law enforcement needs. Included in those agencies was the Commonwealth Police (Federal Capital Territory), which was formed in 1927 after Federal Parliament was installed in Canberra. In time this organisation was renamed the Australian Capital Territory Police.

The creation of a third Commonwealth Police came in 1960 by combining the Commonwealth Investigation Service and the Peace Officer Guard. Further attempts to consolidate all federally-funded law enforcement agencies emerged in the mid-1970s, but were abandoned in the wake of the 1975 dismissal of the Whitlam Government.

The 1978 bombing of the Hilton Hotel in Sydney during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Regional Meeting revived the idea of a single federal law enforcement agency and led directly to the amalgamation of the Commonwealth Police, ACT Police and the Narcotics Bureau to form the Australian Federal Police (AFP) in 1979.

Since that time, the AFP has proven that it is highly successful in policing in international, national and community environments and that it can quickly adapt and respond to the ever-changing law enforcement challenges in those areas.

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To find out about today's AFP visit the What We Do page.