Futures Centre: The Way Forward

The way forward

The AFP must be prepared to deal with not only the present but also importantly, the future. Aligning our organisational capacities to our capabilities to best support future operational challenges is an imperative to maximise our operational outcomes and maintain our relevance.

Globalisation of world trade, financial services, transport networks, people movements and economic activity are challenging the single jurisdictional view of law enforcement.

Increased connectivity and awareness are also driving expectations from government and the community for faster turnaround and response times by agencies. The complexity of this landscape is affecting the AFP in terms of its areas of focus and the way in which it balances these demands with an appropriate response.

To be successful, the AFP will need to adopt a more robust approach to understanding requirements and then developing and deploying its unique capabilities.

The AFP has already begun preparing for the future by modifying its organisational structure. In July 2015, it moved to a new operational, capability-and-capacity-based model.

To realise its strategy for future capability, the AFP will develop and implement a capability framework comprising four strategic capabilities: Policing, Law Enforcement, People and Asset Protection (incorporating critical infrastructure), and International Engagement.

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AFP Capability Framework

In ordinary usage, ‘capability’ means the power to do or affect something. The term can refer to an ability, capacity or quality.

In the AFP context, capability is the power to achieve a desired operational outcome or effect in a nominated environment, within a specified time and to sustain that effect for a designated period.


Policing protects life and property, prevents crime, detects and apprehends offenders, maintains order and helps those in need of assistance. The ultimate effect of good policing is the achievement of voluntary compliance with the law in the community.

Law enforcement

Law enforcement provides criminal investigations, case management and operational response elements focused on organised crime and gangs, cybercrime and cyber safety, child protection, countering terrorism and violent extremism, and the associated recovery of the proceeds of crime.

People and asset protection

People and asset protection provides protection services for senior politicians, visiting dignitaries and diplomats, witnesses and associated sites of critical importance. It also provides counter-terrorism first response and undertakes firearms and explosive detection searches.

International engagement

International engagement provides international policing cooperation, liaison, international stabilisation, capacity-building and policing assistance aligned with Australia’s national interests.

The AFP will deliver against these four strategic capabilities through the use of multidisciplinary teams comprising sworn members, professional staff and industry partners. To keep Australia safe, the AFP will pursue strategies that are designed primarily to prevent and disrupt crime. It will do this by creating enhancing policing partnerships globally and nationally to create a hostile environment for criminals.

Future Focus

To develop the four capabilities for the future, the AFP will pursue a raft of activities, with particular focus on the following areas:

Intelligence-informed targeting and processes

The AFP will be intelligence-informed, agile and adaptive. The AFP’s intelligence-informed triage and prioritisation processes will be critical to ensuring that finite resources are assigned to greatest effect.

Transnational serious and organised/complex crime

Consistent with the priority of combatting national security threats, the focus of AFP investigative activity will be on complex transnational serious and organised crime, including violent extremism. In combatting organised crime, the AFP will provide the interface between national security and domestic policing issues.

The most tangible criminal threat to Australia’s national security is terrorism and this threat will continue for the foreseeable future. Well-planned and coordinated attacks are probable, as is the likelihood of more attacks emanating from unknown individuals using unsophisticated means.

The AFP, in collaboration with state and territory police, the intelligence community, law enforcement agencies and international partners, will continue its role in safeguarding Australia’s national security at home and offshore. As a key agency in the Australia–New Zealand Counter Terrorism Committee, the AFP will work with state and territory police to ensure effective preparedness for, prevention of, responses to and recovery from terrorism incidents.

Prosecutorial action will remain a primary deterrent; however, harm-reduction strategies will become increasingly important and will require a greater application of regulatory action and prevention and disruption approaches, domestically and internationally. Effective harm-minimisation requires a whole-of-government approach to which the AFP will be a major contributor.

Within this environment the AFP will continue to adopt an investigative partnership approach, working collaboratively with and drawing on the strengths and capabilities of different agencies, public and private, domestic and international. This approach provides layers of depth to create a preventative shield from crime for Australia and its people.

National and international leadership and coordination

The AFP has a well-deserved reputation for its ability to effectively coordinate and facilitate partnerships with diverse agencies, in both the public and private sectors, across national and international jurisdictions.

The AFP will coordinate multi-jurisdictional operational activity through its national and international network of offices and people.

The AFP plays a critical coordination role through its leadership of national and international joint taskforces targeting transnational serious and organised crime.

Leveraging the AFP’s abilities in facilitating and leading partnership arrangements will help to maximise successful operational outcomes, nationally and internationally.

International engagement

The AFP will be the principal international representative for Australian policing and law enforcement.

The AFP is recognised nationally and internationally as a strong and credible international policing leader. The AFP provides its policing and law enforcement partners with a critical capacity to extend investigations offshore and conduct overseas inquiries on a police-to-police basis. The AFP will lead and conduct international operations on behalf of all Australian state, territory and Commonwealth policing and law enforcement agencies.

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The AFP will continue to place significant emphasis on its international presence, working with international partners to combat crime at its source, disrupt criminal networks and avert security threats in Australia. The AFP will be the primary Australian representative for many international policing initiatives, such as the Pacific Islands Chiefs of Police Forum, the Chiefs of ASEAN Police Forum, INTERPOL and the Virtual Global Taskforce to combat online child sexual abuse.

These international relationships will also form an integral component of broader government efforts to strengthen regional and international partnerships, including by supporting regional security, stability and peacekeeping. The AFP will provide the Australian Government with deployable international policing capabilities that enable it to deliver immediate stability operations, short-term emergency responses and long-term regional police development.

Technical and niche proficiencies

The AFP will develop unique proficiencies and exploit advanced technologies that support Australia’s national interest. To this end, the AFP will engage leading-edge specialist technicians to provide expertise for the AFP and the broader Australian policing and law enforcement community.

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Knowledge will be critical to the way the AFP defines threats, directs resources, delivers prioritised services to government and the community and informs strategic thinking. Investment in contemporary technology and capability solutions will be crucial to enable the effective management of information critical to defining and countering threats to the Australian national interest.

The AFP requires an integrated information environment, characterised by enterprise-level data pooling and powerful analytics, underpinned by modern technology infrastructure that is capable of sustained management of high volumes of data. Integrated components will provide the AFP with seamless access to, and analysis of, large data sets in real-time to identify changing dynamics and mitigate national security threats.

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The AFP will seek to:

  • develop and maintain capabilities at a pace consistent with that of the security threat and criminal environment

  • establish a framework to determine which capabilities it will develop and hold in-house and which it will out-source

  • lead in developing technical and specialist capabilities that can be shared with and utilised by state, territory and Commonwealth partners

  • partner with the private sector to develop solutions for the future

  • move its culture from a functional perspective that applies traditional policing models, to one where specialist skills are engaged early to define problems and help resolve them.

AFP as knowledge leader

The AFP's operating environment is shaped in part by policy and legislative frameworks. Informed and effective policy and legislation has a direct deterrence and disruptive effect. As the Australian Government’s primary adviser on policing issues, the AFP will work closely with the federal Attorney-General’s Department to identify ways in which emerging technology and changing criminal behaviour challenge the boundaries of existing legislation. Any changes to police powers will beproportional, appropriate and effective.

The AFP will pursue a greater leadership role in delivering national investigative standards and training curricula across a range of its technical and niche proficiencies for both national and international law enforcement partners.

The AFP’s future workforce

In the future, organisational success will be increasingly dependent on how well a diversity of views and expertise are harnessed to innovate, adapt and effect change.

To be future-ready and be an employer of choice, the AFP will continue to build an ethical, values-driven culture that embraces diversity, inclusion and mutual respect. Doing so will attract and retain a gender-inclusive, culturally and ethnically diverse workforce reflective of Australian society. This will include people from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds, people with disability and people with diverse gender identity and sexual orientation.

The AFP will develop a flexible, collaborative and multi-skilled workforce comprising individuals of high integrity who are capable of critical thinking, reflection, analysis and independent judgement.

The future AFP workforce will be characterised by different engagement models and partnerships, a higher proportion of technical and specialist skills and an enhanced qualifications framework to ensure the best resources are applied to solve existing and emerging problems.

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The AFP will value partnerships with academia to inform organisational learning and research-based reform.

Future AFP leaders will be highly adaptive, value the views and expertise of others, communicate effectively, speak the languages of policing and technology, and embrace ethical conduct and values that reflect the society they serve.

The AFP will undertake its functions in a manner that respects human rights and freedoms as they apply to all people: in training its staff, in building capacity of other police services, in its compliance with international conventions and in the execution of its remit.

The AFP will invest in technically focused capabilities, working with industry and the research community.

Measuring success

The test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with them. An enduring challenge for the AFP is that traditional performance criteria cannot adequately capture the effectiveness of preventative and disruptive measures to mitigate community harms. Future success will need to be measured not only quantitatively but also qualitatively, based on the effective deterrence and disruption of crime impacting Australian interests.


As a result of this appreciation of the drivers of the future of criminality impacting Australian interests, and through the careful delivery of these and other activities, the AFP is now honing its focus to achieve maximum effect against the known challenges and threats and those not yet realised.


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