Part 2.  Who is responsible for Australian Domestic Aviation Security and where can you find the rules.

Part 1 of this series of articles explained my interaction history with Australian Domestic Aviation Security Operators that ultimately led to my indignation of having to submit to a Frisk search of a sensitive area of the body. I have always fully co-operated with all instructions from Security Officers, approached them in a friendly manner and I put my trust in them to keep us all safe. I was totally bewildered after the Frisk search. I just could not understand why a totally innocent traveller with no malicious intent who just happens to have metal body parts that they cannot remove for Security Screening can be subjected to such supposedly normalised behaviour as a Frisk search of a sensitive body area. Here is Part 2 in the series which will provide links to all the relevant Public information that may help explain how the system works.

The Federal Government Department of Home Affairs is the responsible body for Aviation Security. Follow this link for more information and to also access further links to the Aviation Transport Security Act 2004, and to the TravelSECURE website :- https://www.homeaffairs.gov.au/transport-security/Pages/air-cargo-aviation/aviation-security-overview.aspx

Briefly explained the behaviour of Aviation Security Screening Officers is determined by each Airport Management policy where they work, by Security screening notices that are issued periodically by the Dept of Home Affairs, and also by the Aviation Transport Security Act 2004. Information about the first two options is kept confidential to maintain security and the third option is a publicly available document. Section 93 to 97 are the relevant sections that apply to Security Screening officers.

My state Legal Aid Office advised that Security Screening Officers have absolute power to decide if a Frisk search is necessary and that sufficient justification for that action is if a passenger fails the primary and secondary screening process. The Act does mention that the screening officer may request a passenger to remove an item of clothing however this only refers to bulky outer clothing such as scarves, hats, jackets and coats, and not to garments such as trousers, shirts or slacks etc.

The act also mentions the use of a private room and that the Security officer must not use more force, or subject the person to greater indignity than is necessary or reasonable. The Act specifies that the Officer must refuse to allow a person to pass through the screening point if they cannot be cleared for any reason. There is a sign at all airport screening areas that states that a person has consented to the screening process (except a frisk search) and any refusal to undergo a screening procedure will prevent that person proceeding. What this means is, if a frisk search has been deemed necessary by the screening officer then they must ask you for permission. If you refuse any of their requests then they have the power to prevent you being cleared to proceed.

The TravelSecure website states that “Security screening officers are trained to ensure everyone is treated with dignity and respect when going through security screening at the airport” and that if a “frisk search is required, you will be asked to consent to this process.”

The other information about frisk searches that came to light was that a private room must be offered, there will be two Security Officers of the same gender as the passenger present, and the passenger is entitled to have their own witness present. I have also found out that the Security Officer cannot request a passenger to remove outer garments, but the passenger can offer to do this of their own accord. In my case I would have been able to remove my trousers and then be secondary screened with the hand wand in a private room which would have eliminated the need for a frisk search.

I did agree to the frisk taking place because I was unaware of the information about how the private room could be used, and I also thought that I could cope with the frisk search, having never experienced that procedure beforehand. However the mental stress and recrimination that this event caused prompted me to seek all this information so that in future I can have a strategy to be effectively screened without being frisked in a sensitive area of the body. Frisk searches can also be referred to as a Pat down search, so travellers should be aware that the two terms have exactly the same result if the search is of a sensitive body area.

This concludes Part 2 of the series. Please see Part 3 for more information about what you need to do to stay up to date with the latest information before you travel.