Overview of ASIO

ASIO protects Australia and Australians from threats to their security.

Our functions are set out in section 17 of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act 1979 (the ASIO Act):

  • to obtain, correlate and evaluate intelligence relevant to security;
  • for purposes relevant to security, to communicate any such intelligence to such persons, and in such manner, as are appropriate to those purposes;
  • to advise Ministers and authorities of the Commonwealth in respect of matters relating to security, in so far as those matters are relevant to their functions and responsibilities.
  • to furnish security assessments to a State or an authority of a State in accordance with paragraph 40(1)(b);
  • to advise Ministers, authorities of the Commonwealth and such other persons as the Minister, by notice in writing given to the Director-General, determines on matters relating to protective security; and
  • to obtain within Australia foreign intelligence pursuant to section 27A or 27B of this Act or section 11A, 11B or 11C of the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979, and to communicate any such intelligence in accordance with this Act or the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979; and
  • to co-operate with and assist bodies referred to in section 19A [of the ASIO Act] in accordance with that section.
  • In 2019–20, we pursued our purpose through four key activities:

    • countering terrorism;
    • countering espionage, foreign interference, sabotage and malicious insiders;
    • countering serious threats to Australia’s border integrity; and
    • providing protective security advice to government and industry.

    Part 4 of this report summarises our performance in relation to these key activities during 2019–20.

    Commitment to legality and propriety

    ASIO must operate lawfully, in proportion to the threats we are investigating, and in line with the standards and expectations of the Australian community. We don’t just do what it is legal, we do what is right. ASIO is subject to rigorous oversight, including by the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, who has powers akin to a royal commission.

    ASIO’s accountable authority

    Period as the accountable authority within the reporting period

    Name Position title/position held Date of commencement Date of cessation
    Mike Burgess Director-General of Security 15 September 2019 N/A
    Duncan Lewis AO DSC CSC Director-General of Security 14 September 2014 14 September 2019

    Mr Mike Burgess, Director-General of Security, is ASIO’s accountable authority.
    He has been Director-General of Security since 15 September 2019.

    Out-thinking Australia’s adversaries

    In a complex, challenging and changing security environment, our success is built on the imagination and intelligence of our team. ASIO’s people are ordinary Australians but they do extraordinary things—they are our most important asset. All our teams contribute to our mission.

    Who are the people of ASIO?

    ASIO staff are carers, parents, grandparents and community volunteersand come from various backgrounds, including music; teaching; geology; nursing; and science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM). We are proud Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and second- or third-generation Australians. We are introverted, extroverted and neurodiverse. We are tradespeople, as well as technical, corporate and intelligence professionals. We are your neighbours and part of your community. The only difference is that we don’t tell you where we work, what we do, or how we do it.

    Our skills

    Our people need to out-think and out-imagine our adversaries. Being an ASIO officer requires the ability to be open-minded and the confidence to work both independently and as part of a team. Our people are engaging, are deeply analytical, and have foreign language, legal, and international and domestic politics skills. Some work in engineering and information technology, others in finance and human resources.

    A diverse workplace

    We seek to reflect the diversity of the community we protect. We want every ASIO officer to bring their unique skills, experience, perspectives and whole selves to work. In 2019–20 we recruited 141 staff. Our career opportunities are open to all.

    View a larger version of the ASIO Organisational Chart