Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development

Australia's State Aviation Safety Program

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1.2—Responsibilities and Accountabilities

The Australian civil aviation safety system encompasses a number of government agencies with specific functions and responsibilities. The agencies responsible for managing aviation safety in Australia are:

  • the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development;
  • the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA);
  • the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB);
  • Airservices Australia (Airservices);
  • the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA); and
  • the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM).

Defence is responsible for military aviation and interacts with the civilian system as required, providing air traffic control and fire fighting services at a number of Defence and joint user airports.

With the exception of Defence and BOM, the organisations mentioned above are part of the portfolio responsibility of the Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development. BOM falls under the portfolio responsibility of the Minister for the Environment.

Australian State Safety Program—Aviation Safety Agencies

This diagram shows Australia's international aviation safety regulatory context. The agencies in the middle of the diagram work co-operatively to promulgate the international standards from ICAO throughout the Australian aviation industry.

Figure 1.7: SSP Framework for the Australian Government's aviation system.

Figure 1.7: SSP Framework for the Australian Government's aviation system.

Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development

The Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development is responsible to Parliament and the Australian public for civil aviation matters, including safety and security.

Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development

The Secretary of the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development, as head of the Department, has portfolio responsibility for providing support to the Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development, including in relation to civil aviation issues.

The Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development's functions include:

  • policy development and coordination for aviation;
  • developing and overseeing the implementation of regulatory arrangements for aviation security;
  • performing regulatory functions in relation to aviation environmental issues, in particular aircraft noise;
  • administering the Australian Government's interests in major airports;
  • conducting research and economic policy analysis through its professional research bureau, the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics;
  • administering a number of assistance programs to promote aviation safety in Australia and neighbouring regions; and
  • coordination of Australia's engagement with ICAO.

The Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development is the coordinating point for ICAO purposes, and is responsible for the development and maintenance of this SSP document and for monitoring progress against and reporting on the associated implementation plan.

The Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development also has responsibility for providing policy advice to the Australian Government on aviation security, setting standards for aviation security measures, as well as testing, monitoring and evaluating compliance with those standards, policies and procedures. These functions are consistent with the Aviation Transport Security Act 2004 and the Aviation Transport Security Regulations 2005 which implement Australia's responsibilities under Annex 17 of the Chicago Convention.

More information about the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development can be found at:

Civil Aviation Safety Authority

CASA is an independent statutory authority established in 1995 under the Civil Aviation Act 1988 and is subject to the Commonwealth Authorities and Companies Act 1997. CASA is responsible for the safety regulation of both civil air operations in Australian territory and Australian aircraft operating outside Australian territory. CASA is also responsible for regulating aspects of the administration of Australia's airspace.

CASA's functions include maintaining, enhancing and promoting civil aviation safety by:

  • developing and promulgating appropriate, clear and concise aviation safety standards;
  • developing effective oversight, surveillance and enforcement strategies to secure compliance with aviation safety standards;
  • issuing certificates, licences, registrations and permits;
  • conducting comprehensive aviation industry surveillance, including assessment of safety-related decisions taken by industry management at all levels for their impact on aviation safety;
  • conducting regular reviews of the system of civil aviation safety in order to monitor the safety performance of the aviation industry, to identify safety-related trends and risk factors and to promote the development and improvement of the system;
  • conducting regular and timely assessment of international safety developments;
  • improving the management and regulatory regime of Australian-administered airspace and the safety of airways, aerodromes and associated services;
  • regulating drug and alcohol management plans and testing; and
  • providing comprehensive safety education and training programs designed to encourage a greater commitment to high aviation safety standards and a better understanding of the need to comply with aviation safety requirements.

CASA is responsible for implementing Australia's obligations under Annexes 1, 2, 6, 7, 8, 10, 11, 14 and 18 of the Chicago Convention.

The CASA Board

CASA is governed by a five-member expert board which includes the Director of Aviation Safety as an ex-officio member. The Board is appointed by the Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development. The Board operates at a strategic level with a particular focus on governance, while the Director is responsible for the day-to-day regulatory, corporate and operational decision making.

The functions of the Board are to:

  • decide the objectives, strategies and policies to be followed by CASA;
  • ensure that CASA performs its functions in a proper, efficient and effective manner; and
  • ensure that CASA complies with directions given to CASA under section 12B of the Civil Aviation Act 1988.

Director of Aviation Safety

The Director of Aviation Safety is appointed by the Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development. The Director is responsible for the deployment of CASA resources, both financial and human, and as the primary holder of key regulatory decision-making powers, has the final authority over licences, certificates and approvals issued to air operators and other service providers. The Director is also responsible for regulating all Australian administered airspace.

More information on CASA can be found at:

Australian Transport Safety Bureau

The ATSB is Australia's independent no blame safety investigator, and operates under the Transport Safety Investigation Act 2003. Its function is to improve safety and public confidence in the aviation, marine and rail modes of transport through:

  • safety data recording, analysis and research;
  • independent investigation of transport accidents and other safety occurrences; and
  • fostering safety awareness, knowledge and action.

The ATSB is responsible for Australia's system for mandatory reporting of all aviation safety occurrences. It also operates schemes for voluntary and confidential reporting of aviation safety concerns. Its analysis and research functions derive from this responsibility for the collection and management of aviation safety data.

The ATSB is responsible for the independent investigation of accidents and other safety occurrences involving civil aircraft in Australia, and taking part in the investigation of accidents and other occurrences involving Australian aircraft overseas.

Consistent with government policy, the ATSB's highest operational priority is to improve aviation safety through its investigation of accidents and other safety occurrences, with a particular focus on fare-paying passenger transport operations.

In discharging its third function of fostering safety awareness, knowledge and action, the ATSB identifies and publicises safety issues, and issues safety recommendations and advice to State aviation organisations and aviation service providers. It also works with all aviation participants to educate the broader public on matters relating to aviation safety.

The ATSB is responsible for implementing Australia's obligations under Annex 13 of the Chicago Convention.

ATSB Commission

The ATSB Commission is appointed by the Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development and consists of a full-time Chief Commissioner (who is also Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the ATSB) and two part-time commissioners. Additional part-time commissioners may be appointed where their expertise is required for a significant investigation. The Commission has a responsibility to work effectively with industry and other government agencies while retaining its operational independence.

Further information about the ATSB can be found under Section 1.3: Accident and Incident Investigation and at:

Airservices Australia

Airservices was established in 1995 to provide air traffic control management and related airside services to the Australian aviation industry. Airservices is a Commonwealth authority with statutory responsibilities wholly owned by the Australian Government. It operates under the Air Services Act 1995 and is also subject to the Commonwealth Authorities and Companies Act 1997.

Under the Air Services Act 1995, Airservices is responsible for:

  • providing facilities to permit safe navigation of aircraft within Australian-administered airspace;
  • promoting and fostering civil aviation in Australia and overseas;
  • providing air traffic services, rescue and fire fighting services, and aeronautical information, radio navigation and telecommunications services to give effect to the Chicago Convention or for purposes relating to the safety, regularity or efficiency of air navigation;
  • cooperating with the ATSB in investigations of aircraft accidents and/or incidents;
  • acting to protect the environment from the effects of, or effects associated with, the operation of Commonwealth jurisdiction aircraft;
  • performing functions prescribed by the regulations in relation to the effects of, and effects associated with, the operation of Commonwealth jurisdiction aircraft;
  • performing any functions conferred under the Air Navigation Act 1920; and
  • providing consultancy and management services relating to any of the above matters.

While Airservices is primarily a service provider, it is also tasked with carrying out its functions in a manner which supports the Government's policies with a focus on aviation safety. In this way, Airservices is an integral part of Australia's SSP. At the same time, as a service provider, Airservices operates under an SMS which is overseen by CASA.

Airservices is responsible for implementing Australia's obligations under Annexes 3, 4, 5, 10, 11 and 15 of the Chicago Convention.

The Airservices Board

Airservices is governed by a 10-person board appointed by the Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development. The Airservices Board consists of a Chairperson, a Deputy Chairperson, the CEO and six other non-executive directors. Directors are appointed by the Minister on a part-time basis, other than the CEO, who is appointed by the Board. The Board is responsible and accountable for deciding the objectives, strategies and policies to be followed by Airservices and for ensuring that it fulfils its statutory functions in a proper, efficient and effective manner.

An important part of the governance process is the role of the independent safety adviser to the Board. This position is currently held by an international safety expert. This &8216;arm's length’ process provides the Board with an independent view of the safety of Airservices operations.

Airservices Chief Executive Officer

The Board delegates responsibility for the management of the organisation to the CEO.

The CEO, in consultation with his executive managers (the Executive Committee) is responsible for the management of air traffic control services, radar, navigation and communication facilities within Australian administered airspace, and rescue and fire fighting services at certain airports. The Committee provides management advice to the Board; and its Safety, Environment, Remuneration, Air Traffic Control (ATC) Future Systems and Audit Committees.

More information about Airservices Australia can be found at:

Australian Maritime Safety Authority

AMSA is the national safety agency responsible for maritime safety, protection of the marine environment and aviation and marine search and rescue. It is a statutory authority established under the Australian Maritime Safety Authority Act 1990.

AMSA's services are mainly provided on a cost recovery basis from fee and levy revenue sources. It also receives Community Service Obligation funding from the Australian Government, specifically relating to aviation and maritime search and rescue operations and boating safety education.

AMSA's primary areas of responsibility to the aviation community include:

  • meeting the requirements of Annex 12 of the Chicago Convention in operating the Australian Rescue Coordination Centre to coordinate the location and rescue of persons in maritime and aviation distress situations throughout the internationally agreed 53 million square kilometres area of the Australian search and rescue region; and
  • providing two ground stations and a Mission Control Centre for the Cospas-Sarsat satellite distress beacon system.

As Australia's aviation search and rescue service provider, AMSA is an important part of Australia's aviation safety system.

As well as being responsible for the provision of aviation search and rescue (SAR) services, AMSA is also involved in coordinating search and rescue efforts in Australia. Depending on the circumstances, this can involve assistance from various organisations, such as the Australian Defence Forces, trained aviation organisations (Civil SAR Units), emergency medical helicopters, state police services, state emergency services, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), airlines, the general aviation industry, volunteer marine rescue groups, BOM, the shipping industry and fishing cooperatives.

SAR authorities at both the federal and state levels comprise the National Search and Rescue Council, which has the role of formulating, discussing and ratifying national search and rescue policies.

AMSA Board

Management of AMSA is the responsibility of an eight-member board appointed by the Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development. The Board includes the CEO and a Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development member. Members are drawn from industry, financial and government institutions, and bring appropriate skills and expertise to the conduct of AMSA's important commercial and safety maritime activities.

Chief Executive Officer

AMSA's CEO's role is to provide leadership and control of the agency. The CEO is appointed by the Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development after receiving a recommendation from the Authority. The CEO manages the implementation of the statutory functions of AMSA in line with the
strategic priorities set by the Board.

More information about AMSA can be found at:

Bureau of Meteorology

BOM is Australia's national weather, climate and water agency and operates under the authority of the Meteorology Act 1955 and the Water Act 2007. On 1 July 2002, the Bureau of Meteorology became an Executive Agency under the Public Service Act 1999. Under the Public Service Act, the Director of Meteorology has the powers and responsibilities of an agency head, and reports to the Minister for the Environment. The Director of Meteorology is the designated Meteorological Authority in accordance with Annex 3 to the Chicago Convention. The Director of Meteorology also has an authorising function, set out in Regulation Part 120 of the Civil Aviation Act 1988, with respect to meteorological observations and forecasts used in civil aviation. BOM is the aeronautical meteorological service provider for Australia.

Functions provided by BOM relating to aviation services include:

  • aeronautical meteorological observations;
  • forecast and warning services for aviation;
  • aeronautical climatological information;
  • aviation meteorological research and development;
  • quality management of aviation weather services;
  • investigations into aviation weather-related incidents;
  • liaison with the meteorological community and the aviation industry;
  • training; and
  • international participation in aviation meteorology through ICAO and World Meteorological Organization (WMO) fora.

A memorandum of understanding exists between BOM and Airservices to ensure coordination of meteorological responsibilities with respect to the Chicago Convention and the Air Services Act 1995.Weather observations, forecasts and reports for aviation in Australia are made under the authority of the Director of Meteorology.

Director of Meteorology

Under the Public Service Act, the Director of Meteorology has the powers and responsibilities of an agency head, and under current administrative arrangements is appointed by and reports to the Minister for the Environment. The Director is responsible to, and reports directly to, the Minister. The Director of Meteorology is a statutory role under the Meteorology Act 1955 and meets the requirements of Annex 3 of the Chicago Convention.

More information about BOM may be found at:

About BOM

Department of Defence

Defence is responsible for safety and airworthiness of military aviation systems.

Defence provides air traffic control services and supporting infrastructure, such as radar facilities, at military and certain joint user (civil/military) aerodromes. It therefore plays a role in Australia's aviation safety system.

In the context of Australia's civil aviation safety system, Defence liaises with the Australian transport portfolio on civil/military aviation matters, including management of joint user airports.

Defence, in collaboration with Airservices, is committed to improving civil and military aviation harmonisation and to enhancing airspace access arrangements, recognising both military and civil requirements. This includes having staff located in the CASA Office of Airspace Regulation and being a member of the Aviation Policy Group (APG) and Aviation Implementation Group (AIG) with the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development, CASA and Airservices.

More information about the Department of Defence can be found at:

About Defence

Coordination within Australia's Aviation Safety System

In addition to the legislative and organisational structures that identify agency responsibilities and accountabilities, there are a number of inter-agency links and relationships that ensure Australia has a cohesive and collaborative aviation safety system.

Aviation Policy Group

Inter-agency cooperation is essential to implementing and achieving consistent policy objectives across government agencies. The Aviation Policy Group (APG) was established to ensure effective working relationships across the four agencies involved in aviation policy, regulation and service provision. The APG brings together the agency heads of the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development, Airservices, CASA and the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) on behalf of Defence.

The Chief Commissioner of the ATSB attends APG meetings as an observer as required, but is not a full member due to ATSB's status as the independent aviation safety investigator.

The APG, although not a decision-making body, provides a high-level forum for effective inter-agency policy coordination and for working through air traffic management and other strategic aviation cross-agency issues.

The APG plays a key coordinating role in overseeing Australia's SSP, the development and maintenance of this document and the associated implementation plan. APG also coordinates as necessary with other agencies, particularly the ATSB, in overseeing implementation of Australia's SSP to ensure proper consideration of any underlying risks to the effectiveness of the safety system.

Aviation Implementation Group

The Aviation Implementation Group (AIG) is a working group of senior officials comprising representatives from the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development, CASA, Airservices and Defence. The AIG supports the APG in the implementation of cross-agency strategies. This group is chaired by the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development.

The AIG also acts as a steering group in relation to ICAO matters bearing on the SSP. The AIG provides regular advice to the APG on developments within the SSP and provides guidance to the SSP Cross-Agency Team.

SSP Cross-Agency Team

The SSP Cross-Agency Team is chaired by the Department and is made up of representatives from CASA, Airservices, ATSB, AMSA and BOM. The Team is responsible for the development and continuing maintenance of the SSP document and for monitoring and reporting on SSP implementation and the indicators relating to levels of safety in the Australian aviation system.

Memoranda of understanding

Australia coordinates a range of aviation safety management issues between agencies through the establishment of formal documented arrangements called memoranda of understanding (MOU). MOUs aim to ensure responsibilities and communications protocols are clearly articulated between relevant agencies.

Figure 1.8 below outlines the key MOUs which form part of Australia's cooperative arrangements between aviation agencies.

ICAO Tripartite (CASA, Airservies, Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development) Arrangements for Australia's participation in ICAO
CASA/ATSB Objectives include maximisation of aviation safety outcomes, enhancement of public confidence, adoption of systemic approaches, knowledge of the operations of each organisation's actions, and sharing data and other safety-related information. CASA/ATSB MOU
[PDF]
Airservices/ATSB Outlines the respective roles and responsibilities of, and the relationship between, Airservices and the ATSB in relation to the investigation of aviation accidents and incidents and the exchange of safety information. ATSB/Airservices MOU
[PDF]
Defence/ATSB Provides a framework to support cooperation between Defence and the ATSB in the investigation of transport safety matters. Defence/ATSB MOU
[PDF]
Airservices/BOM Sets out arrangements between the organisations for the provision of meteorological services in support of civil aviation.  
AMSA/Airservices Defines the division of responsibilities between AMSA and Airservices as component organisations contributing to the national aviation SAR system.  
AMSA/ATSB Defines the roles and relationships between the parties in carrying out their respective statutory functions of aviation search and rescue and accident investigations. AMSA/ATSB MOU
[PDF]
AMSA/ACMA To facilitate a cooperative relationship between the parties in relation to support services for SAR operations. The MOU also sets out areas of cooperation and mutual interest in the administration of radio communications services in Australia.  

Figure 1.8: Memorandums of understanding relating to aviation safety

Other Cooperative Arrangements

Greater Civil/Military Cooperation and Harmonisation

Airservices and Defence are the two government agencies charged with the provision of air navigation services in Australia and together provide the air traffic services and infrastructure underpinning Australia's national Air Traffic Management (ATM) system.

The Australian Civil-Military Air Traffic Committee (AC-MAC) has been established to deliver a harmonised civil-military ATM system. The key deliverable has been the development of the joint operating concept document which covers:

  • system interoperability requirements;
  • systems sustainment and follow-up development;
  • future service delivery methods and infrastructure;
  • cooperative workforce planning;
  • a sound governance framework;
  • military principles, international civil treaties and global standards; and
  • common operational and technical requirements (and any particular, unique Defence requirements).

Civil/Military Cooperation in Search and Rescue

AMSA and Defence have formalised a cooperative arrangement through a letter of promulgations. The letter promulgates the acceptance by Defence of the National Search and Rescue Manual (NATSARMAN) as the standard procedural guide for the conduct of search and rescue activities within the Australian search and rescue region (SRR), except for Joint Personnel Recovery (commonly known as Combat SAR). This acceptance makes NATSARMAN the primary document underpinning civil/military cooperation in search and rescue. The document also recognises the Australian National Search and Rescue Council as the sponsor of the NATSARMAN.

Common Risk Management Framework for Airspace and Airspace Traffic Management

The Common Risk Management Framework (CRMF) aims to ensure that the work of the agencies (Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development, CASA, Airservices and Defence) in relation to airspace and air traffic management is complementary and based on a shared sense of understanding and purpose, and a consistent approach.

The CRMF provides high level guidance to the agencies in conducting their risk management activities in relation to airspace and air traffic management without interfering with, or restricting, the performance of their respective roles.

International Cooperative Arrangements

Australia has entered into a range of bilateral agreements and arrangements, including Bilateral Air Services Agreements, which are economic in focus but include provisions for safety oversight, and specific Bilateral Aviation Safety Agreements (BASAs). BASAs are intended to provide more efficient and effective safety regulation, particularly in relation to aircraft certification and products. There are a range of other agreements and arrangements that generally relate to airworthiness certification requirements.

Australia and New Zealand have signed an agreement relating to mutual recognition of Air Operator Certification (Mutual Recognition with New Zealand). The legislation amended the Civil Aviation Act 1988 and enables the mutual recognition of Air Operator Certificates (AOC) as issued by CASA in Australia and the Civil Aviation Authority of NZ (CAANZ).

Australia and the United States (US) have signed an agreement for the Promotion of Aviation Safety between Australia and the US (the Bilateral Aviation Safety Agreement). The Implementation Procedures for Airworthiness (IPA) under the Bilateral Aviation Safety Agreement provides for mutual recognition of aviation safety certification between the safety regulators of each country.

In 2009 an amendment to the IPA was proposed, the amendment came into effect on 21 September 2011 following entry into force by both governments.

Australia ratified Article 83bis of the Chicago Convention on 2 December 1994, which provides for agreements between ICAO Contracting States for the transfer of specified regulatory and oversight functions between the State of Registry and the State of the Operator. CASA are responsible for the administration of Article 83bis agreements.

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Last Updated: 4 August, 2014