Australian government pledges AU$1.9m to beef up cybersecurity skills

The government hopes its AU$1.9 million cyber-related university funding will reduce the skills shortage the industry is currently facing.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

The Australian government has promised AU$1.9 million to universities that deliver specialised cybersecurity training in a bid to combat the skills shortage in cyber-related fields.

"Cybersecurity skills are fundamental to the success and growth of Australia's digital economy, but like many other nations, Australia is suffering from a skills shortage in this field," Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Cyber Security Dan Tehan said in a statement on Wednesday.

Under the program, universities can apply to be recognised as Academic Centres of Cyber Security.

The government hopes the funding injection will help attract more Australians to cybersecurity jobs and increase the number of skilled graduates needed to help protect businesses and government from emerging threats.

"The new centres will help build Australia's capability by leading the way as cybersecurity training facilities," Tehan added.

The Australian government launched its Cyber Security Growth Centre in December. Based in Melbourne, the centre now operates as a not-for-profit company under the new name of the Australian Cyber Security Growth Network Ltd.

The cybersecurity growth network led by Craig Davies, former head of security for Australian startup darling Atlassian, is responsible for driving the development of a "vibrant and globally competitive" cybersecurity industry in Australia, as well as ensuring Australian businesses can take advantage of the growing market opportunity in cybersecurity.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull initially pledged AU$30 million through to 2019-20 in December 2015 as part of the government's AU$1.1 billion National Science and Innovation Agenda to establish the centre in a bid to grow and strengthen Australia's cybersecurity industry.

Turnbull expects that the growth centre will work closely with industry sectors across Australia to build the quantity and professionalism of the nation's cybersecurity workforce to become globally competitive and respected.

Turnbull then launched the country's cybersecurity strategy in April, which is aimed at defending the nation's cyber networks from organised criminals and state-sponsored attackers, and sits alongside the AU$400 million provided in the Defence White Paper for cyber activities.

The government announced in November that it would be launching the Academic Centres of Cyber Security Excellence in the hope of improving Australia's cybersecurity through education and research.

For a cost of AU$4.5 million, the government expects the centres will help address Australia's shortage of skilled cybersecurity professionals.

At the time, Tehan said the centres will produce work-ready graduates to increase Australia's cybersecurity workforce and "world-leading" research on cybersecurity, as well as providing executive education programs for both industry and government.

The assistant minister also said Australia needs to work harder to encourage future employment in the sector as there is a growing demand for cybersecurity professionals.

"Australia also needs talented cyber professionals to help protect our national and business interests online and to encourage innovation," he said.

"Ultimately, our Academic Centres of Cyber Security Excellence will help ensure our students are ready to enter the workforce, that we can upskill executives and government professionals, and that our research highlights Australia as a leader in the field."

The government is also upskilling itself, announcing last month that both Turnbull and Tehan would be "put through their paces" by cyber defence experts at the Australian Signals Directorate in a bid to learn about the nation's offensive and defensive capabilities.

At the time, Tehan said it was important that the government has the correct measures in place, and to provide the advice that is needed to the public and his peers.

"The prime minister sees this as beyond politics. Democracy goes to the heart of who we are as Australians, so he wants to make sure we have put all of the steps in place we need to keep our electoral system safe," Tehan said previously. "And that's why he's calling this meeting of all political parties ... to make sure they're fully briefed on what they need to be doing to ensure that their systems are safe."

Turnbull said he would be soon inviting other interested party leaders to a similar briefing from the Australian Cyber Security Centre.

With AAP

Editorial standards