Steve’s Legacy: Empowerment Through Communication by Philip Baum

I was appointed editor of this journal in June 1997 and in my first Lead Editorial, entitled New Labour, I used the phrase, “Good security, it is said, depends to a significant extent upon good communication”. Not exactly ground-breaking stuff, but a statement as true today as it was then.

Frustratingly, however, it’s a phrase, or variation thereof, one repeatedly hears uttered from conference podiums and at meetings deliberating new approaches. I say frustrating because ‘communication’ to the security industry should be a concept that is as much part of the process as it is for a doctor to take a patient’s temperature, a musician to tune their instrument or author to proof their manuscript. Communication should be so entrenched in our daily operations that we need not continually remind ourselves of the need to do it.

I guess the positive is that we know we have a problem. It’s not as if, in the words of George Bernard Shaw, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place”. If that were true, we wouldn’t keep harping on about it. The challenge seems to be getting those tasked with security functions to ensure that any concerns they might witness are addressed and resolved. We need the screener who observes unusual behaviour to report it, the flight attendant who identifies a passenger’s behaviour deviating from the baseline to take action, the staff member who sees an unattended bag to assume responsibility.

We need to create a climate where staff do not hold back sounding the alarm because they are concerned about checkpoint throughput rates, a passenger taking legal action or delays caused by the evacuation of an aircraft or terminal. And there can be no excuse for management chastising an employee for taking action that they believed was a necessity just because no prohibited item or explosive device was subsequently found. When it comes to behavioural analysis, there is no false positive. We know that many terrorist or criminal actions were preceded by surveillance missions and test runs.

Most security staff know how to perform the various tasks that are required of them, but too often there remains a knowledge gap – and more disturbingly a protocol gap – when it comes to their acting outside the box. To be able to truly respond to today’s threats, there are times when they need to be able to tear up the script and improvise. They are often frightened or impotent to do so. We need to communicate the message that they can.

And, as the industry grieves the loss of Steve Jackson, we can take heart from the fact that he was one of those few who really could communicate at all levels, who had time for all people and who, as we know from his TEDx talk, wished his legacy to be one of empowerment…achievable through communication. Let’s continue the struggle to do so in his memory.

Philip Baum
Philip Baum

Steve Jackson: Obituary

Steve Jackson
Steve Jackson

The aviation security was shocked to hear the tragic news that Steve Jackson , Chief Security Officer of the Qantas Group, passed away this January. As a true leader within both the aviation and security industries, and an ability to display empathy and understanding to all stakeholders with whom he interacted, his passing is being mourned both domestically in Australia and by all his colleagues and friends around the globe. Steve was employed at Qantas for 13 years, four years as General Manager Security Operations and then the last nine years as its Chief Security Officer. Prior to joining Qantas, Steve served with the Australian Federal Police, where he headed up their aviation efforts in Australia. He was also the past Chairman of the Australian Security Medal Foundation. Reflecting both the domestic and international stages on which Steve stood, Aviation Security International shares with its readership the comments expressed by Alan Joyce , CEO of the Qantas Group, to the group’s employees (reproduced here with his permission), and those of Kaarlo Karvonen on behalf of the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) Security Group (SEG).

Alan Joyce, CEO Qantas Group:

It is with much sadness that I learned of Steve Jackson’s passing on Sunday [28th January].

As many of you know, Steve was the Chief Security Officer for the Qantas Group. We were fortunate enough to be the last chapter of his incredible career, which spanned the Royal Navy in the UK through to the Australian Federal Police.

In his 20 years with the AFP, Steve was the lead investigator for the Bali Bombing (for which he was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia) and the operational commander for the Sydney Olympics, among many other things.

It often felt like Steve’s reputation and experience arrived in a room several minutes before he did. When he spoke, everyone listened because of the insight and authority he brought to bear. He had a lot of presence and a lot of gravitas. And for good reason.

Despite all the years he spent in various armed forces, Steve was a true egalitarian. He offered automatic respect to everyone he met and received the same in return. He had many, many good friends at Qantas – including me. We will miss him terribly.

Steve was always calm in a crisis. In fact, he was always calm.

And that was the way he approached his cancer diagnosis almost two years ago. Steve was determined to ‘keep calm and carry on’. To keep living his life and maintain a clear sense of purpose. He loved his job, believed deeply in helping to keep people safe and worked as often as he could.

He also used his time to help other cancer sufferers, speaking publicly (and very candidly) about his experience with lung cancer. Late last year he gave a TEDx talk about his journey, which you can view at

Our sadness at losing Steve is profound. But it pales in comparison with the deep loss felt by his loving family. His wife, Marlene; his children Aaron, Beth and Emma; and his grandchildren. I know I speak for us all at Qantas when I offer them our sincerest condolences, and sincere thanks for sharing Steve with us for so many years.

Steve’s family wants part of his legacy to be a financial contribution to the Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, an institution that nursed Steve during his fight with cancer. For those who would like to donate in Steve’s memory, please visit and note that Qantas will match those donations.

Kaarlo Karvonen, Chair IATA SEG:

Steve Jackson joined the global aviation security community over a decade ago when assuming the role of Group Head of Security, Facilitation and Resilience for Qantas. Steve brought in valuable experience from his previous roles, particularly in the Australian Federal Police. He believed that security is necessary and that to be effective it needs to be focused on the risks which are pertinent and it needs to be deliverable.

He took a very active role in formulating the global aviation security agenda. Taking a leadership role with a visionary focus was very typical for Steve. He held everyone accountable for bringing their best ideas and efforts to the table, including himself. He was a true leader, with a big heart, and he was not afraid to fully commit himself to things he believed in.

Steve was a member of the IATA Security Group (SEG) and served as the Chair between 2015-2017. During his chairmanship he strived for a holistic approach with all the key stakeholders, especially the aviation security regulators, to address the existing and future security challenges. Steve was instrumental in several international working groups and task forces. His achievements in getting us all to understand and respect each other’s concerns and obligations has paved the way for us to reach the next level in global aviation security. Steve’s warmth and companionship will be hugely missed. SEG is committed to ensure that his approach and drive live on.

A memorial service celebrating Steve’s life, and supported by both Qantas and the Australian Federal Police, was held at the International Convention Centre in Darling Harbour, Sydney, on Thursday 8th February 2018.