Australian Maritime Safety Authority


History of search and rescue in Australia

The design and provision of Australia's national search and rescue (SAR) system has developed over time to meet the geopolitical and cultural needs of the nation.

History of Search and Rescue in Australia

Australia is responsible for search and rescue over a vast area of the Indian, Pacific and Southern oceans (53 million square kilometres - over one-tenth of the earth's surface).

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) was established under the AMSA Act 1990, which includes the provision of a search and rescue service consistent with Australia’s obligations under the:

  • Chicago Convention
  • Safety Convention
  • International Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue 1979.

This obligation instigated the establishment of AMSA’s Rescue Coordination Centre (RCC) to coordinate SAR for maritime incidents. Pre 1997, Airservices Australia had the responsibility for coordinating aviation SAR.

In 1997, the responsibilities of Airservices Australia and AMSA merged to form the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre (JRCC) to provide search and rescue cooridnation services for both maritime and aviation incidents. The JRCC is located within the AMSA office in Canberra, ACT.

Airservices formerly operated aviation search and rescue coordination centres in Melbourne and Brisbane .

When announced, the then Minister for Transport and Regional Development said establishment of the JRCC would rely on the successful coordination of a wide range of Federal, State and Territory agencies, including the Defence and Police Forces as well as industry and volunteer rescue groups.

This arrangement is now guided by the three SAR authorities that form the National Search and Rescue (NATSAR) Council.

Operational and management structures have been consolidated into the JRCC to bring a unified, strategic focus to Australia's civil search and rescue operations.

The JRCC currently has a staff of about 45 and operates 24 hours a day, utilising the latest satellite distress and communications technology for coordinating and response to SAR operations.

Related information

To read more about the NATSAR Council, visit the official NATSAR Council website.

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