Canberra dishes out AU$8 million to boost Aussie cyber skills


The federal government has thrown AU$8.2 million of its AU$70 million Cyber Security Skills Partnership Innovation Fund at eight projects, with the aim of improving the skills and availability of cybersecurity professionals in Australia.

Round one sees La Trobe University walk away with AU$2.35 million to raise awareness to 80,000 high school students about cybersecurity skills and training opportunities. The program will also partner with major industry players to help small businesses grow their skills, the government said.

An Australian Cyber Security Growth Network-led project to develop a cybersecurity traineeship program to support about 200 participants into a cybersecurity career also received an undisclosed amount of funding, as did a project led by CSIRO aimed at up-skilling early career researchers in cybersecurity innovation and providing 100 university students with work experience.

A Central Regional TAFE-led project to improve the number and quality of cybersecurity trained professionals including women in regional and remote locations in Western Australia will take a slice of the funding, so will a TasTAFE-led project to establish a Cyber Innovation Training Hub that offers industry training. NSW Treasury is also receiving a slice of the funding to help with its project delivering a six-week cybersecurity work experience program with TAFE NSW and businesses for year 10 students.

A project led by software firm RightCrowd that offers post-graduate training with Griffith University and commercial “on-the-job” internships was also a beneficiary of the round one kitty, as well as Grok Academy, which is partnering school, vocational, and university students with industry players to develop their cybersecurity skills.

The Cyber Security Skills Partnership Innovation Fund was handed further funding as part of the 2021 federal Budget.

In total, the Budget allocated AU$77.1 million into skills as part of the government’s new digital economy strategy, which it described as an investment into the settings, infrastructure, and incentives to grow Australia’s digital economy.

The AU$77.1 million will be shared by the “Digital Skills Cadetship Trial” to deliver work-based learning opportunities for in-demand digital jobs, with AU$10.7 million; AU$22.6 million for the “Next Generation Emerging Technology Graduates Program” that will provide more than 200 scholarships in emerging technologies; and AU$43.8 million for the expansion of its Cyber Security Skills Partnership Innovation Fund to fund additional innovative projects to quickly improve the quality and quantity of cybersecurity professionals in Australia.

“We need a strong cybersecurity workforce in Australia to meet the increasing scale and sophistication of cyber threats” Minister for Home Affairs Karen Andrews said. 

“Projects funded under the Cyber Security Skills Partnership Innovation Fund will help grow our workforce to ensure a safe online environment for all Australians.”

Elsewhere, cybersecurity services provider Willyama Services was awarded a multi-year contract with Defence worth AU$10.3 million.

The contract is for cybersecurity specialist support to the Defence Industry Security Office (DISO).

Running for an initial two years, with a further 24-month option, Willyama, which has its sights set on becoming the first 100% Aboriginal-owned IT company to list on the ASX, will provide ongoing cyber specialist support to deliver DISO cybersecurity assurance and audit activities.

“This contract with Defence is significant for more than the financial value,” Willyama said. “The majority of the Indigenous and veteran staff Willyama engages come from ‘non-traditional’ employment backgrounds for engagement in the federal IT sector and require significant support, cross and upskilling, in order to be able to provide these services. 

“With two years guaranteed commercial support, we expect to significantly increase our investment in Indigenous and veteran staff to be able to provide more services to the federal sector in the future. 

“This contract is a lever to changing lives and we are excited by the opportunity to share this journey with Defence.”

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