And the winner of Most Outstanding Education Service is…

Matt Harrison is a down-to-earth, family man. He surrounds himself with people who share his vision, enabling him to provide a supportive and flexible environment for his team. As CEO of the AFS Group in Caringbah, it is no surprise that the company’s recent win at the Sutherland Shire Local Business Awards is reflective of his positive team culture.
“My staff are fantastic. They’re all local people. They like working here and that’s important to me. They’ve got to love it as much as I do because I spend a lot of time here. And with five kids, making sure the local community is good and okay, means that they’re looked after too.”

Having been nominated for Most Outstanding Education Service in previous years, 2019 is the first year they have been a finalist and subsequently gone on to win. Initially, Matt did not realise how much of an impact it would have and was under no illusions or expectations they would win.


“They stuck us upstairs at the back of the auditorium. We were pretty sure we weren’t going to win anything. Clearly, that’s not how it works!


“We beat out a lot of people that I have quite a bit of respect for, so to be thought of in the same way, it gives you that confirmation – not only in the community – but for what you do. Anyone in business knows that you hope you’re doing the right thing, but when there’s some sort of recognition, it’s very reassuring.”

And what better time to win, than the year the business turns 30!

Originally set up as a security firm, AFS Group soon expanded into event management, which organically grew into training and compliance. Now operating as a five-arm company, they run more than 60 accredited courses; have a stand-alone security company with a Shire based patrol car; consult on safety and security of events, work health and safety, and compliance. They have recently expanded to manage safety, security, and logistics for tourism companies.


“We worked with a local company recently who were just about to lose millions of dollars from a client because they weren’t work-health and safety compliant. They just didn’t know where to start. So, we did everything for them; brought them up to speed and they retained the business.”


Whilst much of their focus has been on international clients, they are also heavily involved with local businesses, delivering the same high level of service across the board.


The company has its grassroots in the Sutherland Shire and made a conscious decision to continue to be based here. Most staff are local, preferring the fact they can walk to work or are not driving across the city. Many are working parents and have the flexibility to do the school drop-offs as well as being able to attend their children’s school carnivals or appointments. Being present in their children’s lives is more important to Matt than that last phone call.

And this is where giving back to the Shire community is important for the team. AFS Group is a host employer of the Sutherland Shire Business Education Network (SSBEN) which offers work placement to Year 11 and 12 students completing their studies through TAFE. They offer an annual $1000 scholarship to En Pointe Dance Academy as well as supporting local charities such as Project Youth in Menai, Miranda, and Hurstville. Giving talks to children in schools about social media and resilience is also a key area they get involved with.


AFS Group is also actively involved in the Michael Tynan Memorial Challenge, providing security, medics, guides, concierge and first aiders for the event. They were also recently involved with the Engadine Rural Fire Service Open Day as part of Get Ready Weekend. Matt explains that undertaking international business makes it easier for them to engage with supporting the local community.


Outside of the Shire, AFS Group provides training services for Craig’s Table. Craig’s Table is a place where recovering workers come together for support. AFS Group delivers a tailored training program to enable upskilling and re-shaping of perceptions. The program focuses on rebuilding the confidence and capability of the members and assists in reintroducing members to the community and the workforce.

Shire Talk wishes to extend their congratulations to AFS Group on their win for Most Outstanding Education Service at the Sutherland Shire Local Business Awards and look forward to hearing about more of your accomplishments.


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