ACT News

Package at Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade deemed non-suspicious

An employee is "extremely embarrassed" after their unattended backpack sparked a bomb scare on Tuesday afternoon at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra.

ACT police have announced that the pack found at the department's Barton offices has now been deemed non-suspicious and given the hundreds of evacuated DFAT staff the all clear to go back in the building.

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Bomb scare clears Foreign Affairs

Australia's diplomatic corps were shepherded out of their Canberra headquarters on Tuesday afternoon after a bomb scare triggered by a package, later deemed "non suspicious".

The bomb squad attended the site after the backpack was found in the staff canteen. 

Previously blocked roads on the city's central State Circle were also reopened. 

The exclusion zone set by police around the RG Casey Building.
The exclusion zone set by police around the RG Casey Building. Photo: ACT Policing

The DFAT building is in close proximity to Parliament House and the canteen area is on the ground floor and open to the public.

Earlier in the afternoon, police said that at "about 1.45pm, ACT Policing received the report of the suspicious package at DFAT on John McEwen Crescent".


"Evacuations are underway at DFAT and road closures implemented. Members of the AFP Bomb Response Team are in attendance," the police statement said.

Evacuated staff were asked to move back to 100 metres away from the building and police set an exclusion zone around the building.

Staff in some surrounding offices were told to stay inside during the exercise. 

A childcare centre is also attached to the building and staff and children, including babies, were also evacuated and moved to a nearby church.

The R. G. Casey Building in Barton is the department's head office.

About 2780 DFAT staff work in Canberra though not all of them are based at the site.

Station sergeant Donna Hofmeier said police evacuated the building and cordoned off the street "in accordance with standard procedure". 

"ACT and Australian Federal Police take all reports of suspicious packages seriously," she said. 

"The welfare of our residents is at the forefront." 

She said the person whose bag it was was "extremely embarrassed". 

Sgt Hofmeier acknowledged that there would have been heightened concern in the wake of the events in Sydney. 

"I think our procedures worked very well today," she said. 

Staff told The Canberra Times that the building had been evacuated about 10 minutes after the backpack was noticed.

Ambulances were at the scene at the southern end of Sydney Avenue near DFAT building.

Closed roads - Brisbane Avenue, John McEwan Crescent and Sydney Avenue - have now been reopened.