Lionel Rosenberg, Senior Project Manager at RPS provides an overview of the Palmerston Police Station project, its complexities, outcomes and lessons learned.

During the 2016 Northern Territory (NT) elections, then opposition leader Hon Michael Gunner promised a new police station for the Palmerston community, that would meet policing requirements for the next 30 years. In December 2017 RPS was seconded to the NT Government to provide project management services for the Palmerston Police Station project.

The project brief: “The station must meet Police service’s needs for the next 30 years in a growing community and provide a model for future station developments in the NT”.

The purpose-built facility would operate 24 hours a day across three shifts, seven days a week with a staff population of 200 uniformed police and administration staff.

Incorporated into the facility is a watch house to accommodate up to 100 detainees across 27 cells with culturally appropriate separation of men, women and children.

Palmerston Police Station watch house holding cell. 

The NTPFES required the facility to meet the United Nations’ Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (aka The Nelson Mandela Rules) 2016 and address the findings of the Australian Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody (RCIADIC 1987–1991).

The Palmerston Police Station project was highly complex due to the following:

  • A high public profile being a major election commitment and interest from politicians and media.
  • The site was visited monthly by the Chief Minister and the Minister for Police with accompanying press attendance.
  • There were over 20 stakeholder groups ranging from NT Government Ministers, NT Police executives, six Police divisions, Watch House officers, NT Government Information Technology Communications representatives, Top End Health, uniform officers, and police administration, Palmerston City Council and Palmerston community.
  • Immediate neighbours, Palmerston Super Clinic and Terrace Gardens Aged Care Home.
  • The technical complexity of the Station and Watch House operational safety issues.
  • Every built element and design solution had to be considered for safety and wellbeing of the police, the public and the detainees occupying or visiting the station.
  • Compliance requirements with the findings of RCIADIC and the Nelson Mandela Rules, the need to mitigate self-harm of detainees through good design.
  • Construct to Importance Level 4 (IL4) Seismic Resilience Standards ensuring the station as an essential service facility could be operational immediately after an earthquake/cyclone or other disaster event.
  • The building fabric had to be resilient to abrasion from uniformed police moving through the building. Officer’s uniform, vest, and equipment belt increase their physical size and weight by 12kg and can cause increased wear and tear on the building.
  • Designing a facility for the NT’s tropical environment with extreme temperatures and humidity.
Ministers being briefed on the Palmerston Police Station project.


In 2017 the project brief stated that the Police Station would be fully operational by the Q3 2019, this ambitious target was achieved with excellent project and program management through all phases of development, procurement, and project delivery.

Project stakeholder’s expectations were managed and a successful outcome achieved, the facility has excellent workflow and all work health and welfare requirements of the police and support staff has been delivered

The watch house has satisfied all aspects of RCIADIC and The United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners 2016, making the facility unique in the Northern Territory and Australia.

Palmerston Police Station concrete slab being poured. 

Lessons learned

The quality of communication contributed to the project’s success.

The NT Police’s organisational profile is complex with many internal and external stakeholders involved in decision making and problem-solving process.

Clear and consistent communication with all these groups enabled the project manager to overcome the complexities within the project.

Proactive communication was key to managing issues, RPS embraced at the following characteristics of proactive communication:

  • Motivation: Understanding what drives an issue or stakeholders’ passion to pursue an issue will result effectively and efficiently communication in the project.
  • Listening: The ability to listen is essential in project management. Listening to stakeholders builds trust and accountability. It can also detect un-anticipated risks and potential solutions to the problems.
  • Integrity: Acting with integrity, inspires trust and respect from stakeholders and motivates individuals to behave likewise.

The stakeholder feedback confirmed that the facility is exceptional and exceeded the expectations of project stakeholders. This is a testament to what can be achieved with excellent communication. The facility is considered by the Northern Territory Police as the new benchmark for police operational facilities and watch houses and the knowledge gained from this project will inform future projects.