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In January 1945 a young man began his military career at the Royal Military College Duntroon. He was just 18 and over the next 34 years he saw active service in Korea and in South Vietnam. He retired as a much loved Major General. He was my father, the greatest male role model in my life and between us, as our service overlapped briefly, we have served this great Nation for more than 70 years, father and son.
That unbroken service ends today as I hand the stewardship of Army to Angus Campbell. There is no one more capable to take charge than he.
I will leave with very few regrets and with a deep pride in the men and women who I have been honoured to work with for over 36 years. The Army will pause only momentarily, if that, to mark my passing from its ranks. That is how it must be for an institution charged with the unstinting and unwavering task of protecting this Country, its interests and its future prosperity.
Four years ago I became your Chief. In a brief speech to mark that occasion I made one simple promise, to the Nation, to the Defence Force and to the Army. I said “You have my all. You can count on my commitment to put service before self to ensure that this magnificent organisation, peopled by the finest of Australians, will continue to be a force for good, joint in its outlook, conscious of the need to be both effective and efficient, buoyed by a strong, open and inclusive culture.”
It is for others to judge my success or failure in achieving what I undertook to do, but I know, because of the work and inspiration of the officers and soldiers of today’s Army, that Lieutenant General Campbell will begin his tenure with levels of capability at their highest in our history and with a culture made stronger by the commitment of all to live to our values of courage, initiative, respect and teamwork.
I want to thank those who have led the ADF and the Department of Defence during my time as Chief. Chief of Defence Force and Secretary Richardson, my fellow Service Chiefs and the Deputy Secretaries of our Australian Public Service - you are all distinguished by your commitment to making Australia safer and more secure. To the leaders of the Army, at all levels from General to Lance Corporal you have my enduring respect for the manner in which you put service before self in the Nation’s name. To the soldiers – you are our Army and your capacity for selfless courage is second to none.
To my family, and especially my wife Gayle, whose support and love has been unshakeable, you have made the last four years possible and I am forever in your debt. I promise to live a life less regimented from today.
And so I leave and my last words are to recite our Army’s contract with Australia. There are no words more eloquent in describing my feelings for you all:
I am an Australian soldier who an expert in close combat. I am physically and mentally tough, compassionate and courageous. I lead by example, I strive to take the initiative. I am committed to learning and to working for the team. I believe in trust, loyalty and respect for my Country, my mates and the Army. The Rising Sun is my badge of honour.
I am an Australian Soldier – always. Duty first, good soldiering. Thank you.