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Mr Darren Cheeseman MP – the Member for Corangamite, Councillor Helene Cameron, Mayor of the Burroughs of Queenscliffe, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, members of the Directorate of Soldier Career Management Army. It is with both pleasure and sadness to be here today as the Australian Army bids farewell to Fort Queenscliff. Army has had a continuous presence here for over 152 years, although period of custodianship pales beside that of the traditional owners of this land the
Wautharong people, and I pay my respect to their elders both past and present.
Army's association began even before the Fort was commissioned as the headquarters of a chain of strongholds around Port Phillip Bay. Originally manned by the Victorian Military Forces, one of the state militia pre-cursors of the modern Australian Army, that association continued throughout both World Wars as the Fort and its surrounds were used as a defensive position and a training garrison. The first Allied shots of the First World War were fired when a gun at Fort Nepean fired across the bow of the German freighter Pfalz, as she was attempting to escape to sea.
Following the Second World War the Fort became the home of the Army Command and Staff College in 1947. Since 2002 the Fort has been home to the Directorate of Soldier Career Management Army, marking Queenscliff as the location from which Army manages and develops its most precious resource – its people.
It is clear from this brief history that the size and intensity of Army’s presence at Queenscliff has always reflected the prevailing needs of the wider Defence organisation. Some of you will doubtless recall these varied periods and appreciate that change is the only true constant in our relationship with Queenscliff and the surrounding community. This leads me to one of my most important messages – although Army is moving, Defence is not.
The Defence Support and Reform Group will establish a Defence Archives Centre here and many of the Australian Public Service members who have worked here for Directorate of Soldier Career Management Army will stay on and transfer to the Archives Centre. The RAAF cadets will continue being based here at the Fort, providing mentorship to the town’s youth and a springboard for many of those Cadets for a future career in Defence. The Army History Unit will continue its good work through its small team of Army Reserve personnel, with valuable support from both the Museum Association and the ‘Friends of the Fort’.
Over the past two years Career Management – Army has embarked upon an 82 million dollar reform program, which will culminate in the move of the Directorate of Soldier Career Management to Canberra. As part of this reform all of Army’s career management agencies will be co-located for the first time. It will allow the Director General Career Management – Army to have all of his or her Directorates under the one roof and also be located with the Navy and Air Force career management agencies.
Army is committed to continuous improvement and strategic reform and I am confident that the move of the Directorate of Soldier Career Management to Canberra to work alongside its Officer, Reserve and joint counterparts will enhance Army and Defence capability.
Nevertheless, it is a bittersweet feeling for Army to leave this glorious location. My personal connection with Fort Queenscliff and the wider community is typical of many Army families. I spent three memorable years here as a boy while my father was posted to the Directing Staff of the Staff College in the mid 1960s. In 1992 my own family returned while I was posted here as a staff college student. I fondly recall both periods of life; my memories of the time spent at school in Geelong, joining the Nipper Life Saving Program at Point Lonsdale, and then watching my own family and those of my friends participating in the town’s sporting teams, doing volunteer work and being part of local organisations. These are all particularly vivid.
Army people and their families have truly made Queenscliff and the Greater Geelong area their home. As any officer who attended Staff College will attest, it was a time of great reflection. It provided a wonderful opportunity to develop the strategic thinking and professional networks that are imperative for demanding senior leadership and staff appointments later in their careers. I am personally very grateful for what I gained at that time and in this location.
While this Fort has stood here for the past 130 years as a symbol of this nation’s military strength, the true strength of this Fort has been the community’s support for its garrison. I have no doubt that this strong and proud community will embrace the new staff who will be moving here as part of this change.
To those Army members and their families who are posting to Canberra and elsewhere – I wish you all the best with your upcoming move. To those public servants who have worked here in the Directorate of Soldier Career Management and will transition to the Archives Centre – I wish you every success in your new roles. And to the local community, I say a heartfelt thank you for your unwavering support to Army over the years. The Army may be moving from Fort Queenscliff but Army will always be a part of this historic Fort and its wonderful community.