Address to Graduating Class, Royal Military College Duntroon

28 April 2020

It is a great honour to attend this graduation today. Although our ceremony has been amended from the traditional format, I’m glad to see that the sense of occasion and professional turnout of the graduating class is unchanged.

Much like Anzac Day this year – it is different, reduced in scope, but equally sincere and in many ways, even more special.

I acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land where we meet this morning, the Ngunnawal people, and pay my respects to their elders, past, present and emerging.

I also acknowledge the service our First Nation people have always provided in our Army, and continue to provide today.

I acknowledge and extend a special welcome to fellow service chiefs - I congratulate Chief of Air Force and the Royal Australian Air Force on the achievements of the Battalion Sergeant Major - and the representatives of foreign government, the Commandant, Director of Military Art and Commanding Officer, and the staff, of the Royal Military College.

I appreciate your professionalism and ability to rapidly adapt, to continue to train in a safe and compliant manner, to graduate this class ahead of schedule and to the same high standard. Thank you for your commitment and achievement.

In addition to the graduates of the Australian Army and Australian Air Force, can I especially acknowledge the international members of the Graduating Class - from the Armies of New Zealand, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Fiji, Tonga, Qatar and Papua New Guinea.

In your time here at the College – as cadets, and I also include instructors and staff – you have all represented your respective nations with distinction. We are all richer for what we have learned from you, and stronger for what our deeper partnerships mean for the future.

Your presence affirms our commitment to partner together for a safe and secure region and world.

To all, I acknowledge this is a difficult time for your families, and many families and friends have not been able to attend Graduation. I know how proud they are of you and how much they wish they could be here.

To our Graduates - thank you for choosing to serve your nation, and committing to the responsibilities of leadership in your respective Defence Force. Congratulations on completing this demanding course.

The Australian Army is a proud national institution – and an enduring part of our national story and national fabric. And Duntroon is where we have always grown future Army leaders. Many have gone before you, and many will follow. You are now part of the Duntroon legacy - in this great story, with a strong thread of continuity.

Each course has its own identity. Yours is certainly unique; bushfires, COVID-19, imposing significant restrictions on everyone, accelerating training and Graduation. You will have many stories. This experience typifies the world we are preparing you for as leaders.

It reinforces why our Army needs to continuously adapt; to respond to the rapid pace of change, to always be prepared to do more, to do things differently, and to do new things.

It is why we are an Army in Motion, an Army for the Nation, and an Army in the Community, an Army that is Ready Now, and concurrently ensuring it is Future Ready.

We are ready for a future defined by accelerating and converging change, across military operating domains, sectors of society and the global system. Our concept of Accelerated Warfare aptly describes these realities. Our ability to succeed in this rapidly changing environment requires an operating system that can operate at speed and scale.

Our training system is key to this. I am pleased how this priority focus for our Army has accelerated its transformation through this last couple of months. Well done, you have shown what is possible and have established good momentum. But all systems, equipment and technology require people to harness them.

Of all the things in our Army, of all the things we have and need to do, it is our people who are at the centre of everything. Our people go where they need to be, build connections, provide presence and reassurance, help others, use their creativity, get things done, fight if they need to, make the difference.

Our Army is our people. All ranks, all generations, wherever they are, whatever their job. They have all chosen to serve, to wear our uniform, to commit to something greater than themselves. They are impressive, they are inspiring. And it is our job to lead them.

You are about to receive this most extraordinary privilege - to lead Australian soldiers, or those of your service or nation. They expect and deserve the best leadership, all the time, at every level. You, me, all of us – we all have that responsibility. We all need to lead; together, aligned, consistent. Throughout Army, across the joint force and in partnerships. Leadership can be hard, but immensely satisfying. Remember it is not about you, it is about enabling others.

But to be effective, you need to know and understand yourself – self-awareness and self-leadership is key. If you can’t lead yourself, you seriously can’t expect to lead others. Leadership develops over time – through experience, from learning. I learn every day. Leaders are always learning. Be open minded, listen, read widely, think critically, reflect. Leaders set the tone and establish standards and expectations.

So lead with integrity, purpose and humility. Look after your people. Look after the equipment and resources entrusted to you. Be accountable – to yourself and your own high standards. Always be your best self, always set the example. Bring out the best in your team. Quite simply, live the ethos of Good Soldiering.

Remember leaders lead for everyone and they lead all the time, in good times and in tough times. And in these uncertain times, these challenging times. Leadership has never been more important. And I know you will embrace it with confidence and passion.

So congratulations on your achievement and your appointments as commissioned officers. Your Army warmly welcomes you. I again thank all those who have supported you – through this training and who will support you into the future. Your family, friends, each other. They are no doubt immensely proud of you. I certainly am. I wish you well, as together we serve our Nation, our Army and our people. Good soldiering, lead well.