Opening Address – Chief of Army Symposium 2021

19 April 2021

Acknowledgement of country

Thank you Ian and can I begin by thanking Uncle Desmond and Shania for their very warm welcome to country. It is a special place to be and to feel the power of stories, of connection to country, the connection to this land that we are gathered here on is very special. For an Army of the land, this connection to country is absolutely important for us. On behalf of you all, I acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which we are gathered for this symposium, and pay my respects to their Elders, past, present, and emerging. I would also like to pay my respects to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men and women who have contributed to the defence of Australia in times of peace and war.


I welcome you all to this, the Chief of Army’s Symposium for 2021. It is a distinguished audience, spread across the country, physically and virtually. We all have equities in the land domain and we are all contributors of land power. It is great to be back together, thinking about how we engage with the world and strengthen relationships. It is important to recognise where we are right here in Brisbane. We are particularly grateful for the support of the Queensland government at all levels and by the local community – this includes the staff here at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre and the vibrant defence industry of South East Queensland.

One third of our Army is based here in Queensland – our soldiers and families live in the communities all over this vast state and here in Brisbane. Just yesterday I was at the Run Army event at Gallipoli Barracks in Enoggera, a combined Army community event around fitness, family and, importantly, raising money for Legacy – a vital organisation which has supported the families of veterans since 1923. I congratulate all involved in this powerful initiative and I congratulate all who participated. It was a great day. As a nation and in our Army we must support all efforts to better understand the complexities of life after service so that we can do all that we can to help our people in uniform and beyond. This is true particularly around the issue of suicide in our veterans’ community. What endures is our obligation to ensure we enable our people to serve in a safe and supportive workplace, to build individual and collective resilience, and strengthen our connection with community and support organisations. This is an important time for us to get together.

By being here we demonstrate that as an Army, as industries, and as a scientific community, we are committed to act with unity and purpose in the face of a global pandemic. We are here physically and virtually because we have readily adapted to new ways of collaborating and maintaining momentum in our core business. Later today we will be joined by my counterparts the Chiefs of Army of India, Indonesia, Japan and Singapore – key leaders with whom our partnerships have strengthened over the past 12 months, as we sought to interact more frequently to offset the limitations on travel and the heightened sense of shared challenges. This symposium is about more than just these two days nonetheless. It looks forward – it is about the future, technology, partnerships and our people. In particular, our junior leaders who are the future of our organisation. It pairs neatly with ANZAC Day this weekend, when Army and Australians pause to remember and respect the sacrifice and service of all those who have helped make us who we are today.

This ANZAC Day comes at the end of Australia’s longest war and we pay particular respect to the veterans of that conflict who over 20 years contributed to operations to degrade the capabilities of terrorist groups, contribute to the stability of Afghanistan, including the development of the Afghan Army, and to safeguard Australians. We especially acknowledge the 41 members of our Army who lost their lives in Afghanistan, and the many more who were wounded – physically or mentally. We honour their sacrifice, and the sacrifice and support of our families and those who sustained us during this long campaign. We must learn from and grow stronger from this experience, to always be more capable in the future. Where wrongdoing is identified and proven we will follow due process and act in accordance with Government direction.

As we focus on the future, we are reminded of and guided by the seriousness and unique nature of our profession. So with this in mind as context, it gives me great pleasure to open the Chief of Army’s 2021 Symposium. This symposium aims to bring together government, the Australian Defence Force, academia, industry and our international partners. Our objectives are clear and articulated through Government direction described in the Defence Strategic Update, the Force Structure Plan and Defence Transformation Strategy. Achieving these objectives is a shared endeavour built on partnerships. What we do here in the next two days will strengthen these partnerships.

Your ideas and perspectives help us think beyond where we are today. You help us imagine or indeed, re-imagine the future. We have the brightest and the best involved in this symposium. Leaders in their fields at all levels. I acknowledge in particular, Professor Michelle Simmons, Director of the Centre of Excellence for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology and also the 2017 Australian of the Year. I acknowledge Enrico Palermo the new Head of the Australian Space Agency and the Chief of Defence Force, General Angus Campbell, who will join us this evening. Here, and out there dialled in from the other rooms in the convention centre or listening online are other leaders in their fields. Creative people, committed to strengthening our national security. Industry experts, designers, inventors and scientists. Armoured vehicle commanders, truck drivers, infantry soldiers, cyber operators, educators, helicopter pilots, small team leaders, clerks and all the many other roles in our Army. The activities of this symposium aim to bring these groups together to help us to think about our place in the world and ‘see ourselves’ within the overarching theme of CAS 21 - Army in the region.

Regional Context

The region for Australia is the Indo-Pacific. A region of great opportunity. A connected political, military, economic and social system. A region where each nation has unique and strong sovereignty and common interests and shared challenges. In the face of these challenges, being a good and reliable friend has never been more important. With this in mind, I am delighted to be joined this afternoon by my counterparts from India, Indonesia, Japan and Singapore. Together, along with other partners in the region, our nations seek to contribute to an Indo-Pacific that is stable and prosperous.

We have much to learn from their experiences and world view. Like all Indo-Pacific nations, Australia cannot escape geography, demographics, or history. We live with the reality of a more strategically crowded region. Natural disasters, drugs and arms trafficking, piracy, illegal fishing, conflict and terrorism are additional complications. As armies, we need to work together to contribute to national and collective responses to these challenges. Our cooperation takes many forms. Just last year, soldiers from the Indonesian Army (TNI-AD) worked side by side with ADF and emergency services during the Australian bushfire crisis. This support is indicative of the strong relationship built during exercises, activities and personnel exchanges – including the recently agreed instructor exchange between our own Royal Military College Duntroon and the Indonesian Military Academy, Akmil.

This year is also the 10th anniversary of IKAHAN, the Defence Alumni Association for Indonesia – Australia. IKAHAN was formally launched on 22 March 2011 by General David Hurley and Air Marshal Edy Harjoko after they reunited having been cadets [together] during the early 1970s. IKAHAN has now grown to over 3000 members and continues to enhance our people to people links. Our longstanding relationship with Singapore gets stronger every year and recently marked its 30 year anniversary of training here in Australia, and the substantial Australia-Singapore Military Training Initiative (AMSTI), will only further strengthen and expand this relationship.

We are thankful for the Singaporean aircrews who supported the ADF response to the 2019/20 bushfires and who just last month again stood by ready to support Australian Defence Force responses to the New South Wales floods. We also enjoy a strong collective training relationship with Japan and this year we will resume the company-strength training exercise Southern Jackeroo. We also welcome the increased Japanese Ground Self Defense Force engagement in the region for Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Response (HADR) and capacity building purposes. Australia benefitted from this support during the bushfires as well. The recent establishment of an Australian liaison officer position within the Japanese Ground Component Command is symbolic of the growing strength in the relationship between our armies.

Our partnership with India has also recently been strengthened by the signing of the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership in June last year. This includes sub-agreements to cooperate in the areas of logistic support and technology implementation. As travel restrictions lift we look forward to increasing our military cooperation with India. These bilateral, multilateral and multi-dimensional activities, and the many other initiatives with our Indo-Pacific allies and partners, contribute to a network of regional partners who support each other to be strong, stable and sovereign.

Strategic context – Accelerated Warfare

We need to learn from each other to keep up. Technology, the environment and demographics are interacting with changes in the behaviour of states and groups. These changes are accelerating and armies must be ready to operate across the spectrum of cooperation, competition and conflict, in all domains, up close and at distance. This environment is what our Army calls Accelerated Warfare. In Accelerated Warfare we know our Army will be expected to be more responsive, and do more things in more places, more of the time, and always as part of the Joint force.

Army in Motion

To ready ourselves for this environment we must be informed but not anchored by the past. We always need to be adaptive and evolve. We need to be purposeful, bold and creative. We need to be aligned, part of a bigger Australian Defence Force and national approach. We must be an Army in Motion, an Army that balances and transitions between the present and future in individuals, teams, concepts and equipment. We call this balance ready now and future ready.

Army Objective Force

You see our Army being ready now when it contributes to operations across the world, trains with our partners here and in the region and supports national responses to disasters Army has also gone through a deliberate process of designing, organising and building future land forces to be future ready. Future ready means being more joint and integrated, and more ready and able to upscale or change form in response to the strategic context. The 55 billion dollar investment in land capabilities announced by Government last year is a significant part of this. Together with our people and training system, these capabilities enable the Army to generate the land power contribution to the strategic objectives of Shape, Deter and Respond to defend Australia and its interests.

These capabilities include larger and more capable watercraft, short range air defence and long range fires, Apache helicopters, armoured fighting vehicles, soldier systems and an increasing array of robotic and autonomous systems. Our approach to acquiring new capabilities is to ensure that each contributes to a more connected, protected, lethal, and enabled land force. Capabilities which as part of a bigger system and underpinned by Australian industry enable us to generate land power as a critical and enduring element of military power. This is what Australia expects; that each year their Army in Motion moves forward to respond to the challenges of the future.

The recent announcement by government to acquire AH64 Guardian is an important example of this. This platform is a proven, mature helicopter already in service with allies and partners with a clear path to a future where it operates with unmanned aerial systems. Robotics, autonomy and manned unmanned teaming is an area we are actively exploring and you will see this here at the Army Robotics and Autonomous Systems Exposition. Other technologies such as quantum offer unprecedented capabilities in sensing, imaging, communications and computing.

We must proactively prepare ourselves for when the technical readiness levels mature in defence applications. Right now we are asking how Army fits within, complements and informs emerging national and Defence quantum technology policies and initiatives. You would also know that our Army already contributes to other forms of military power such as space, cyber and information. As the technologies that enable operations in these domains become more available and affordable, the gap closes between well-equipped militaries and the motivated individual or group with a cause.

Therefore, sustaining and maintaining a technological edge over potential adversaries is becoming more challenging. Where we can maintain an edge is in the large scale integration, synchronisation and coordinated employment of new technology, coupled with superior training and decision-making. This is why people must be at the centre of our efforts. Technology is not an advantage in itself. People get technology to work and keep it working in dirty, austere, and contested land environments. People apply technology in new and creative ways. People use technology to make stronger and more capable teams. Collaboration with industry and government experts from outside our organisation helps us see how we can do this better.

For example, during this symposium the Senior Enlisted Conference will welcome Mr Steve Baxter, an ex-Army apprentice, who is also one of Australia’s most successful tech entrepreneurs. He will help our senior enlisted personnel develop an entrepreneurial mindset and lead through change. I welcome these many experts here and look forward to exploring the potential of robotics, autonomy and quantum technologies through the symposium. We are ready to embrace it.


Of course, all of the behaviours that I have talked about that build strong partnerships and create a learning organisation, rely on a culture that is aligned with optimal behaviours. We call this Good Soldiering. Good Soldiering is who we are. We are individuals of good character and sound ethical grounding. We create strong teams who actively include others and bring people together to be effective and achieve their mission. I ask leaders at every level to live and promote Good Soldiering because it is the foundation of capability. This is why I have gathered junior and senior enlisted leaders together as part of CAS 21.

We know that people-focused leaders develop trust, understanding and purpose to bring others together to respond to the challenges in the region. The Junior Leader’s Forum will promote and discuss the kinds of behaviours so vital to successful engagement in our region. The Junior Leaders’ Forum features individuals like Corporal Kee who is leading a section in NORFORCE and driving conversations about good team behaviours at his level. It is people like Corporal Kee who will drive a strong healthy lived experience within our Army. This positive experience gives people space to realise their potential. People enabled to operate at their peak are the foundation of our capability and credibility as a combat force.


We don’t know what the future holds. The challenges will always be present, the solution will always be different. What doesn’t change is the importance of people in those solutions. Whether on operations or making capability decisions here in Australia, our success will depend on teams that are well led and who are accountable for what they do. With them, anything is possible and we can be confident about Army’s future. Welcome again to the Chief of Army Symposium 2021. Thank you for your active participation and for what you do everyday to strengthen our Army, the Australian Defence Force and Australia.