Opening Address at Chief of Army’s Symposium 2022

15 August 2022

Governor of South Australia, Her Excellency, The Honourable Frances Adamson AC.

Assistant Minister for Defence and Assistant Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, The Honourable Matt Thistlethwaite MP

Premier of South Australia, The Honourable Mr Peter Malinauskas

Uncle Jack Buckskin, who will provide the Welcome to Country, and Aunty Lorraine, Australian Army Indigenous elder.

International Counterparts, Generals, delegations and Members of the SAAG

To my colleagues the service chiefs, Chief Defence Scientist, Professor Tanya Monro, and those from Defence Science and Technology Group

Army’s Generals and senior Defence members

Members of academia and defence industry.


Distinguished guests.

Soldiers of the Australian Army, both here in attendance and joining us online.

A special welcome to members of the Junior and SNCO leaders’ fellowship, whose command and leadership today will help shape the Army of tomorrow.


Thank you Uncle Jack for your warm welcome to country and for your very moving Didgeridoo performance.

It is wonderful to be here on Kaurna land and I pay my respects to Elders past, present and emerging.

I’d like to extend a very warm welcome to our international partners for joining us.

Your presence here demonstrates our strong relationships that play a vital role in securing our region’s stability and prosperity.

Thank you for being here, and for your support in enhancing our shared and common objective a free and open Indo-Pacific region.

Indeed, welcome all to the Chief of Army’s Symposium for 2022.

It is wonderful to be here together again as an Army, thinking about how we engage with the world, team with others, and share ideas on the possibilities of the future.

The Chief of Army Symposium builds upon the exceptional work of the Defence Science and Technology Group, and events such as ADSTAR which was held in Sydney several weeks ago.

Congratulations to Professor Tanya Monro, our Chief Defence Scientist, and all our team mates at Defence Science and Technology Group.

ADSTAR brought together 1,700 people from the research and innovation sector across Australia to share ideas to enhance capability for the Australian Defence Force and our international partners.

This symposium applies Army’s focus on new and emerging technologies to imagine and realise the possibilities of today and tomorrow.

I am particularly grateful for the support of the South Australian government at all levels, Defence SA, and the community of Adelaide – especially the staff here at the Adelaide Convention Centre for accommodating this symposium.

I extend a very warm welcome to all members of academia and defence industry participating in this symposium – especially the speakers from whom we will hear over the following two days of proceedings.

I must remark on what is an exceptional line up on eminent Australian leaders, thinkers and professionals. Thank you all.

It is through your participation and sharing of ideas and perspectives that will help our Army think in new and engaging ways about the possibilities of the future.

I am pleased to see that of the 60 companies participating in this year’s Army Robotic Expo, eight are from South Australia.

Indeed, it is wonderful to be back here in South Australia, where the Australian Defence Force has a significant presence.

More than 6,000 people in South Australia currently serve in the ADF, more than half of which are soldiers from our Army.

Our people represent a broad cross section of Army’s land force, but our health capability in the region is worthy of note.

We raised the 3rd Health Battalion in Adelaide in February this year as part of broader enhancements to the modernisation of Army’s Health Capability.

The raising of this new unit has increased the number of our deployable health teams, and distributed our combat health capability more evenly across the Army and the country.

It harnesses the benefits of our Total Workforce System by creating additional opportunities for South Australia’s skilled and experienced medical professionals to serve in our Army on both a full and a part-time basis.

The investments Army has made in people and health equipment in South Australia have enhanced and diversified Army’s deployable surgical capability, and represent a significant step in our Health Capability becoming Future Ready.

The Changing Character of Warfare

And this brings me to the importance of why being prepared for the future matters.

Warfare is an enduring human endeavour – a fundamental contest of wills fought between nations and people.

The nature of war is enduring.

The ultimate expression of national will is to put our soldiers on the ground among populations and face to face with an enemy.

Our obligation and our purpose is to ensure they can achieve their mission and we can bring them home

In stark contrast to its enduring nature, the character of warfare is constantly changing, and at increasing velocity.

To quote the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, “the pace of change has never been this fast, yet it will never be this slow again”.

Throughout the world, power, geopolitics, technology and populations are accelerating and converging – especially within the Indo-Pacific region where two-thirds of the world’s population reside.

The drivers of change have been exacerbated by the ongoing impact of changes to climate, and an world that is poorer, more disorderly, less predictable, more complex, and frankly, more dangerous.

There was a strategic shock that came with the latest episode of the war in Ukraine – a war that has shown that deterrence can fail, assumptions can be wrong, and events can take on a life of their own.

What is currently unfolding in Ukraine highlights the fragility – and indeed the value – of the rules based order, the willingness of nation states to use military force to achieve their aims.

It has reinforced the enduring human nature of war and the enduring requirement for joint land combat power in contemporary conflict.

Our strategic environment has and will continue to change rapidly.

Our ability to respond must be similarly agile.

Your Army is being asked to do more things, in more places, more of the time – through bushfires, floods, the COVID-19 pandemic, aged care, and rapid deployments to crises in Afghanistan, Solomon Islands and Tonga within the past two years alone.

These highlight our ability to focus on readiness for maintaining contingencies, while being actively engaged in our region both near and far.

Army’s Modernisation

Army brings great capability and much needed capacity to urgent domestic crises when needed, and while not our core business or our sole responsibility.

Your Army will always be there for the communities we serve.

But the fact is this comes at a cost – our readiness today and our future readiness are impacted.

Most acutely, it impacts our ability to build and train for those things that the Joint Force and our Allies and partners rely on us to do – including those that only an Army can do – land combat.

The demands of which are certainly more urgent, more complex, and more consequential than it has been for a long time.

We are transforming to keep pace with the changing character of warfare, to remain technologically relevant and building flexibility into our systems to remain adaptable.

There is a deliberate and productive tension between what we call being Ready Now and Future Ready.

Ready to fight tonight while setting the conditions to ensure we can win tomorrow.

We are constantly adapting, evolving and transforming the ways we generate land power options for the Joint Force.

Modernising our Army to be relevant and credible in relative to our operating environment, the pacing threat, and our allies and partners.

Army’s modernisation includes significant investment in capabilities that will contribute to operational and strategic ranges and the means to respond to strategic uncertainty.

Every part of our army is being transformed to be more connected, protected, lethal and enabled.

To be an Army that makes a significantly greater contribution at the strategic and operational level.

Through long-range fires, littoral manoeuvre, and enhanced capabilities in cyber, space, information, and special operations forces.

An Army that has a scalable, world class combined arms fighting system that gives our people the best probability of mission success in high threat environments.

That gives us the best probability of survival in order to protect populations against aggressor from imposing its will upon them.

And to be better protected, lethal, mobile and connected as is required for this most difficult of tasks.

Our Combined Arms Fighting System will have a new Infantry Fighting Vehicle and a tank at its core, supported by combat reconnaissance vehicles, under armour breaching capability, self-propelled howitzers, attack aviation and C4 systems to leverage best effects.

An Army that is supported by modernised and expanded health, logistics, engineering and aviation capabilities.

Across all of these enhancements are new and emerging technologies that include Robotic and Autonomous Systems, Artificial Intelligence, Uncrewed Aerial Systems, Quantum, and power and energy technologies.

But capability investments are just one part of Army’s modernisation program.

People are our greatest asset and the key to unlocking our potential.

Amid challenges in recruiting and retention of workforce in a highly competitive labour market, we offer a range of initiatives that ensure a sense of purpose, belonging, aligned values, leadership and world class training.

Our value proposition includes a satisfying career that offers professional development, family support, and job flexibility.

But most importantly, we offer a sense of purpose, service, and being part of something greater than one’s self.

We offer the opportunity to serve with the best people united in a common purpose – professionals who are committed and you can trust with your life.

Through our Future Ready Workforce program, have a much-improved ability for people to comfortably move between full or part-time service.

This helps us to attract, develop and retain a skilled and experienced workforce, while giving Army greater options to provide people and more teams, for more missions, more often.

Adapting the way we go about training helps us to produce cognitively agile and professional people for high performance teams that thrive and succeed in demanding operational environments.

The Role of New and Emerging Technologies

Underpinning all aspects of Army’s modernisation are new and emerging technologies

Our Army has and is continuing to invest in Robotic and Autonomous Systems, Artificial Intelligence, Uncrewed Aerial Systems, Quantum, and power and energy technologies, which all enhance or augment new and existing capabilities by adding critical functionality and capacity.

Understanding the application of emerging and disruptive technology is key to being Future Ready.

For an army as modest in size as ours, Robotic and Autonomous Systems helps our Army generate scale, mass, effect and reach across all domains whilst enabling us to remove soldiers from some of the most dangerous tasks.

Human-Machine Teaming partners human intelligence with Robotic and Autonomous Systems to increase our combat mass and effect without the need for growth in our human workforce.

At a time of enduring challenges in recruiting and retention of workforce, these technologies free up human resources for tasks only a human can do – a critical force multiplier and streamlining processes in areas such as logistics, medicine and maintenance.

The land forces we have today are already enhanced by robotic systems with varying levels of autonomy.

Army is already the largest user of Uncrewed Aerial Systems in Australia, with 254 systems in service (comprising 697 aircraft in total), and over 400 commercial off-the-shelf Multi-Rotor UAS currently in use.

Building on the back of the Army Quantum Technology Challenge last year, we are exploring the use and application of quantum sensing, computing and communications, and importantly consideration of counter-measures.

Indeed, we are running a response to create the notion of Quantum Camouflage at this years’ challenge as a direct result of the insights we gained last year.

Of the two participants in this event, one is an Army team from the 10th Light Horse Regiment in Western Australia.

We are also exploring electrification, including the applied use of solar panels and energy harvesting to make our forces more resilient, more efficient, and less dependent on traditional supply chains and reduces supply burden.

Indeed, we have converted a protected vehicle platform to electric drive to fully understand the real world performance and sustainment benefits of electrification; that platform is here at the Army Robotics Expo.

A happy by-product of this development is environmental sustainability.

The Assistant Minister for Defence, The Honourable Matt Thistlethwaite MP, will talk more about this in his address shortly.

Army is doing all this at pace to find the most compelling opportunities to embed emerging technologies into our land projects and programs.

They help us stay ahead of our potential adversaries, maintain technological relevance and maintain a capability edge.

Innovation and Teaming

We are doing all this in a collaborative and innovative way, because productive innovation is fundamental to our future success.

We strive for balance by continually experimenting, adapting, analysing and applying new and emerging technologies.

A good example of this is our Makerspace program, with six hubs stood up for evaluation at Army establishments throughout Australia, and a seventh in train.

This includes one here in South Australia in the Edinburgh defence precinct.

Run for Army by QinetiQ and open to all ranks of Army, Makerspace is supported by Innovation and Experimentation Group that fosters thinking by equipping soldiers with design skills and experience in soldering, fabrication, 3D printing and computer coding.

Soldiers are encouraged and supported by on-site staff to work through problems we are seeking to solve – and they have access to facilities to enable them to conceptualise and develop solutions to the problems they have identified.

A good example of is a soldier who imagined and made a range fixture that enhanced his sighting system to assist his role as a sniper.

Our Army has a lot to offer in helping to share ideas, foster creative thinking, and collaborate at the scientific and application level.

The AUKUS arrangement naturally extends beyond nuclear powered submarine technology, to our extant relationship with the United States and United Kingdom.

For Army, AUKUS will enable us to work closely with our partners in solving shared problems around things such as land-based autonomy of platforms, automation of functions, and AI-assisted decision making.

We have a lot to contribute with our AUKUS partners, especially with the application of Quantum Technology.

AUKUS also gives us the ability to share the great work we have been doing with our Optionally Crewed Combat Vehicles and Leader-Follower 40M technology, as well as facilitating embed positions.

Indeed, Army’s RAS Implementation and Coordination Office in Future Land Warfare Branch is currently hosting a ‘long-look’ embed from the UK Futures Team, and our UK and US counterparts are here at this year’s Army Robotics Expo and US and Canadian counterparts presenting at the Army Quantum Tech Challenge.

Beyond these initiatives, collaborative development helps us to better understand the interoperability needs we all may have in the future.

If we are to be successful, innovation must be an applied endeavour – a verb not a noun, and that we actively leverage the creativity and potential of people.

That is why we have members of our Junior Leader Fellows and Army Senior Fellowship in attendance at this symposium – exposing our people across all ranks to creative and innovative ideas outside our Army with the view of cultivating non-linear thinking.

Engaging broadly with people who bring different perspectives and experiences is part of the philosophy of an Army in Motion.

Teaming with innovative thinkers across the ADF, our allies and partners, with industries large and small, and with academia, helps us to create and engage in a contest of ideas and leverage the possibilities of the future.

Successful innovators think big, start small, and act fast – often finding themselves at the intersection between divergent and converging ideas that help to foster new and creative ways of thinking.

Bringing together innovative thinkers from industries large and small for the applied focus and practical collaboration on new and emerging technologies.

The Army Innovation Day, Army Quantum Technology Challenge, and Army Robotics Expo are incubators to focus thinking and experimentation around Army’s operational challenges of tomorrow.

That is the purpose of this year’s Chief of Army Symposium.


In gathering at this symposium, we are united by a common purpose: to collectively enhance the defence of Australia, advance our national interest, and ensure a more stable and prosperous Indo-Pacific region.

We all have a part to play.

Make yours by opening your minds to the possibilities of the future, engage in the contest of ideas, and think bigger than what our Army is now.

The speakers at this symposium will certainly help us achieve this.

After morning tea, we will hear from Dr Cathy Foley, Australia’s Chief Scientist, on the opportunities that innovation and quantum provide.

We will also hear from Professor Mark Howden, Director of the Institute for Climate, Energy and Disaster Solutions at ANU on the impact of climate change and challenges and opportunities for the future.

Distinguished Professor Genevieve Bell from the School of Cybernetics and 3A Institute at ANU will speak on the future threats and opportunities of technology.

And Professor Caroline McMillen, Chief Scientist from South Australia, on Developing Sovereign capability.

Tomorrow you will hear from myself and the other service chiefs in a lively discussion facilitated by our Chief Defence Science on Defence’s approach to emerging technologies – how we learn by doing, and through partnering and collaboration.

You’ll also hear from Enrico Palermo on space, and the opportunities it offers in the future, Dr Andrew Dowse on the strategic environment and both challenges and possibilities for the future.

And you’ll also hear from Dr Sue Keay, on the possibilities of innovation and robotics in the future.

We are all in for a treat.

Again, thank you for joining me here at this years’ Chief of Army Symposium.

And thank you all for your commitment and contribution.

Good Soldiering.