Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies Australia


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Our 2019 speaker program is proudly sponsored by:

Thursday 28 November: Christmas Drinks

The Council held the Institute's Annual Christmas Drinks, at the Officers Mess of the Royal Military College, Duntroon, from 1700-1900 hours on Thursday 28 November 2019.

This event provided an opportunity for members and guests to network in a relaxed social setting while marking the close of a successful 2019 program and looking forward to an exciting 2020.

Tickets were once again just $10 per head.  This price includes snacks and drinks. 

In the order of 50 plus guests attended in the atmospheric rooms of the Duntroon Officers Mess, marking the end of another great USI year!

The USI of the ACT speaker program is proudly sponsored by PwC

Tuesday 12 November:  2019 ACT Blamey Oration

Our 2019 ACT Blamey Orator was former Chief of Defence of the Netherlands, General Peter Van Uhm AO, whose topic was In a faster changing world, we need the right leadership. GEN Van Uhm provided clear examples of the speed at which contemporary events are moving and suggested key leadership traits that are needed to enable governments and defence forces to survive and thrive. You can view the Oration here.

USI of the ACT photos of the event are available here; to download, use the code 6716.  City News social snaps can be found here.

The 2019 ACT Blamey Oration was proudly sponsored by L3Harris, PwC, the Department of Home Affairs and the Department of Defence.


Thursday 17 October

Our October speaker was the New Zealand High Commissioner to Australia, Hon Dame Annette King, who spoke on Christchurch - the Aftermath.  Her Excellency provided a range of insights into the challenges presented by the Christchurch mosque attacks and how New Zealand has responded. In question time, she ranged broadly and candidly across New Zealand issues and the bilateral relationship with Australia.

(Photo: USI; bio NZ High Commission)

Thursday 19 September: Annual Members' Dinner

Our Annual Members' Dinner was held at the Commonwealth Club, Yarralumla, on Thursday 19 September. More than 100 members and guests gathered in the Club's delightful surroundings to enjoy fellowship and hear guest speaker  Dr Paul Taloni PSM, Acting Director-General National Intelligence.

Dr Taloni regaled the audience with an entertaining but highly thought-provoking address about the pace of technology change.

During the dinner, the 2019 Leo Mahony Bursary was presented to Mr Sasha Vukoja, who is a doctoral scholar at ANU's Strategic and Defence Studies Centre. Sasha's work is entitled The development of self-reliance within the ANZUS alliance in Australian strategic policy between 1959 and 1989.  While the title suggests an historical focus, the emphasis is on drawing insights for contemporary policy-makers.

City News photographs are available at 

Photographs taken by USI's photographer will be available shortly.

The Council wishes to acknowledge the generous support of Thales Australia in sponsoring the Annual Members' Dinner again in 2019.

(Photo and bio: ONI)

Thursday 29 August

Our August speaker was the Chief of Navy, Vice Admiral Michael Noonan AO, RAN, who spoke about his priorities and the Navy's strategic plan. VADM Noonan said that while this is an exciting time for Navy, the scale and scope of change also make it a very important time for both the Navy itself and Australia more broadly. He emphasised the central importance of people and sketched a requirement for continuing growth in the Navy's numbers. You can find an 'as prepared' transcript of the address here: please check against delivery.

(Photo and bio: Defence)

Thursday 11 July

On Thursday 11 July, Deputy Secretary Estate and Infrastructure, Mr Steve Grzeskowiak, spoke about the contribution of estate and infrastructure to defence capability. You can find his slides here. He began by describing the size of the business of supporting Defence – an asset base of $63 billion (replacement value); an annual budget of over $5b; and a staff of nearly 1800 people. He noted that the recent Defence White Paper and the First Principles Review have increased the focus on the critical support and enabling functions, and provided a basis for Defence to rationalise the Defence Estate over time by closing and disposing of land holdings which become surplus to requirements.

Steve went on to describe the way Estate and Infrastructure Group is supporting the United States Force Posture Initiative in Northern Australia through providing airfield upgrades, bulk fuel storage facilities, base support upgrades, physical fitness facilities and messes, upgrades to training areas and ranges, among other projects and activities. In a similar vein, he outlined the extent and scope of the Australia-Singapore Military Training Initiative, and the work involved in upgrading and modernising the ADF’s vast network of training areas and ranges.  Finally, he described the real impact the work of E&I Group has in regional Australia through its support of small and medium sized local businesses in gaining work for Defence.

(Photo: USI;  Bio: Defence)

Thursday 13 June

On Thursday 13 June, members and guests were treated to a thought-provoking panel discussion on the contribution of Australian industry to Defence capability.  The panel was chaired by USI Council member, Jacinta Carroll, and comprised Mr Nic Stuart from The Canberra Times, Ms Kate Louis from the Australian Industry Group, and Mr Peter Chesworth from the Department of Defence.

Peter opened, noting the critical ongoing contribution of Australian industry to defence capability, but stressing the importance of looking for technological innovation beyond just ‘cutting steel’. He went on to outline the Government’s vision for a deep industrial base that could support the ADF not just in acquisition but in the essential function of sustainment. Kate emphasised the need for a true partnership between Defence and industry in which each understood the needs of the other.  She illustrated by observing that, for industry, timeframes for projects were critical to enable business investment and planning, and to allow smaller startups to have the opportunity to contribute into the defence space. She also called on stakeholders to look beyond traditional defence industry and ‘weaponise’ other parts of the Australian industrial base. Nic played a classic media role, questioning the assumptions behind government policy and actions. He asked whether Australians should pay to support the development of Australian industry through the Defence enterprise, or whether it would be better to focus on delivering defence capability in the most effective and efficient manner available.  He lamented that, while the enduring media image of Defence would continue to be ships and planes, this didn’t necessarily enhance public debate on Defence spending and the role of Australian industry. An engaging facilitated discussion with members and guests ensued.

(Photo: USI; Bios: Carroll, ANU; Stuart, LinkedIn; Louis, Australian Industry Group; Chesworth, Defence)

Thursday 9 Mayay 9 May 2019

On Thursday 9 May, members and guest were treated to a series of reflections by Chief of Air Force,  AM Leo Davies AO, CSC. Ranging broadly over a career spanning almost 40 years and beyond, AM Davies first recalled the moment he realised that he wanted to be a pilot and the somewhat circuitous route he took to achieve that goal. He went on to talk about his experiences in command at a range of levels, the criticality of the capability development process and the importance of Australia's defence relationship with the United States. He welcomed the addition of a second two star in Air Force Headquarters to focus on capability development, an innovation that he felt would have simplified his time as Deputy Chief. And in touching on his tenure as Chief, he remembered warmly his experience of Senate Estimates and his dealings with politicians more generally. While several themes emerged, perhaps the most important was the centrality of relationships. AM Davies and his wife, Rhonda, have been strong supporters of USI of the ACT, and we wish them well for whatever the future might hold.

(Photo: USI; Bio: Defence)

Thursday 11 April

On Thursday 11 April, our 2018 Leo Mahony Bursary winner, Ms Natalie Sambhiprovided members and guests with an outline of her work examining how East Timor’s 25 years as an Indonesian province is perceived in the Indonesian military (TNI). Natalie provided a fascinating overview of her research, including interviews with former serving members of TNI, observing that veterans saw their involvement in East Timor as one of liberation and assistance, with the eventual “loss” of the province explained as a consequence of political mistakes, international intervention, and the East Timorese not fully appreciating all the good the TNI had done. Natalie noted that East Timor was not taught much at Indonesia’s military academies, although it had been the subject of autobiographies by some well-known veterans, and this perspective largely formed the basis of the “collective memory” of East Timor, rather than the internationally-accepted understanding of the story of East Timor’s independence. The presentation provided a remarkable insight into an issue that is close to many Australians, while also providing a timely reminder on how this aspect of the bilateral relationship is seen by senior and influential figures in Indonesia.

The Leo Mahony Bursary is a significant element of the USI program. It is awarded annually to a doctoral scholar enrolled in an ACT university and studying in the field of national security and defence. It commemorates the memory and service of founding National Secretary of RUSI-A and long-time USI member and Counsellor, Mr Leo Mahony.

(Photo: USI; Bio: ANU)

USI of the ACT provides the Leo Mahony Bursary with the support of Rolls Royce.

Thursday 21 March

On Thursday 21 March, the Commandant of the Royal Military College of Australia, Brigadier Rupert Hoskin AM, spoke about a new body of Army work on leadership.

Noting that Army's approach to leadership is already very mature, Brigadier Hoskin observed that, in a changing world, even highly successful models must be constantly tested and enhanced if they are to remain relevant.  He described how the Chief of Army has appointed the Commandant of RMC-A as Director Army Leadership and tasked him to review the Army's leadership development model, baseline its current effectiveness, benchmark its approach against other military and civilian organisations, and implement whatever measures are required to maintain excellence.  He went on to  outline progress to date, before engaging in a robust discussion with members and guests.

(Bio: Hoskin; Photo: USI)

Thursday 7 February

Our 2019 program was opened on Thursday 7 February by the Vice Chief of the Defence Force, Vice Admiral David Johnston AO, RAN. VADM Johnston began by describing the future challenges the ADF might need to face and for which it must therefore be designed. He also stressed that in addition to the traditional environments of sea, land and air, the ADF will need to be prepared to fight in the space and cyber domains.  He described the ADF as a remarkable force with potent capabilities, but noted that expectations of it have also grown. He spoke briefly about his own role in capability development as force designer and force integrator, before touching on some of the areas in which he feels further work is needed, particularly on enablers. He concluded by underlining the importance of industry, noting the genuine strides that have been taken towards establishing industry as a true partner.

(Photo: USI;  Bio: Defence)

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