Royal United Services Institute of Australia

United Services Institute of the Australian Capital Territory


Wednesday 22 November: 2017 ACT Blamey Oration

On Wednesday 22 November, former United States Army general, best-selling author and founder of the McChrystal Group, Stan McChrystal, delivered the 2017 ACT Blamey Oration at the National Gallery of Australia.

General McChrystal spoke about Leading in Uncertainty, drawing on his experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The 2017 ACT Blamey Oration was proudly sponsored by L3 Communications Australia, the Australian Army, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection and the Department of Defence.


Thursday 26 October

On Thursday 26 October, Dr Tony Murney gave members and guests a personal perspective on Police Development Challenges in Afghanistan and Somalia.  One of the most difficult challenges in post-conflict societies is the establishment of systems to replace the rule of the gun - in other words, the creation of effective policing capabilities.

Dr Tony Murney reflected on his experiences as a United Nations policing advisor in Afghanistan and Somalia. Police development and reform provided the platform for a discussion designed to provide insights for policy analysts, tacticians and strategists, both past and future.

Before working with the UN, Tony Murney was a senior manager in the International Deployment Group of the Australian Federal Police.  You can download his biography here.

(Photo: Murney)

Thursday 5 October

On Thursday 5 October, at R1, the Executive Director of the Australian Civil-Military Centre, Dr Alan Ryan, briefed members and guests about the Centre and spoke about his views on the need for further development in the whole of government arena.

Alan explained how the Centre’s work supports the development of national capability and how the implementation of the national Integrated Approach to operations is a strategic game-changer.

(Photo: USI)

Thursday 21 September

On Thursday 21 September, the Institute's 2017 Annual Members' Dinner, was held at the Commonwealth Club, Yarralumla.

Almost 100 members and guests gathered to enjoy each other's company and hear guest speaker, Ms Kathryn Campbell CSC.  Kathryn had very recently commenced as the Secretary of the Department of Social Services, but spoke about system and data security in her previous appointment as Secretary of the Department of Human Services.  In a fascinating address, she painted a grim picture of the cyber situation and outlined some of the measures the Department has taken in response.  Kathryn's description of the detail of an agency-level response was a perfect complement to Minister Tehan's presentation a few weeks ago on cyber security as seen through the Government's lens.

During the dinner, the Leo Mahony Bursary was presented to Ms Deborah Jeppesen, a doctoral scholar at ANU.  Deborah's research is centred on asking How do Australian Defence Force personnel explain the behaviours they employ in Raise, Train and Assist roles?  In addition to the $5000 Bursary, Deborah received Honorary Membership of USI of the ACT for 12 months and will be invited to address members at one of our regular events through the year.

As ever, we are very grateful to Thales Australia for sponsoring the dinner, Rolls Royce for supporting the Leo Mahony Bursary and the President of the Commonwealth Club for providing access to the Club's wonderful facilities.

Tuesday 22 and Wednesday 23 August

On 22 and 23 August, the Centre for Military and Security Law, supported by the United Services Institute of the ACT, held a Conference that looked at how the Law of the Sea is coping with the pressures that are placed on it in the Asia-Pacific region. The Conference included an opening keynote address from Vice Admiral Tim Barrett, Chief of Navy, who reflected on the importance of the law of the sea for a mariner and practitioner, and also noted the role played by the rules-based order in securing Australia’s prosperity and that of the region. The Conference also included a second keynote address which was delivered by Professor Wolff Heintschel von Heinegg, a leading international authority on the law of the sea, the law of naval warfare and the law of cyber warfare, who identified some of the challenges that are posed by new technologies (including cyber) in the maritime domain.

The Conference consisted of six panels that considered the current relevance of the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, detailed assessment of the 2016 Philippines-China Arbitral Award, and the threats posed to maritime security from the perspective of freedom of navigation, environmental degradation and climate change. The impact of these threats on the operation of navies and coast guards in the region was also a topic of focussed discussion. The concluding panel looked at how existing legal structures could cope with future maritime and security challenges in the region, and in particular how Australia’s responses to these challenges could be adequately met.

Attendance at the Conference was particularly pleasing, with more than 50 registered attendees as well as nearly 30 speakers/chairs. Media interest in the Conference was also evident, with mention of the Conference being held occurring on local radio and in The Canberra Times.

(Photos: CMSL)

Thursday 10 August

On Thursday, 10 August, the Hon. Dan Tehan MP, Minister for Veterans' Affairs, Minister for Defence Personnel, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Cyber Security, and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Centenary of ANZAC, addressed more than 100 members and guests at the Defence College, Weston Creek.

Under Chatham House Rules, the Minister spoke about cyber threats and the challenges of establishing effective cyber security.  His closing observation that cyber issues increasingly encroach on our daily lives was a salutary warning.

(Photo: USI)

Thursday 13 July

On Thursday 13 June 2017, Mr Scott Dewar, First Assistant Secretary International Policy in the Department of Defence, addressed members and guests of the USI on the topic of Defence interests and engagement in South East Asia and the near region

In a well prepared and thought provoking presentation, Mr Dewar provided insight into Defence approaches to the current situation and views on emergent and future challenges that may impact the ADF and Australia. He described the policy challenges associated with growing major power competition across the Western Pacific and how Australia should seek to utilize the instruments of national power, including the ADF, to shape and influence constructive responses to the security challenges within the immediate region. Mr Dewar provided candid responses to a series of thoughtful questions providing the audience with insight and views into Australia's regional security setting. 

(Photo: USI)

Thursday 29 June

On Thursday 29 June, Air Marshall Leo Davies AO, Chief of Air Force, spoke to members and guests at the Defence College about Air Force: the Next Three Years.

Monday 5 June

On Monday 5 June 2017, at the Royal Military College, Duntroon, the Head of Army's Land Capability Division, Major General Kath Toohey CSC, gave a presentation entitled Looking Ahead: the Australian Army out to 2025. In a novel format, General Toohey addressed a combined group of RMC cadets and USI of the ACT members and guests.

In a thought-provoking address, General Toohey emphasised the uncertainty of the future and the dangers of speculation about it.  She went on to canvass three themes: what we know about the future in 2025, what we suspect we know about it, and the "so what". She concluded that while predicting the future might be futile, thinking about it is not.

USI of the ACT gratefully acknowledges the enthusiasm and support of Brigadier Mark Brewer CSC & Bar, the Commandant of the Royal Military College, in developing and presenting this unique event.

(Photo: USI)

11 May

On Thursday 11 May, Commissioner Andrew Colvin APM, OAM, addressed members and guests at the Defence College on Australian Federal Police Operations in the Near Region.  While emphasising that the AFP is, first and foremost, a policing agency, Commissioner Colvin acknowledged the role of what he called "police-led diplomacy". He also noted that, since crime in Australia is increasingly overseas driven or directed, the AFP's approach is to address crime at its source rather than wait for it to get  to Australia.  He described the AFP's overseas operations and missions and spoke at some length about the role of important regional partners such as Indonesia and China. In a frank question and answer session, he canvassed some of the highs and lows of the AFP's international experience over more than a decade. (Photo: USI)

Prior to Commissioner Colvin's address, Colonel Andy Lowe gave members and guests a short presentation on his experience commanding Task Group Taji 3 on operations in the Middle East in late 2016. Speaking informally in the ADC Mess, Andy described vividly the challenges of providing training to an army that operates very differently from our own and touched on some of the lessons learned in the deployment. (Photo: ABC)

Networking in the Mess

3 May

USI of the ACT, in partnership with the Australian Naval Institute, was pleased to present a seminar with two eminent German scholars, Prof Dr Michael Epkenhans and Dr. Gerhard P. Groß.

This seminar was an outstanding opportunity to explore the historical perspectives on the German armed forces in the 20th century.

6 April

On Thursday 6 April, Vice Admiral Tim Barrett AO, CSC, RAN, Chief of Navy, addressed more than 70 members and guests at the Defence College. Speaking about Navy, the next three years, he emphasised that while Navy is undergoing its biggest recapitalisation since World War II, perhaps the more significant challenge will be to make the cultural changes necessary to realise the new capability.  He stressed particularly that old thinking about how to attract, train and retain the people needed for the future force will not be good enough. He also underlined the new importance of Australian industry in the capability continuum, arguing that industry and Navy still need to be better aligned if they are to succeed together. (Photo: Defence)

23 March

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

On Thursday 23 March, at the Defence College, our two 2016 Bursary winners briefed members and guests on their respective projects.   

Mr Cameron Hawker from UNSW Canberra described his work on Australian Prime Ministers and the Australian - American Alliance 1951 - 2001: Crisis Points and Political Decision Making.  He explained that the origins of his thesis lay in claims by the distinguished ANU scholar, Coral Bell, that Prime Minsters are the key figure in alliance policy.   His work tests that proposition in a series of case studies of crises ranging from Holt and LBJ managing the Vietnam War to Howard and Bush in the aftermath of 9/11. You can find the slides for the presentation here.  Cam is about half way through his research.

(Photo: USI)

Major Leon Young, also from UNSW Canberra, spoke about his work on Developing Computational Strategic Thinking Models.  He explained that his motivation was to determine whether strategic thinkers can be made, rather than just found, in an effort to understand where the ADF might put more emphasis in its professional military education programs.  The results of his research raise challenging questions for the Services, particularly in relation to some mid-level ranks.  You can find the slides for his presentation here. Leon has substantially completed his work and at the time of writing is due to submit his thesis imminently.

(Photo: USI)

Both speakers expressed their thanks to Rolls-Royce Australia and the USI of the ACT for their support. We wish them well for the remainder of their studies and for the future.

9 March

On Thursday 9 March, Mr Graham Fletcher, First Assistant Secretary North Asia at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, addressed members and guests at the Defence College on Australia's complex relationship with ChinaIn a comprehensive presentation, Graham sketched the interests of both partners and canvassed the surprisingly wide range of activities that comprise the relationship.  He provided a frank personal perspective on how the relationship works in practice, and his very pragmatic approach was much appreciated by the audience.

(Photo: USI)

Prior to Graham's presentation, Group Captain Pete Mitchell DSC, OAM gave a short account of his experiences commanding 75 Squadron RAAF on operations in the Middle East in 2015. Speaking informally in the ADC Mess, Pete described vividly a day of flying operations during the tour and touched on some of the lessons learned in the deployment.  He placed particular emphasis on the quality and capacity of the young men and women under his command.  

(Photo: RAAF)

23 February

On Thursday 23 February, Professor Clive Williams MG from ANU sketched the complex environment that is the Battle for Mosul for around 80 members and guests of USI of the ACT at the Defence College, Weston Creek.

Clive outlined the strategic setting and the operational plan, then talked through many of the tactical challenges confronting the Iraqi security forces and their allies. His thought-provoking analysis, including a range of lessons learned, sparked a wide range of questions.  You can find an edited version of his slides here.

Clive is a regular contributor as guest speaker and we continue to value his insights.

(Photo: USI)

9 February

On 9 February 2017, Dr John Blaxland spoke about Australia & Regional Security: The Challenge of being an Indo-Pacific Middle Power in the Age of Trump.  You can find the slides for the presentation here.

In a wide ranging presentation, John sketched the variety of security challenges confronting Australia in the Trump era.  He likened Australia's dilemma to walking a tightrope while balancing on the one hand its economic relationship with China and on the other its security relationship with the United States.  He argued in part that the 2016 Defence White paper's emphasis on a rules-based global order is misplaced, and that Australia should instead re-focus on its more immediate region. 

This presentation was the first in a series exploring Australia's security in the region through a variety of lenses.  Dr Blaxland's introduction set the scene for a number of policy practitioners who will follow later in the year.

(Photo: USI)

Contact details:
USI of the ACT is located in Canberra. For further information please contact:

Secretary USI of the ACT Inc.
CP3-1-157 Campbell Park Office


Mail address: 
Australia Post Mail to:
CP3-1-157 PO Box 7912 CANBERRA BC ACT 2610

Membership and Treasurer enquiries:

Tel: 0410 496 721


ABN: 69 739 962 119

L3 Logo

L3 generously supports the ACT Blamey Oration. L3 develops advanced defence technologies and commercial solutions in pilot training, aviation security, night vision and EO/IR.

Home Affairs generously supports the Blamey Oration.

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software