Your Excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.
I am very pleased to host this evening’s reception to launch the 2011 Civil-Military Affairs Conference on “Enhancing the Protection of Civilians in Peace Operations: From Policy to Practice.”
The Civil-Military Affairs Conference, or CMAC, is the new flagship event for the Asia Pacific Civil-Military Centre of Excellence.
Under the leadership of Major-General Mike Smith AO, the Centre’s Executive Director, with the hard work of his team, and with the full participation of all of you, I have no doubt the event will be a great success and will lead to better understanding, strengthened relationships and more effective work.
Most of you would be familiar with the work of the Centre, but for those of you who aren’t, I would like to take a minute to say a few words about the Centre, which sits within my portfolio responsibility.
The Centre was an Australian Labor Party election commitment in the 2007 federal election, and opened its doors for business in 2008.
I want to acknowledge here the work of my colleague the Hon Dr Mike Kelly, who following a distinguished career in the Australian Army became a Member of Parliament, whose tireless advocacy and work played a major role in getting the Centre established in Queanbeyan.
The Centre is a “whole-of-government” initiative, with representation from Defence, Foreign Affairs, the Australian Federal Police, the Australian Agency for International Development, and the Attorney-General’s Department.
Recognising that the policy area in which we operate is more than “whole of government”, the Centre also has a representative from the Australian Council for International Development (ACFID), the peak body for NGOs in Australia.
The Centre is a pioneering enterprise. It fills a unique and critical gap in the conflict and disaster management policy field in Australia.
Its mission is to support the development of our national civil-military capabilities to prevent, prepare for and respond more effectively to conflicts and disasters overseas.
I’m confident that the Centre will greatly improve Australia’s capacity to respond to such events.
I want to make clear my commitment and the government’s commitment to supporting the Centre over the coming years.
To carry out its mission, the Centre engages with, and supports, government departments and agencies, non-government organisations and international partners, including the United Nations, on civil-military issues to achieve focused outcomes for the region and globally.
The Centre’s six programs deliver outcomes through the development of civil-military training, education and doctrine, through research and lessons learned, and through international engagement.
The Centre’s staff will be available throughout the Conference to tell you more about the Centre’s programs and work.
I also encourage you to have a look at the Centre’s website, links for which you will see on the material you receive upon registration tomorrow morning.
I would like to wish you the best of luck for what promises to be a most stimulating and thought-provoking conference and I look forward to seeing you all again on Thursday for the closing session.