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The Hon Andrew Hastie MP
Assistant Minister for Defence
Ella Kenny 0437 702 111
24 February 2022
Thank you, Wing Commander Taylor.
Good evening to all the Cadets. And congratulations.
It is an honour to be here for your parade tonight.
More than one hundred of you are graduating.
You should be proud of your achievements because you’re graduating from the best youth development and military service program in Australia.
And I commend you all the more for doing so during this pandemic.
You’ve kept yourselves and your friends motivated despite testing times.
Cadets are a vital part of Defence’s contribution to building Australia’s future leaders.
The Cadet Program builds character. You learn and practice virtues like courage, initiative, teamwork and integrity.
It gives you skills that will prepare to meet future life and career goals—whatever they might be in the ADF or in civilian life.
As you know, we teach cadets Defence customs, traditions and values.
This is important, as cadet service increases the likelihood of young people joining the ADF or commit to other forms of service to their community.
The good news is that ADF Cadet numbers have increased by 9 per cent over the last four years. As ADM and former cadet, I want to see this upward trend continue.
Tonight I want impress upon you all the importance of cadet service for our local community, for our state, and for our nation.
I was a cadet for five years.
They were good times. I learned a lot, mostly from the times that I failed.
I think back to 1998, when I failed my Adventure Training Award. Some of you might have completed it. We did ours at Singleton Range in northern NSW. Lots of navigation, bushcraft. Not much sleep, or food. It was tough. And I failed.
I wasn’t well prepared, I wasn’t confident at my navigation and I was still learning the basics of small team leadership. I didn’t deserve the award, although I was heartbroken at the time.
It was the first time in my life—as a fifteen year old—where I had put my heart and soul into a week of tough activity and I’d failed to complete the mission. It was also the first time where I had a group of peers, in the bush, looking to me for leadership. It was overwhelming.
But I used this failure to grow. I learned the importance of preparation—especially in sport where I was training a lot at the time. Attention to detail matters. And you only learn this the hard way—sometimes through failure.
This failure gave me an even stronger desire to go further in the Army – where I served from 2003 to 2015.
The lessons you learn in cadets carry through the rest of your life. They give you a firm foundation upon which to take on greater challenges.
Cadets took me to ADFA, Duntroon, 2nd Cavalry Regiment and then the SASR.
My failure in 1998 prepared me for one of the biggest challenges of my life in 2010 at SASR selection.
There was a moment that has stayed with me since.
It was about day 14, the end of happy wanderer in the Stirling Ranges. I’d just completed about 150 kilometers on my own with 30-40 kilograms of gear, through tough mountainous terrain.
Mists, rain and isolation. My feet were oozing fluid from my blisters. Big deep blisters.
We were back at Bindoon. We’d just been divided into small teams of about ten people, getting ready for lucky dip—the final phase where your teamwork and leadership is tested without much sleep and food.
It was about 2 am. Dark. My team was seated against a dirt wall in the Bindoon Afghan village. We were dosing off, exhausted, self-preservation was our primary instinct.
An instructor came over and asked: who is the team leader? who is in command?
There was a pause. No one had been assigned that task. Generally, when you’re exhausted—you just want to look after yourself.
But at that moment, I had a strong instinct to lead. A primal instinct.
I said: me, candidate 10. For that I got a torch light in the face and further instructions from the directing staff.
Off we went for another 5 days of pain.
For me, that was the moment that I realised that vocationally I was a leader—in the military and now in politics.
I felt free in a position of leadership. That didn’t just happen. It was because of my training, mentoring and opportunities in cadets and the ADF. It was a long way from the 15 year old cadet in 1998, at Singleton Range, unsure of himself and definitely afraid to lead others.
That’s the power of cadets and military service. Our defence institutions train and produce leaders. They can take a nervous teenager and transform them into a leader.
But cadets and the ADF isn’t just a vehicle for self-realisation, although it certainly grows us as people.
It’s a way of serving Australia. Of protecting it, helping our neighbours in the region and ensuring that we remain a free and democratic people. It’s not about you or me. It’s about all of us, our country.
And we need you to keep leading, hopefully not just as cadets but as members of the ADF.
We are living in a dangerous world right now.
China and Russia are flexing their muscles.
Taiwan, a small democracy like us, is under constant pressure from the Chinese military.
President Biden today ordered the evacuation of the US Embassy in the Ukraine.
We don’t know what the Russians are intending but it's a dangerous situation.
We can’t take anything for granted today. The world looks very different to five years ago.
That’s why we are investing in the ADF, in our future leaders.
We want peace and for that we need to be strong.
Our military serves a vital role across Australian society, whether during conflict, humanitarian assistance, pandemic, flood, or fire.
But the ADF’s core business will always be the application of lethal force in the defence of our values, our sovereignty and our interests.
We should never forget that.
So to the Cadets today– congratulations.
Continue to lead by example in the service of our nation.
I am proud of you.
Your families are proud of you.
Defence is proud of you.
And your country is proud of you.
Keep working hard and never give up.
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