Speech: Royal Military College - Duntroon, Graduation Parade and Commissioning Ceremony

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The Hon Matt Thistlethwaite MP

Assistant Minister for Defence

Assistant Minister for Veterans’ Affairs

Assistant Minister for the Republic

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Ben Leeson on 0404 648 275

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29 June 2022

I begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we meet today, the Ngunnawal people. I pay my respects to their elders, past, present and emerging.

As the Assistant Minister for Defence and Veterans’ Affairs, I also pay my respects to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men and women who have served our nation in the past and continue to do so today.

Good morning ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests.

It is a privilege and a pleasure to be here representing the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence, Richard Marles.

Graduates – you are here today amongst proud parents and loved ones…

Proud friends…

Proud instructors and teachers…

Proud foreign dignitaries…

Proud Australian military and defence leaders…

And I know, in particular, a very proud Lieutenant General Rick Burr for whom this graduation parade and commissioning ceremony will be his last as the Chief of Army.

Graduates – all ninety-four of you have every right to be proud.

For today marks the end of a sustained period of intense learning in the classroom and on the training field.

You graduate today as officers equipped with greater knowledge and new skills which will serve you well as military leaders.

You have sharpened your minds and strengthened your bodies, both of which are needed for the responsibilities of leading in the military.

Ladies and gentlemen, this cohort of graduating cadets speaks volumes not only about the Royal Military College - Duntroon, but also about Australia’s approach to the world.

Amongst this group of newly commissioned officers are nine individuals who hail from overseas:

From New Zealand – our age-old ally across the Tasman…

From Fiji, Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu – some of our dear Pacific Island neighbours…

From Malaysia – one of our close partners in South-East Asia…

And from Iraq – a country where brutal war nonetheless created new bonds of friendship.

The international make-up of our graduates is testimony to the global standing of the Royal Military College - Duntroon.

It’s a one-hundred-and-eleven year-old institution revered by our allies, partners and friends – a training college to which they send their own to receive the finest military education.

But it also says something about our national ethos:

That Australia is a welcoming country, and despite being an island nation, we seek to be engaged with the world around us.

This ethos courses through the veins of the Australian Government.

It is why, under the leadership of Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, we are revitalising our historically deep engagement in the region, especially in the Pacific and in South-East Asia.

It is why we want Australia to take its place in the world with confidence, bringing new energy to our relationships with friends, old and new.

The Royal Military College - Duntroon epitomises Australia’s hospitality, Australia’s curiosity with the world around us, and Australia’s commitment to shaping a better world with others.

Graduates – as you leave here today as officers, I encourage you to keep three things in mind.

First, the need for determination and composure.

Whatever the field, whatever the discipline, leaders require fortitude and poise.

The end of your time as cadets ushers in a period of new challenges as you take your place as officers leading others.

The journey ahead is not a straight path to success. There will be side-road setbacks and difficult detours you will need to navigate.

As people look to you as leaders, proceed with determination in the face of adversity, and maintain composure as you encounter the pressures of circumstance.

Secondly, attend to the views of others and draw on their expertise.

Lead from a position which always affords time and respect to those around you – especially an open mind and an attentive ear to different perspectives.

Military personnel nurtured in the institutions of liberal democracies have an advantage over their counterparts who are forged in the organs of authoritarian regimes:

Ours can speak up freely; ours can offer dissenting points of view.

As leaders, remember that the best decisions rarely come from acting on your own ideas in isolation. Rather, they come from consulting and drawing on the knowledge of those around you and under your command.

Cherish the strength which democratic principles provide in military thinking and military action at the tactical, operational and strategic levels.

Thirdly, be driven by both a contemporary and historical sense of service.

You are graduating at a time when we face the most difficult set of strategic circumstances we have known since the end of the Second World War.

Russia’s contemptable invasion of Ukraine and the ongoing conflict is a warning to us all.

That is why we are seeing nations in our own region – including Australia – taking necessary steps to uphold the rules-based international order, to contribute to an effective balance of military power, and to ensure our region remains stable, peaceful and prosperous.

As we confront these circumstances, much is being asked – and will continue to be asked – of military personnel and you as military leaders.

Particularly as we contend with an array of security challenges.

Be it bushfires, floods, and pandemics…

Humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations…

Or the increasing prevalence of grey-zone activities.

Today, as you graduate as officers, let our times inspire your service, and know that your service will shape our times. 

And never view your service in isolation.

You are the custodians of the service of generations past, just as one day, future generations will become the custodians of yours.

Graduates, one and all, on behalf of the Australian Government, congratulations.


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