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From the President

Extract from the President's Address - RUSI NSW Christmas Lunch 2023

Welcome to our 2023 Christmas Lunch which heralds the end of what has been a busy and most rewarding year for RUSI NSW.

What I would like to do in this short address is to acknowledge some of the achievements of the past year, reflect on where we are at present and look at the opportunities for RUSI NSW in 2024.

First let me mention, with gratitude, the efforts of recent past presidents, and I'm sure you will join with me in conveying to Davd Leece and his wife Priscilla, who are usual regular attenders at this event, and who have had so much to contend with this past year, our heartfelt best wishes for David's speedy recovery, as he completes the last of his 30 chemotherapy seasons at the end of this month. David is an inspiration to us all and, for me, a valued mentor. We wish him well.

Can I also note, and extend our thanks to Paul Irving, who recently stood down from the Board as our immediate past president, but who can be found most days, probably more than Kaaren would like, at the Ursula Davidson Library, hosting visitors, managing the library, and liaising with Anzac Memorial staff, in addition I might add to his responsibilities as President of RUSI - Australia.

Finally, I would like to acknowledge the efforts of our new immediate past president, Michael Hough, and indeed the efforts of all our Board members who together have overseen what I consider was a very successful year for RUSI NSW.

One of the highlights was the Fourth International Dialogue on "Managing Strategic Tensions in the Indo Pacific", that was held in May at the NSW Parliament House Auditorium. It attracted a quality program of speakers including the Assistant Minister for Defence who delivered the Blamey Oration and was attended by a good mix of serving ADF personnel and RUSI NSW members. For organising this event, and for the constant high quality of our monthly lecture and seminar series across the year, which mainly explored the implications of both the AUKUS agreement and more recently the Defence Strategic Review, I must acknowledge the outstanding work of Ron Lyons and his events committee. Also worthy of special mention is the growth over the year of our “"avelin" monograph series – ably led by Board member Diana Figgis, who in her first year of editing has seen 11 monographs of exceptional quality, posted and available online on our website.

Another satisfying feature of this year's activities has been the strong support that we continue to receive from our Patron, Her Excellency the Governor of NSW, the Hon Margaret Beazley, who opened our International Dialogue, and hosted an afternoon tea reception at Government House in August this year, commemorating RUSI NSW's 135th birthday. Equally satisfying is the support given by our Vice Patrons- the RAN Fleet Commander; the Army Forces Commander; Commander 2nd Division, the RAAF Air Commander, and the CEO of Thales Australia and New Zealand. One significant outgrowth from this patronage was the agreement reached between RUSI NSW and the Royal Australian Navy, to enable the award of achievement prizes to the top graduates of the new RAN officer employment classification courses being conducted at HMAS Watson by the Military Intelligence Officers Wing. A senior RUSI NSW representative attended the first two graduation events conducted earlier this year, and, as I speak, Chris Skinner and Michael Flynn are attending the third such event being held at HMAS Watson today.

The final project I should mention is Michael Hough's initiative to explore the possibility of RUSI NSW partnering with the Universities of Newcastle and Wollongong, to set up a consortium aimed at providing a capability to address current issues and challenges of those serving in the ADF. We have made a promising start, and we are developing a relationship with the RAAF Air Command's Directorate of Innovation and Improvement. This project is in its formative stage but is a very significant one in its implications and I am very thankful that Michael Hough has agreed to continue to 'drive' this project on behalf of RUSI NSW.

Let me now say something of the present. In preparing my remarks for today, I again had occasion to listen to the recent address given by retired MAJGEN Duncan Lewis, delivered at a dinner organised by ACT RUSI; a recording of which is in our video library, on the RUSI NSW website . It's an outstanding presentation from an accomplished retired Australian Army Officer; former Special Operations Commander Australia, National Security Adviser, Secretary of the Department of Defence, Director General of ASIO and distinguished diplomat, and If you haven't yet had the opportunity to listen to it, it is well worth your time, and I would encourage you to do so.

He talks of five challenges facing Australia in an uncertain and fractured world and makes the point that the creation of awareness of Defence and Security matters in the public arena, always important, is particularly important at this time and that anything RUSI can do to generate discussion and awareness is very worthwhile. It's sobering to be reminded that what we are doing, and what we have done in NSW for over 135 years, is important. Informing the National debate on Defence and Security issues is what we are about and what we aim to achieve though our magnificent library, our challenging lectures and seminars and informative publications. And we should not underestimate our reach.

It is pleasing to see recent regular attendances of some 50 people at our lunchtime lectures, but through our national magazine, our newsletter, and our social media platforms, which we track, it is clear that we reach many thousands more. Our online presence continues to grow, and we have a significant and increasing international audience, although sobering to observe that a large part of that audience resides in China, which, along with Australia and the USA, regularly appears on our list of top 4 countries visiting our web pages. The fourth spot is usually contested by Germany, India, and Great Britain.

The other gratifying observation that I want to make is that we are blessed in RUSI NSW to have such a brilliant, dedicated and committed team supporting all that we do: our Board members, Jim Braid and Ian Mitchell who look after membership, David Toose our Treasurer, John Howells Board secretary, webmaster, video producer, cameraman, film editor and director, all rolled into one, Chris Skinner chair of our innovation committee and David Deasey assisting Ron Lyons, vice president and chair of our events committee, Diana Figgis, editor of our Javelin series, who I have already mentioned, and Joe Mathews editor of United Service, which is now our national magazine, Alan Smith, our office manager, Ken Broadhead, former board member, who is with us today, and who looks after our maps, and all our other library volunteers, managed by Paul Irving, wearing yet another hat as our Library Manager, our part time librarians, Theo Fox and Carrol Miller, and the knowledgeable members of our very active and vibrant Strategy Special Interest Group, co-ordinated by David Leece, and standing in for him this month, Ian Wolfe. And I can't not mention the history making event, the most welcome election of Theo Fox, the first woman Vice President of RUSI NSW. Theo is a powerhouse for RUSI NSW, the person responsible for our monthly newsletter and someone who richly deserves this history making appointment.

I'm humbled to be elected as the President of such a talented group of people.

Now a few words about where we are looking to go as the new year unfolds and beyond.

We are currently locking in what we hope will be another highly successful, relevant and thought- provoking series of monthly lectures. We kick off next year with our usual historical lecture in January, this year a presentation on Field Marshal Sir Thomas Blamey, to be delivered by his grandson, and thereafter we have an array of quality speakers lined up, including Associate Professor Adam Lockyer, Associate Professor in Strategic Studies at Macquarie University, who will discuss where the Defence Strategic Review fits in with the new era of great power politics in the Pacific; Professor Peter Dean, one of the architects of the Defence Strategic Review, and the Ukrainian Ambassador, who has accepted our invitation to speak in June. We also want to invite speakers to allow us to look more deeply at the outcome of the Naval Fleet Review.

We are planning a number of extended lunchtime lectures to explore important issues in greater detail. In May, we hope to host a presentation and panel discussion, with the Inspector General of the ADF, Jim Gaynor, and others involved in investigating War Crimes in the Ukraine, to explore the rights and duties of armed forces personnel in peacetime and wartime: looking at the quandary of policy and practice, asking the question: how do you fight a war in a built-up area occupied by a civilian population that cannot be evacuated in advance? The very quandary the Israeli Defence Force is currently confronting. Then, in August, another extended monthly lecture, or series of lectures, is being planned to consider another significant issue for the ADF, informed by our analysis of the Defence Strategic Review, concerning the significant shortfall in defence personnel and how we might go about closing that personnel gap. Looking at mobilisation and what that might entail, and asking the question whether the traditional conscription model, a solution advocated by RUSI in its submission to the Defence Strategic Review, is a realistic option in Australia. We hope to look at what other countries do, what it would cost, and whether it works, and if there is a conscription model that will work in Australia.

In 2025 we are looking to host the Fifth International Defence and Security Dialogue.

We will continue to progress the Universities consortium initiative, continue to work towards introducing a new office management database solution to improve our office systems and our communications with the membership, and offering that back of office system to support other RUSIs across Australia. It is also my intention to continue to work with RUSI Australia to explore ways to promote nationwide RUSI membership with reciprocal access to other RUSIs, so that, for example, a serving member who joins in, say, South Australia, can have seamless access to RUSI facilities and programs in all states, no matter where he or she might be posted in Australia. An important factor for active current serving defence members considering joining RUSI.

Let me close by noting that next year is also the 90th Anniversary of the opening of the Anzac Memorial, we have already had discussions with memorial staff, and we will be supporting and participating in the 90th Anniversary celebrations and activities through the year. One of the initiatives already bearing fruit from those discussions will see RUSI NSW events broadcast more widely, being advertised online by the Department of Veterans' Affairs and the ANZAC Memorial on their websites as part of their communication strategy.

A lot of good planning is already underway, and we look forward to another rewarding year for RUSI NSW. Thank you for your attendance here today and on behalf of the Board I wish each and every one of you a joyous and happy Christmas and I hope to see you all again in the New Year at one of our RUSI events.

Kim Turner
President RUSI NSW
December 2023


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