Admiral Johnston Speaks at Command Change Ceremony

Department of Defence

Good morning all and thank you for coming out and joining us. To General Campbell, Stephanie, Secretaries it is wonderful to have you here. To distinguished guests, Defence colleagues, members of the Service Attaché, and particularly family and friends.

I am grateful to be joined by so many current and former-serving ADF personnel, most particularly previous Chiefs of the Defence Force, his Excellency General David Hurley, AC, DSC (Retd) and Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin, AC (Retd) both of which I had the pleasure to serve.

This week, we are also celebrating NAIDOC Week, where we recognise the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. During this special week, my thanks to the Bungaree Indigenous Dance Group, who we've seen this morning, who have come from across Australia to mark this occasion. And I also welcome the attendance of our Ngunnawal elders, Aunty Serena, Violet and Lorraine.

I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we meet, the Ngunnawal people. I pay my respects to their elders past, present and emerging. I also acknowledge the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men and women who have served, and continue to serve, our nation with great distinction.

I thank Able Seaman Kieryn Nieves for today's Acknowledgement of Country.

Our role in defending the nation is strengthened by all who have a connection to country.

It is my great privilege to lead the Australian Defence Force. Our people, serve Australia from home and afar, every day, with such great pride and dedication.

I am extremely proud of the men and women of the ADF. Our people are fundamental to all we can and must achieve, you are our capability.

I also recognise that for some of our people, service can come at an enduring mental and physical cost.

Along with the senior leadership team at the Department, I am fully committed to prioritising programs that foster a culture that prioritises wellbeing so our people can serve well, live well and age well.

I will serve as your Chief by our values and watchwords of Service, Courage, Respect, Integrity and Excellence.

I look forward to working with each and every one of you, and our Australian Public Service colleagues.

As I start my tenure, I pay tribute to the individual that shouldered this responsibility so admirably over the last six years.

General Campbell commanded the ADF through a period of significant domestic, regional and global events.

Under his command, we have seen the largest deployment of the ADF in contemporary times during domestic support and the first ever 'Call Out' of the Reserve Force.

General Campbell led the shift in operational emphasis to our region and built individual and institutional relationships to enhance our security cooperation with regional partners. He is deservedly held in high regard by senior leaders around the world.

He demonstrated a determined focus on building a better ADF that is 'trusted to defend', respectful of its people, and more capable in operations.

I am especially grateful to him for his personal example and demonstration of leadership.

I also thank Stephanie, Ben and Emily for their unwavering support to your dad.

The family, who often come second to the needs of the country, shares the demands and expectations of this role.

I also extend my heartfelt gratitude for the service of the retiring Chiefs: Greg Bilton, John Frewen and Gavin Reynolds and acknowledge their significant contributions to the ADF.

From a childhood that my wife describes as 'messing about in boats', I have lived all my adult life serving in the ADF.

My career started at sea, learning the naval profession across the Indo-Pacific and Asia. This experience greatly aids my understanding of our history and role in the region.

I have benefitted from senior operational roles, in the Joint Force as well as interagency appointments that have engaged the ADF at home and across the globe.

I have witnessed the extraordinary contribution ADF members make in war like operations, peacekeeping, in protecting our border and engaging with our partners.

Most importantly, through my career I greatly benefited from the wisdom, experience, friendship and support of people of all ranks, Services and our Department colleagues.

They taught me the importance of leading, but also the necessity of listening. Their examples of selfless service, and always acting respectfully and with humility will guide me in my duties.

The ADF is an organisation that I greatly respect. From when we start our careers, our purpose, identity and role is clear.

Defence provides a unique opportunity for multiple career paths, where what we do matters, whichever path you take.

I have enjoyed the many experiences that my career has provided and want that to be the experience of everyone.

It has been well stated that we find ourselves in increasingly challenging strategic circumstances. This judgement places a great responsibility on Defence to be ready to meet our nation's security needs.

My role is to ensure the ADF is ready now and into the future - able to protect our nation's security through a Strategy of Denial.

This requires a Force that is well equipped, trained, confident, strong and resilient.

I recognise that the ADF workforce is my priority.

We must grow the Force through higher recruitment and continue to improve the retention of serving people. Significant initiatives have been implemented and progress is being made but we are not yet meeting our workforce targets.

This requires us to look broadly and examine our employment models and how we best use our highly capable part time and Reserve workforce.

I look forward to understanding the judgements from the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide and working at pace to implement the Government agreed recommendations.

A Force that can Deter requires us to modernise the Force - our skills, training, equipment, procedures and partnerships.

We must be a Force that is agile - in time, location and purpose.

I will focus on innovation and quicker adoption of technologies into the ADF.

I will continue the emphasis on developing the integrated force, to realise the opportunities of space and cyber, and to grow our domestic, regional and international partnerships including with our industry partners.

As I stated on the day I was announced as the next CDF, I am very conscious of the responsibility I have to the extraordinary men and women serving in the ADF, our veterans, and the families who support us.

We must continue working as an integrated team to create an environment of service, respect and commitment to our mission.

We will continue to deliver operational outcomes for Government in order to defend Australia and our nation's interests.

These requirements will take the best of all of us to ensure we collectively succeed in Defence's mission. I have high expectations of our performance in all facets of our role.

I very much look forward to continuing to work alongside the Secretary Greg Moriarty, my fellow Chiefs, Defence's leaders and our colleagues across government and industry.

Our families and loved ones are impacted by our service - their continuing and unwavering support to us is so vital and so valued.

Thank you to my own family, particularly Belinda, Ellie and her partner Jake and Aidan, for the unwavering support you have provided to me. I will continue to draw on your strengths.

To our sailors, soldiers and aviators - I commit to giving my all, every day, as your CDF. I seek your support in giving our best to our shared national mission.

Finally, a special thank you to COL Scott Clingan, Australia's Federation Guard and the bands that have supported them over these last few days. You are magnificent ambassadors for the ADF and I am very appreciative of the support you have offered to us.

Thank you.

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