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RMC-Duntroon Graduation Parade, Canberra


Good morning, and a warm welcome to Royal Military College–Duntroon for a very special day in the lives of all our graduates on parade and families and friends who are here to share the day with them.

I begin by acknowledging that the Royal Military College–Duntroon sits on the land of the Ngunnawal People here in the ACT. If you’re a Canberran, you’ll know what a beautiful part of the country this is. We thank them for looking after it for us, for generation after generation, and pay our respects to their elders past and present.

We've had an excellent parade this morning and I think it would be appropriate to acknowledge that.


This is the seventh Defence-related graduation parade or ceremony that Linda and I have attended over the past month. These parades and ceremonies are uplifting occasions, and we have both enjoyed being guests at each. Why? Because the quality of those on parade instils in us a strong conviction that our nation is in good hands.

I see that quality again today, as I look out across this parade ground at the next generation of young leaders for the Australian Army – graduates who selflessly want to serve their nation.

You graduate today from one of the finest military colleges in the world. Be proud of your achievement. It comes on the back of hard work. Today we celebrate your graduation, but we’re thankful to other people as well.

The families that are in attendance or watching online – from experience, Linda and I know how much your support has helped your loved one to reach this point in their lives.

To the staff at RMC–Duntroon – thank you for your input into the cadets’ education and training, and also for the support you have provided them.

The third group is the ADF. As its Commander-in-Chief, I am both reassured and excited by the leadership potential on show today. As I said, our nation is in good hands.

I add that the other countries represented on parade, the cadets from overseas graduating today – we know that you go back to fine Armies and that you will play an important role.

In your shoes, about 45 years ago, I walked into a platoon at B Company 1RAR – 5 Platoon, best Platoon in the Australian Army by a long shot! – I was your age, excited. My Platoon Sergeant and my three Section Commanders were all Vietnam veterans. Half the platoon was older than me. Yet I was their leader.

You may well find yourself in the same situation with East Timor, Iraq, Afghanistan veterans who you will command. They will expect you to command and lead. The biggest lesson I learnt in that first year is they expected me to listen.

Compare what I had learnt here, compare it with what they had experienced and their thoughts about how to do things, then make up my mind and then lead them. That will be your challenge. Not to walk out of here thinking Duntroon has taught you everything you know, you’re perfectly born now to be an officer – no. You were perfectly born to learn to be an officer. That’s the next challenge ahead of you.

Leadership is not easy. You know that. You’ve had some roles here, and at ADFA for those who are there. You’ll make decisions under enormous pressure that will affect people’s lives. That’s what you have been trained to do and you will grow to do.

You will be in command, and men and women will turn to you and expect you to get it right. The job is to do your homework and to master your profession. To develop that inner core that is going to get you through the difficult days, not only to survive but to be successful, for yourself, for those you lead and for your country.

You’ve had a difficult 12 months, finishing your course here during a pandemic. That’s disruptive, but disruption is one of the remission verbs that we teach you. To live in a disruptive environment, to operate in a disruptive environment, to be successful in a disruptive environment. You’ve had a good beginning. Remember those lessons as you go forward.

We have a saying in the Defence Force that a promotion is not a pat on the back for a job well done. It’s a sign that you can do more, and that more is expected of you. They were my words exactly to our two award winners. This recognises achievement to date. You’re all in that boat now. We expect a lot from you.

So, enough of a lecture from me! Congratulations, all. Enjoy the occasion. Enjoy the celebrations that will flow from it. Be excited about what comes next, because you are launching into a magnificent life. Give it your best, but remember: listen, absorb, think it through, and lead wisely.

Congratulations to all 190 graduates, including our 16 international students. We wish you well. Thank you for your service to date, but thank you more for the contributions you will make to our and to your country in the future. Well done, everybody.