Former Canadian Chief of Navy and High Commissioner to Australia Vice Admiral Paul Maddison (Ret’d) has been appointed inaugural Director of the UNSW Defence Research Institute, effective this week.
VADM Maddison served in the Canadian military for 37 years and was appointed Commander of the Royal Canadian Navy in 2011. He then spent time in the private sector before serving as Canada’s High Commissioner to Australia from 2015 to 2019.
“The Institute is about harnessing all of the talent at UNSW across the entire research enterprise, looking for research opportunities, providing a coordinating function, and being a champion for the national strategic imperative around defence and security,” VADM Maddison said to ADM. “We want to be a significant contributor to Australia’s national security and defence. There’s certainly a need to see greater collaboration between all stakeholders and a more integrated approach to identifying and closing capability gaps.”
According to VADM Maddison, the Institute will look to improve further on the already solid relationship between UNSW and Defence to improve communications and identify existing and upcoming opportunities to enhance ADF capabilities.
“If you look at the relationship between UNSW and Defence going back 50 years, it remains strong, it’s based on trust, and I believe that folks in the defence and security community are viewing the launching of the Institute in 2018 as a positive step forward,” VADM Maddison said.
“Now it’s about listening to the operators themselves, ensuring we have a very open and dynamic dialogue going with Defence, with the ADF, with the various capability developers and understanding where they see gaps that need to be closed. It’s about finding a way to make a difference.”
VADM Maddison’s unique experience as a diplomat and former Canadian Chief of Navy, from which he has developed an understanding of capability generation in the context of broader strategic challenges, is a key differentiator for the Institute.
“I was thrilled to be asked if I’d be interested. I asked myself initially why an Australian university would look for a guy like me, but there’s so much that Canada and Australia have in common,” VADM Maddison said. “From a national security perspective, we are dealing with the exact same challenges.
“My sense is that I bring a pretty strong experiential background to the role, having served in uniform. I understand what it means to generate and employ capability in an expeditionary sense. As Chief of Navy in Canada I was [also] very much involved in maritime research and development.”
In between those two roles, VADM Maddison also gained experience in the private sector that he hopes will help stand up a young, entrepreneurial research organisation seeking to capitalise on an ‘extraordinary’ moment in Australian military history.
“One of the things I was told is that the Institute is so young, it’s like a start-up. So they were looking for somebody with a bit of an entrepreneurial mentality,” VADM Maddison said. “What we’re observing in Australia right now is an extraordinary moment of embracing a very ambitious recapitalisation and regeneration agenda, and there’s going to be lessons to learn as those recapitalisation loops get tighter.”
With this week marking his first in the role, VADM Maddison intends to hit early home runs to build a momentum of success.
“The first thing to do is for me to understand what is happening across the entire research enterprise at UNSW, where do we have a competitive advantage, and how can I be a facilitator for bringing this more coherently together within the university to attract more attention from the wider sector,” VADM Maddison said.
“I’ve always believed that success begets success; I’ll look for early quick wins and from that we’ll see the Defence Research Institute brand shine.”