Staff at Space Command gave outgoing chief Cath Roberts a standing ovation as she formally ended her two-year tenure.
Air Vice-Marshal Roberts was Australia’s first head of Space Command, establishing the department from the ground up, and now hands over to her successor, Major General Greg Novak. Roberts joined the RAAF in 1983 as a specialist in aerospace engineering at the Aircraft Research and Development Unit and held over 20 roles during her RAAF career.
Space Command only formally began operating early last year, and its inaugural Commander received plaudits for her plain-speaking style and focus on building its future workforce.
“Serving as the inaugural Defence Space Commander has been a privilege,” she said.
“I’m most proud of the progress we have made in defining a whole new space career pathway, with our budding and talented space workforce being able to be recognised as space professionals.
“I am pleased with the progress we have made in delivering on the lines of effort in the Defence Space Strategy and recommendations of the Defence Strategic Review.
“We are also well on the way to developing a resilient space architecture with our international and industry partners.
“We are now on the cusp of ADF personnel being able to opt into a career in space. This will allow people, regardless of their service, to build deep professional mastery in their chosen field through education, experience and exposure.
“I would like to thank all of you who have been part of this journey so far and for everything you have given to make Defence Space Command what it is today.”
During her tenure, AVM Roberts implemented the results of the government’s DSR review into the military’s future and its surprise shift from being a part of the RAAF to the ADF’s Joint Capabilities Group.
Unlike RAAF, JCG supports Defence by providing “enabling capabilities” including logistics support, health services, and military education and training.
AVM Roberts was also lauded for speaking candidly on issues, including the “backlash” she received as a woman when she began her career.
Speaking on the ANU Women in National Security Podcast in 2022, Roberts said that only in the past “four or five years” has she felt comfortable “standing out” in the ADF.
“There still will be some backlash, but I’m like, get over it, guys – they’ll always be the question: You got there because of your gender or something like that?” she said.
“And I’m like, ‘No, I didn’t. I know what I did, and I know what I achieved.’”
AVM Roberts’s replacement, Major General Novak, was Commander of the Australian Army’s 6th Brigade, responsible for providing intelligence and support to other ADF units.
In his first comments in the role, he said there was “nowhere he’d rather be” than Defence Space Command.
“It’s a young command with important work to do and a clear strategy to get after it,” he said.
“Defence Space Command is uniquely positioned to shape space power for the ADF’s integrated force now and into the future.
“We’ve got great people working alongside like-minded space counterparts from Defence, government, industry, academia and our international partners. Together, we’re all going to be working hard to operationalise, modernise and maximise space power for the ADF and Australia.”
He congratulated Air Vice-Marshal Roberts and her team on establishing the command.
“I’m looking forward to building on the strong foundation that’s been laid and continuing to take Defence Space Command forward during my tenure,” he said.