Michael Noonan AO RAN

Honorary Doctor of Laws

Deputy Chancellor, I present to you Vice Admiral Michael Joseph Noonan AO RAN.

Michael Noonan has continuously made rich contributions to regional, national, and international maritime security. His professional dedication, strategic and energetic leadership, and sustained impact have seen him fulfil leadership roles at all levels of the Australian Defence Force and rise to the highest tiers of leadership in the Royal Australian Navy.

Since commencing his naval career studying a Diploma of Applied Science at the Royal Australian College in 1984, Michael has continued his education, completing a graduate certificate, graduate diploma and four master’s degrees including the Master of Arts (Maritime Policy) here at UOW. His belief in ongoing learning is reflected in his successful leadership as the Australian Government’s principal naval advisor, raising, training and sustaining Australian’s naval forces to execute maritime missions in support of Australia’s security in a dynamic region.

Michael is an inspirational leader with an extraordinary ability to encourage and mentor those around him. Through hard work and determination, he has climbed through the officer ranks of the Australian Navy, reaching its peak position as Chief of Navy. Over a prolonged period, Michael’s achievements have consistently extended beyond his own command. He has been instrumental in enhancing the visibility of maritime policy issues and in the preparation of key responses to maritime security threats across state and federal Government departments and law enforcement agencies, and international counterparts.

Through his dedication, tireless work and collaborative relationships, Michael’s efforts have directly contributed to a significant enhancement in Australia’s profile, specifically with respect to border and maritime security. He has expertly managed risk with the availability of finite/limited maritime assets to achieve strategies to counter maritime terrorism and the preservation of maritime resources, as well as continuing to grow links with navies around the world.

He has held a number of senior posts within the Navy, the Department of Defence, and other departments including as the Commander Maritime Border Command, during which time he delivered the eradication of Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated fishing in Australia’s Antarctic jurisdiction. In conjunction with Australian and overseas agencies, Michael’s leadership yielded some of the most significant outcomes in recent operational history with the interdiction of Illegal foreign fishing operations.

As Commander Maritime Border Command within Australia’s Department of Immigration and Border Protection (now the Department of Home Affairs), Michael led the Australian Government’s maritime response to combat illegal maritime entry into Australia. Operation Sovereign Borders resulted in the incidence of people smuggling, and associated loss of life at sea, being reduced to zero during his tenure.

His ongoing commitment and contributions to maritime policy include his ongoing relationship with the Australian National Centre for Ocean Resources & Security (ANCORS) here at the University of Wollongong. ANCORS has developed an unrivalled reputation for capacity building, within Australia and throughout the world, in the Law of the Sea, ocean policy making and maritime security, and Michael consistently supports and promotes its work within the region.

Michael was appointed as the Deputy Chief of Navy in January 2016, responsible for managing Navy Headquarters, strategic resource planning, and personnel and international relations. He took a strong lead in implementing the Navy's Values and Signature Behaviours to create a safer and more inclusive workplace for all Navy people, including the introduction of measures to support women returning from maternity leave. He chaired the Australian Maritime Defence Council and led the expansion of the Royal Australian Navy's international engagement program, spanning formal relationships with 17 of the world's navies for improving information sharing and cooperation.

Michael has served domestically and abroad in a number of operations, including as member of the International Force East Timor, the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, the Iraq Campaign and Operation Resolute. He was also a key figure in Operations Catalyst and Slipper in the Middle East. Michael’s incredible dedication and work has not gone unnoticed, having received two Commendations for Distinguished Service. He was awarded his first commendation in 2003 for performance in his role in Operation Slipper in Kuwait following the events of September 11, and a second commendation in 2010 in his role as Chief of Staff, where he successfully transitioned the Middle East Area of Operations (MEAO) headquarters from Baghdad to the United Arab Emirates, under warlike conditions.

In 2012, Michael was appointed as a Member of the Order of Australia for exceptional performance of duty and leadership as Director General Operations, Headquarters Joint Operations Command and as Director Military Strategic Commitments. Then in June 2018, Michael was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia for his distinguished service to the Royal Australian Navy in significant command positions.

Michael’s outstanding achievements, tireless dedication, and consistent professional excellence over the last 20 years resulted in his selection by the Prime Minister to be Australia’s 32nd Chief of Navy, with effect 6 July 2018. As Chief of Navy, Michael has command of more than 22,000 permanent and reserve personnel, 47 commissioned ships and 16 individual establishments. He is also responsible for overseeing the implementation of the Australian Government's $90 billion continuous naval ship building initiative - the largest, most expensive project in the nation's history.

Deputy Chancellor, Michael Noonan’s outstanding service to his country is an inspiration. Today we honour Michael’s exceptional leadership and outstanding contributions to maritime policy and security, including those provided to UOW’s own ANCORS. Vice-Admiral Noonan has led and delivered at every stage in his career, ensuring the safety of Australia’s maritime borders and security, forging international naval alliances and effectively leading the Royal Australian Navy to achieve optimal operational outcomes. He is an all-encompassing, inspirational Australian leader. 

It is a privilege and a pleasure to present Vice-Admiral Michael Joseph Noonan AO RAN to be admitted for a Doctor of Laws (honoris causa).