Graduates inspired to bring “fresh eyes” to implement change

Captain Scott Palmer addresses UOW Shoalhaven and UOW Southern Highlands graduates

“The older I get the more appreciative I am of the perspective that fresh eyes bring to a situation or problem,” Captain Scott Palmer said.

Thirty one years ago, to the day, on 25 January 1993, Captain Scott Palmer joined the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) and took the first step in a career that would see him become a military pilot and serve throughout Australia, East Timor, Solomon Islands, Nias Island, in the North Arabian Gulf, and on exchange in the United States.  

On 25 January 2024, as the Commanding Officer of HMAS Albatross, the Naval Air Station based in Nowra, Captain Palmer stood before 73 University of Wollongong (UOW) graduates at Shoalhaven Entertainment Centre as he gave the occasional address at the graduation ceremony.  

For many the celebration of the end of their studies had been a long time coming, but Captain Palmer urged the graduates, from UOW Shoalhaven and UOW Southern Highlands, to savor the moment before being tempted to hurry to the next step of their journey. 

“I admit that I wish I had paid more attention to what was right in front of me rather than always chasing the next thing. Like most things in life, balance is best,” Captain Palmer said to the graduates.  

“I wish you all the best in striking the right balance between attending to what is right in front of you and contemplating what might be next.”

Captain Scott Palmer addresses UOW Shoalhaven 2024 graduates Captain Scott Palmer delivering the occasional address to UOW Shoalhaven and UOW Southern Highlands graduates.  

Captain Palmer graduated from the Australian Defence Force Academy in December 1995 and began his active military flying career.  

Between 2002 and 2004 Captain Palmer was the Australian exchange officer at Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron (Light) Forty-One with the United States Navy in San Diego, California. He undertook Instructor Pilot training and taught American pilots to fly the SH-60B Seahawk helicopter. 

Captain Palmer has had numerous postings and non-flying roles throughout his Naval career.  

In January 2022, he was promoted to the rank of Captain and posted as the RAN Liaison Officer to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade before he was selected by the Chief of Navy to take Command of HMAS Albatross in December 2022. 

HMAS Albatross, based in the Shoalhaven, is the largest operational Naval establishment and the Navy’s only Air Station. The primary task of HMAS Albatross is to support the five Naval Squadrons, which provide air support to the fleet. 

Captain Palmer is a staunch leader and encouraged the graduates to embrace the challenges that lay ahead.  

“Do not be naïve to the challenges ahead. You may soon find yourselves walking a tightrope, strung between ‘that’s the way it’s always been done here’ and your clear eyes seeing a better way to achieve the aim. I see this as potentially your next biggest challenge,” Captain Palmer said.  

“Your ability to use your ideas to influence those set in their ways in the organisations that you join, while respecting their experience, will correlate closely with your sense of fulfilment. I wish you all the best in this challenge.”   

Captain Scott Palmer at UOW Shoalhaven 2024 graduation Captain Scott Palmer on stage during the graduation ceremony.  

UOW’s engagement with the RAN leverages the unique expertise of the Shoalhaven region, including HMAS Albatross, Albatross Aviation Technology Park, and local businesses involved in advanced manufacturing. 

Captain Palmer admitted that due to its location, often the Navy can be in direct competition with UOW Shoalhaven for attracting high-quality high school graduates, but their strong partnership “speaks of the maturity of the relationship and the mutual respect that the University of Wollongong and the RAN share here in the Shoalhaven.” 

During his address he used the platform to call attention to current serving members of the Australian Defence Force that had been deployed to flood-affected areas of North Queensland and New South Wales over the summer.  

Captain Palmer is driven by a desire to help others. One of the highlights of Captain Palmer’s flying career was 817 Squadron’s involvement in the 2011 Queensland Flood crisis, which included the crew of SHARK 21 conducting the winch rescue of a man clinging to a tree in the swollen Laidley Creek. 

For this rescue Captain Palmer was awarded a Chief of Joint Operations Silver Commendation for his role as the Aircraft Captain and the crew were awarded a Group Bravery Citation. 

As the graduates face their next chapter, Captain Palmer encouraged them to use their skills and experience to improve the communities they work in, despite the demands that might exist around them.  

“I hope that if you all look deep inside yourselves you can find confirmation that the reason you have bettered yourselves through these courses of study is so that you are better equipped to make your own contribution to the strengthening of this nation. Let Australia be your why.”