Ex-Navy man takes the helm in defence force shake-up

A shake-up of top brass at the Australian Defence Force has installed former Navy man David Johnston as new supremo as the military prepares for the AUKUS alliance.

Vice Admiral David Johnston will take over in July from General Angus Campbell, the longest-serving head of the defence force.

The changes at the top come after a royal commission into suicides at defence, during which General Campbell apologised unreservedly for failings in the military.

Angus Campbell (left) and David Johnston
General Angus Campbell is the longest serving head of the Australian Defence Force.

Vice Admiral Johnston's appointment marks the first time in 22 years the chief of defence force has come from the Navy, which will be at the forefront of the AUKUS alliance that is scheduled to deliver nuclear submarines in a $368 billion program.

"I am very conscious of the responsibility that comes with the role, the strategic environment in which we find ourselves and most particularly the responsibility I have to the extraordinary men and women in the Australian Defence Force and the families who support them," he said.

The vice admiral, who is the defence force deputy chief, said he was committed to culture and wellbeing within the military, along with the environment for personnel.

"We have been participating in the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide, presenting evidence as a component of that," he said.

"We recognise the importance of continuing to improve so that people come to work in a respectful environment in a high-performing team where they can do their best."

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese heralded the appointment.

"Vice Admiral Johnson has consistently distinguished himself with his capacity to ensure that different elements of defence work together," Mr Albanese said.

"His understanding of integrated defence will be critical to delivering on the priorities and recommendations of the defence strategic review, ensuring our defence force has the right capabilities and the right leadership to meet the challenges ahead."

Vice Admiral Johnston's elevation has prompted a shake-up of senior roles in the defence force.

Air Marshal Robert Chipman.
Air Marshal Robert Chipman will become the next Vice Chief of the Australian Defence Force.

Air Marshal Robert Chipman, who previously served as Chief of the Air Force, will become the next Vice Chief of the Australian Defence Force.

Air Vice‑Marshal Stephen Chappell will be appointed as the next chief of the Royal Australian Air Force.

Vice Admiral Johnston joined the military in 1978 aged 16 and was named vice-chief of the defence force in 2018, previously serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Defence Minister Richard Marles said Vice Admiral Johnston had been pivotal to reform within the military.

"He has been in the engine room of all the work that we have done over the last two years and this is a moment where we need a safe pair of hands and deep experience to take our defence force forward," he said.

"David has been at the very heart of reshaping the Australian Defence Force, both in terms of culture and also, importantly, as the vice chief of the defence force, in terms of the platforms and capabilities that we are seeking to acquire."

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton welcomed Vice Admiral Johnston's appointment.

"As Australia faces increasing challenging strategic circumstances, we need strong leaders who will ensure our ADF is well-equipped with the capabilities and personnel needed to defend our nation," he said.

Mr Albanese paid tribute to General Campbell, who served in the top job since 2018.

"He has earned the respect and deep gratitude of Australia and we wish him all the very best for his future," he said.


* General Peter Cosgrove (Army) 2002-2005

* Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston (Air Force) 2005-2011

* General David Hurley (Army) 2011-2014

* Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin (Air Force) 2014-2018

* General Angus Campbell (Army) 2018-2024

* Admiral David Johnston (Navy) 2024-

License this article

What is AAPNews?

For the first time, Australian Associated Press is delivering news straight to the consumer.

No ads. No spin. News straight-up.

Not only do you get to enjoy high-quality news delivered straight to your desktop or device, you do so in the knowledge you are supporting media diversity in Australia.

AAP Is Australia’s only independent newswire service, free from political and commercial influence, producing fact-based public interest journalism across a range of topics including politics, courts, sport, finance and entertainment.

What is AAPNews?
The Morning Wire

Wake up to AAPNews’ morning news bulletin delivered straight to your inbox or mobile device, bringing you up to speed with all that has happened overnight at home and abroad, as well as setting you up what the day has in store.

AAPNews Morning Wire
AAPNews Breaking News
Breaking News

Be the first to know when major breaking news happens.

Notifications will be sent to your device whenever a big story breaks, ensuring you are never in the dark when the talking points happen.

Focused Content

Enjoy the best of AAP’s specialised Topics in Focus. AAP has reporters dedicated to bringing you hard news and feature content across a range of specialised topics including Environment, Agriculture, Future Economies, Arts and Refugee Issues.

AAPNews Focussed Content
Subscription Plans

Choose the plan that best fits your needs. AAPNews offers two basic subscriptions, all billed monthly.

Once you sign up, you will have seven days to test out the service before being billed.

AAPNews Full Access Plan
Full Access
  • Enjoy all that AAPNews has to offer
  • Access to breaking news notifications and bulletins
  • Includes access to all AAPNews’ specialised topics
Join Now
AAPNews Student Access Plan
Student Access
  • Gain access via a verified student email account
  • Enjoy all the benefits of the ‘Full Access’ plan at a reduced rate
  • Subscription renews each month
Join Now
AAPNews Annual Access Plan
Annual Access
  • All the benefits of the 'Full Access' subscription at a discounted rate
  • Subscription automatically renews after 12 months
Join Now

AAPNews also offers enterprise deals for businesses so you can provide an AAPNews account for your team, organisation or customers. Click here to contact AAP to sign-up your business today.

Download the app
Download AAPNews on the App StoreDownload AAPNews on the Google Play Store