From Brickies Apprentice to Chief of the Defence Force

Lieutenant Gen Ken Gillespie V3 Special LinkGetting a foothold in the employment market is the first important step after schooling, whether you finish at secondary or tertiary level. And where you go beyond bricklaying is anyone’s guess – it’s all up to you. Take the stories behind some famous and greatly admired people for example, who either got their start in Bricklaying or used the trade to help ground and to gain a useful trade to fall back on, while they took a risk and shot to stardom…

You might be surprised to know that the man who commanded the entire 46,000 people Australian Army until his retirement in 2011, Lieutenant General (3-star) Ken Gillespie AC DSC CSM started his working life as an apprentice bricklayer at 16 years old in 1968.

He went on to join the army and graduated from the Officer Cadet School, Portsea, in 1972. After this he soon gained a commission in the corps of the Royal Australian Engineers.

Gillespie held a range of regimental and staff appointments including Instructor at the School of Military Engineering and at the 1st Recruit Training Battalion. He then held regimental appointments as a junior officer in 2nd Field Engineer Regiment, 5th Field Engineer Regiment, 2nd/3rd Field Engineer Regiment and 1st Construction Regiment, after which he became a Senior Instructor at the School of Military Engineering.

While he retired in early 2015, in his most senior role for the Australian Army he was responsible to both the Chief of the Defence Force and the Secretary, Department of Defence.

Ken Gillespie made his mark in many ways. He was a battlefield commander, a diplomat, a teacher and a corporate leader. He was identified early, while apprenticed to the Army, as having strong leadership qualities and has contributed enormously to Australian society throughout his 43 year career.

The incumbent Chief of Army is Lieutenant General Angus Campbell, who has held the post since 16 May 2015.

Geoff Noble


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