From the Director

Director Kim Ellis standing next to the Antarctic Circle sign with the red Terra Bus behind.
Mr Kim Ellis is the 13th Director of the Australian Antarctic Division. (Photo: AAD)

The new Director of the Australian Antarctic Division, Kim Ellis, took up the reins in February. Mr Ellis is the 13th Director of the Division, replacing Dr Nick Gales who retired in late 2018.

The Australian Antarctic Division is a globally recognised institution delivering amazing scientific capabilities and I am honoured to lead an organisation of such enthusiastic, engaged, committed and skilled people. This is the most exciting job in the world!

I’ve had a strong interest in Antarctica since high school and I seem to have worked in a succession of jobs that, perhaps unconsciously, have been leading me towards this role.

My journey started when I graduated from the Australian Army’s Royal Military College at Duntroon, and went into amphibious logistics; specifically because I wanted to go to the Antarctic.

As a ‘LARC-ey’- operating the all-terrain vehicle or Lighter, Amphibious, Resupply Cargo, I led a group of soldiers that undertook the resupply at Mawson, Davis and Macquarie Island research stations. We also worked on the building programs that were underway at the time.

This time on the ice was a remarkable character-forming experience and it gave me a good grounding in the unique operating environment of the Antarctic Division – including the challenges of logistics, weather, getting people in and out, and dealing with emergency situations.

After I retired from the Army in 1997 I spent 16 years running small and large airports in Australia, including leading the Sydney Airport international terminal upgrade and the 2000 Sydney Olympic operations. Again, this gave me a good grounding in logistical challenges.

When I became Executive Director at Sydney’s Botanic Gardens and Centennial Parklands in 2014, one of the core elements of my role was collecting data and monitoring and reporting on changes in climate. So I have a strong background in large-scale public organisations delivering critical environmental science activities.

As you know, the Australian Antarctic Program has a 20 year Strategy and Action Plan, with a strong focus on developing Australia’s presence in Antarctica and maintaining and building a strong science capability. For the next five years the Australian Antarctic Division will be focused on enabling world-class science and delivering outstanding infrastructure with the best workforce we can have.

This work will be driven by a significant investment from the Federal Government to provide a new icebreaker that will be one of the world’s premier scientific research vessels, an overland traverse capability to find a million-year-old ice core, and the rebuilding of Macquarie Island research station.

In February this year the Prime Minister also announced a Federal Government investment of more than $450 million over 10 years to upgrade our Antarctic research station network and supporting infrastructure.

The challenge for the Antarctic Division will come from both managing these new capabilities while delivering our existing operations.

Through all this I will continue to tell the story and build the brand of the Australian Antarctic Program. Not just the understanding of our immense scientific contribution, but also the incredible adventure of working in Antarctica. The ability for a tradesperson, scientist, administrator or communicator to live in one of the world’s great frontiers; to work in the character-changing environment and build friendships, skills and experiences that will last a lifetime.

One of my most important personal focuses will be on maintaining a safe operating environment, to ensure that everybody who participates in our activities comes home safely.

The Antarctic continent is huge, imposing and frightening, but it’s also one of the most fragile parts of the Earth. The Australian Antarctic Division has an enormous responsibility to develop our science, to keep data and to provide records that will inform government policy, to ensure that Antarctica and the whole Earth’s climate is protected. Delivering on our 20 year Action Plan is the most important thing we can do to achieve this.