New Director for the Australian Antarctic Division

In the Director’s Chair

Video transcript

This job for me is an extraordinarily exciting adventure. It seems to be a bit of a culmination to a long career in activities that all lead to the Antarctic Division. I was an army officer. I graduated and went into amphibious logistics. I went there specifically because I wanted to go to the Antarctic.

I spent a year operating in and out of the southern oceans and the Antarctic continent — a remarkable, character-forming experience. Then I spent nearly 16 years running small and large airports in Australia, and then went into the botanic gardens area.

There is going to have to be a significant element of change in the Division going forward, and the change is driven by this remarkable window of opportunity that we’ve got now. A significant investment by the government in the Division, in providing additional capabilities, a new icebreaker, the overland traverse capability, the rebuild of Macquarie Island, the aviation capability. They are amazing investments. The change will come for us in managing both those new capabilities and delivering our existing operations.

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Kim Ellis outside building
Kim Ellis outside the AAD headquarters in Kingston, Tasmania (Photo: Simon Payne)
Kim Ellis on board ship at seaThree men with an amphibious vehicleAn amphibious vehicle drives up beach

The new Director of the Australian Antarctic Division, Kim Ellis, takes up his leadership role this week.

“This has got to be about the most exciting job in the world,” Mr Ellis said.

“The Australian Antarctic Division is a globally recognised institution delivering amazing scientific capabilities. I am honoured to lead an organisation of such enthusiastic, engaged, committed and skilled people.”

Mr Ellis’ involvement with Antarctica and the Southern Ocean started in 1979 as a young Army lieutenant operating amphibious vehicles known as LARCs.

The Lighter, Amphibious, Resupply, Cargo (LARC) is an all-terrain vehicle capable of propelling itself through water as well as over land, and able to make surf landings in all types of weather.

“I graduated from Duntroon and went into amphibious logistics specifically because I wanted to go to the Antarctic,” he said.

“This time on the ice gave me a very good grounding, so now as Director I can really understand the unique operating environments of the Australian Antarctic Division.”

As a ‘LARC-ey’, Mr Ellis led a team which undertook the resupply at Mawson, Davis and Macquarie Island research stations. His 24 year Army career culminated in the command of the Amphibious Logistics Regiment.

Since retiring from the Australian Army in 1997, Mr Ellis’ career has focused on leading large organisations through transformational change. For 16 years he ran small and large airports in Australia, before becoming Executive Director at Sydney’s Botanic Gardens & Centennial Parklands in 2014.

“I have a strong interest in large-scale public organisations delivering critical environmental science activities.”

Mr Ellis said he has a clear vision of where he wants the Antarctic Division to be in five years, in line with the Australian Antarctic Strategy and 20 Year Action Plan.

“The next five years for the Antarctic Division is about enabling world-class science and delivering outstanding infrastructure with the best workforce we can have.”

“Significant investment by the Federal Government in our Antarctic operations is providing a new icebreaker that will be one of the world’s premier scientific research vessels; overland traverse capability to find the million-year-old ice core; and the rebuilding of Macquarie Island research station.”

“The challenge for the AAD in the next few years will come from both managing these new capabilities while delivering our existing operations.”

Kim Ellis is the 13th Director of the Australian Antarctic Division, and replaces Dr Nick Gales who retired at the end of 2018.