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Dr Bernadette Boss CSC

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In the service of others and contributing to a better world. 

Dr Boss’ career has been varied and challenging with the theme of service inspired by generations of military forebears, as a constant theme.  As the great granddaughter and granddaughter of regular soldiers, including a grandfather who served in both the Boer and First World Wars, and from her own experiences as a military spouse and former serving member, Bernadette is committed to serving those who have served. 

Although diagnosed as dyslexic at the age of 11, very little supports were available. As a result, school was a difficult and challenging experience. Choosing the more practical than academic route, Bernadette became a Registered Nurse, training at St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London then completing an Ophthalmic Nursing Diploma at Moorefields Eye Hospital. At this time she joined the British Territorial Army and was commissioned into Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corp.

Success in nursing studies encouraged her to apply for university where she studied Anthropology at University College London. As she was completing her degree, she became interested in law and attended the Inns of Court School of Law, being called to the bar of England and Wales as a barrister of the Middle Temple. While at university she transferred to Royal Signals.

A holiday to Australia caused Bernadette to fall in love with the country and she subsequently emigrated and became an Australian citizen. 

A transfer to the Australian Army Reserve resulted in a further transfer to the Australian Regular Army as a legal officer. During this time Bernadette completed basic parachute course and deployed to East Timor during INTERFET and UNTAET.

Having completed her short service commission, Bernadette returned to the private bar and the Army Reserve role as a signals officer. She progressed through the ranks and served as the first female commanding officer of Sydney University Regiment, deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, attended the prestigious Centre for Defence and Strategic Studies and completed her military career at the rank of Brigadier as Adjutant General of the Army.  

Bernadette was awarded a Conspicuous Service Cross in 2007 for her work as Commanding Officer Sydney University Regiment. 

Bernadette was appointed as a Magistrate and Coroner of the ACT in 2012. In 2013 she took over as the Galambany circle sentencing magistrate and developed this court into a national leader in justice for first nations people. In 2020 she became the Interim National Commissioner for Defence and Veteran Suicide Prevention, a role which provided the foundation for Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide Prevention.   

As a result of her work as National Commissioner and strong academic background, Bernadette was appointed as an Adjunct Professor, University of New England, School of Law School. As a result, she is entitled to be known as Professor Boss. 

Bernadette holds a BSc (Hons) University of London: Master of Public Policy, University of New England: Master of International Law, University of Sydney: PhD, University of Sydney: Graduate Certificate in Strategic Studies, Centre for Defence and Strategic Studies. 

Proving on many fronts that dyslexia can be overcome, Bernadette is a polished and engaging speaker who communicates her messages with infectious enthusiasm and passion. Bernadette is delighted to take verbal or written briefs to ensure her clients’ messages are well represented in her presentations.

Dr Bernadette Boss CSC is based in Canberra. 


Some Topics:

Topic 1 – East Timor INTERFET to UNTAET
Bernadette will describe her deployment to East Timor, first impressions in January 2000, her role and the transition from INTERFET to UNTAET.  She will describe the journey from Darwin to Dili on the newly commissioned HMAS Jervis Bay and the scenes of utter destruction that awaited the disembarking troops. Dili was burning and it seemed as if nothing in terms of housing or infrastructure remained intact anywhere in East Timor. Bernadette will talk about the effects of what she saw had on her and other troops. She will also describe her role as a legal officer within the INTERFET construct and why her passion for establishing the legal basis for UN peacekeeping in East Timor led her to undertaking a PhD.


Topic 2 – National Commissioner for Defence and Veteran Suicide Prevention
Why are veterans dying by suicide at rates far in excess of the national average and what can we do about it?  In this topical talk, noting the Royal Commission is due to report in June 2024, Bernadette will describe her appointment as national commissioner and why she was passionate enough to give up her position as a judicial officer in order to find solutions to veteran suicide.  Bernadette will outline the findings of previous studies into this topic and then set out the recommendations she made and why she believes that only an integrated system of change will be effective in reducing veteran suicide. 

Topic 3 – Circle sentencing 
Bernadette will reflect on her experience in working with First Nations people to create a sentencing system that better meets the needs of First Nations people. As an immigrant from Britain to Australia, Bernadette may not appear to have been the most logical choice as the circle sentencing magistrate. Two things however were in her favour. Firstly, she held a degree in anthropology and therefore had a natural curiosity and open mind about cultures other than her own and secondly, she really wanted to engage with First Nations people to work together to make a tangible difference to every individual’s experience of the law. This is the story of how “justice done to you” became “justice done by us.”  

Topic 4 – Woman in a man’s world
From three decades working in male dominated cultures from Defence to the law, Bernadette will share her experiences of cultural change and diversity. From the female dominated world of nursing, Bernadette was introduced to the male dominated culture of the Army.  Then for good measure, she chose the bar, which at the time was overwhelmingly populated by men. Bernadette will describe the environment she found herself in during the late 1980’s and, from a very personal perspective,  map the path of change to the present day.  


Robert Joske Management Pty Ltd

Tel: + 61 2 93281444

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