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Colonel Steve Joske CSC (Retd)


Steve has had a long and distinguished career serving the nation in various leadership roles across Defence, Red Cross and Emergency Services.

A graduate of the Royal Military College Duntroon in 1977, he first saw overseas service in Rhodesia where he worked to oversee the enforcement of the peace agreement and thwart the guerrilla activities of Robert Mugabe. This first exposure to military operations and the devastating impacts for civil society helped shape his future career.   

His military progression through various regimental and operational appointments culminated in his promotion to Colonel and being appointed as the first Commander of the Australian Contingent in Bougainville. He began the process of establishing peace on the island. This tenuous peace arrangement was held in no small part to Steve’s personal leadership of the Force, close and constant engagement with leaders from all the warring factions, and his personal courage. He was awarded the Conspicuous Service Cross in the 1998 Queen’s Birthday Honours for his service in Bougainville. 

His next appointment was equally exciting and challenging. In August 1998 he was reassigned as Colonel Olympic Games (Operation Gold) responsible for the planning and conduct of the Australian Defence Force’s security operations to the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. It was to be the largest peacetime deployment of military forces on Australian soil. At the commencement of the Games, Operation Gold had over 6000 soldiers, sailors, airmen and airwomen under command. 

Steve resigned from the Australian Defence Force at the conclusion of the Olympic Games in 2000 and joined a major resources company at the Leinster Nickel Operation in Western Australia. Steve was specifically recruited to provide leadership advice and strategic planning acumen to the General Manager of the mine. 

After three years at Leinster, Steve joined the Australian Red Cross as the Executive Director for WA in March 2003 and he was immediately confronted with the aftermath of the Bali Bombings. Later he was deployed to Pakistan to oversee Red Cross’ aid donations and saw first-hand the millions of displaced people living in refugee camps. After the devastating Asian tsunami of 2004 and recognising his unique international skills and experience, Steve was appointed Country Manager in Indonesia with the responsibility of leading the emergency disaster team. 

On leaving Red Cross on 2017, Steve was awarded the organisation’s highest accolade of the Honorary Life Membership for his service to Red Cross and vulnerable people and communities.

In March 2017 Steve was appointed the WA State Recovery Coordinator working in the Office of Emergency Management (OEM).  This role was responsible for ‘building the State back’ after major disasters and incorporated regular liaison with State Ministers and the Commonwealth Government. Subsequently Steve worked with Emergency Management Australia to write the national approach to a better understanding and awareness of the devastating effects of heatwaves on society. 

During his career Steve has led with distinction. He has learnt his leadership and man management skills in some of the most harrowing and demanding of circumstances. He is the consummate professional in areas of planning, coordination and implementation of a plan to meet defined objectives. 

Colonel Joske is a gifted orator who uses anecdotes from his lifetime of service to colour his presentations. His grasp on the essence of leadership, comradeship, governance and resilience in an ever changing society are powerful conversations that need to be heard by individuals and corporations alike. 

Steve has a Masters Degree in Defence Studies from Deakin University.  He has served on the Boards of the Australian and Western Australian Council of Social Services, Leadership WA and is the current Deputy Chair of the AIF Malaya Nursing Scholarship.  

Steve is Chairman of Red Cross in WA and on the National Board. 

His interests include all sports, but in particular Australian Rules, skiing, surfing and golf.  He is a widower and has two daughters and a grandfather of two.

More detail from Steve… 

Bandah Aceh Experience

I was seconded to be the Country Manager for Australian Red Cross in Indonesia after the Asian Tsunami, and was responsible for the leadership and oversight of operations in Banda Aceh. Not only did this involve managing the recovery phase of one of Red Cross’ largest overseas emergency deployments but also the planning and execution of the spending of $120 million in aid money donated to Red Cross as a result of the disaster, considerable change management and re-positioning of the international role to achieve national level objectives, and all in a complex and politically sensitive environment.

Commander - Australian Contingent to Bougainville, Truce Monitoring Group, November 1997 to March 1998 
I was appointed to the prestigious appointment of Commander and the first leader of 250 Australian unarmed peacekeeping troops into a foreign country with a tenuously mandated peace treaty, where warring factions were hostile to Australia’s participation, and all in a complex strategic environment. 

In the role, I managed the many complexities of an overseas operation including the leadership of the operations to achieve national level objectives (peace on Bougainville); the logistical resupply of the Force by sea and air; managed the Force Headquarters, with international and strategic reporting responsibilities; and was the key Australian spokesperson for the Force, including the development of the media strategy and the control of media output. 

In the 1998 Australian Queen’s Birthday Honours List, I was awarded the Conspicuous Service Cross (CSC) for exemplary leadership of the operation, and for exceeding objectives and outcomes, and successfully returning my command (people) home safely and without major international incidents. 


Some Speech Topics:

1.    A Hostile Beginning. Two years after graduating as an Army Officer from the Royal Military College, Duntroon, to be in Africa to witness first-hand the fall of Rhodesia. A supposedly free and fair election monitored by international election monitors – but was it free from violence and intimidation? How did one of Africa’s most highly educated and prosperous nations fall to Robert Mugabe, what happened on the ground? Hear Steve discuss his experiences and observations as a Peacekeeper on the front line of a nation in crisis.  

2.    The Bougainville Crisis. You are tasked with creating peace in a war-torn island off Papua New Guinea. Your small multi-national force, made up of Pacific Island nations,  is unarmed and facing a heavily armed Bougainville Revolutionary Army who were reluctant participants to the peace process, and openly hostile to Australia. Hear Steve discuss his experiences as the first Australian Commander to the Peace Monitoring Force, Bougainville, 1997/98.

3.    The 2000 Sydney Olympics Games. You are tasked to plan for the military component of security for the Olympic Games in Sydney – so where do you start, who do you liaise with, what are your first key considerations, where do the resources come from, can you create a legacy for long after the Games? Hear Steve’s experiences as ‘Colonel Olympics’, and the creation of Operation Gold, Australia’s largest domestic deployment of military force.

4.    A Story of Recovery and Resilience – Aceh after the Boxing Day Tsunami. Imagine, if you can, 260 thousand people dead from a tsunami. And then to make matters worse, hundreds of non-government organisations from around the world arrive to ‘flood’ the people with ill-conceived and hastily established recovery efforts. Hear about the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami from a recovery, reconstruction and resilience lens. Steve explains how he conducted operations in Indonesia to mitigate the numerous risks. These risks include being aware of the numerous challenges of working in the midst of a major international disaster including how he lead and directed the work of his  team of disaster experts. He draws conclusions on the lessons for an increasingly disaster prone world?

5.    A highly recognisable emblem – but what exactly is it? Red Cross has been described as the most ‘political’ non- political actor on the world stage. It is also the world’s largest volunteer organisation. It is a not-for profit organisation but not a charity. But why is this so? What is the Red Cross Red Crescent? What is the International Committee of Red Cross? How does it work? What is the organisation doing in Gaza and why we do not hear about its work in the media? Hear from Steve about this sometimes mysterious yet highly prestigious and unique organisation from his perspective as an Honorary Life Member and National Board Member of Australian Red Cross.

Proudly Represented by Robert Joske Management

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