Future Strategic Leaders' Congress

Go deep behind the scenes of the strategic affairs that affect our region with the national leaders who are currently navigating them. 

The Future Strategic Leaders' Congress is your opportunity to engage directly with senior national security leaders, industry heads, and leading thinkers around a central, strategic theme. 

Set in the informal environment of ANU's Kioloa Coastal Campus, the weekend retreat consists of seminars, hypotheticals, workshops, as well socialising. In addition, there is plenty of time devoted to talking informally over meals, drinks and the firepit with speakers and like-minded colleagues.

This is one of the few opportunities to hear current leaders discussing critical strategic issues in an off-the-record fashion and represents a professional development experience like no other. 

See our past Congress events, and keep an eye out on our events page for the next Congress.

Who should attend

The Future Strategic Leaders’ Congress should be a priority for young professionals employed or who aspire to work in the Australian national security community. The Congress program has been designed to build the strategic, analytical, leadership and networking skills of future strategic professionals.

Please note that all applications to attend the Future Strategic Leaders’ Congress will be monitored by the Board of the Institute For Regional Security, which retains absolute discretion on whether individual applications are accepted.


  • Enable Future Strategic Leaders to meet and network with senior national security decision makers
  • Foster the professional development of Future Strategic Leaders through seminars, workshops hypothetical/s and informal discussions
  • Facilitate networking of Future Strategic Leaders with their professional colleagues in other organisations
  • Foster the development of esprit de corps amongst Future Strategic Leaders


The Future Strategic Leaders' Congress is held twice a year at the ANU Kioloa Campus, Kioloa (South Coast of NSW - half an hour north of Batemans Bay).

The weekend-long program runs from 1700 Friday to 1300 on the Sunday.

Fees are GST inclusive and include two days’ accommodation, meals, drinks and program materials. 

All participants - including speakers and attendees - are encouraged to wear casual attire to maintain an atmosphere of informality.


The Future Strategic Leaders’ Congresses are proudly sponsored
by the Australian Department of Defence and the Noetic Group

Past Congresses

October 2015: From the Suburbs to Syria: Countering Radicalisation and Terrorism

Keynote Speaker: Ms Kerri Hartland, Australian Security Intelligence Organisation

Australia has played a prominent role in the Middle East and has been a key participant in the 'fight against terrorism'. International events in the Middle East, particularly the rise of the self-declared Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, has contributed to an increase in radicalisation within Australia. As a result, Australia is facing threat from terrorism. In 2014, the National Terrorism Public Alert Level was raised to High for the first time.

Within this framework of increased radicalisation and Australia's enduring commitments in the Middle East, the national security community is working to increase understanding of the key drivers of radicalisation in Australia. This Congress will foster conversation about innovative countering violent extremism (CVE) policies and practices by exploring the unique lifecycle of radicalisation in Australia and identifying potential CVE measures. It will consider Australia's strategic commitment in the Middle East.

May 2015: Maritime Flashpoints: Australia's Critical Vulnerabilities

Keynote Speaker: CDRE Andrew Gough, Royal Australian Navy

The infringement on economic and national interests is often viewed as an act of war, and war is about preserving economy.  This Congress will examine the long-term issues of coercion or denial of access around SLOCs and the potential impacts of disruption to the flow of trade.

Australia's economic and national wellbeing is inextricably linked to the security of sea lines of communication as seaborne trade is the bedrock of the Australian economy. The international trading system is complex, aspects of it are heavily regulated, and it is vulnerable to natural disasters, actions by non-state actors and at the most extreme, is a legitimate focus of hostile action in war.

November 2014: Australia’s Role in Addressing Global Nuclear Security Challenges

Keynote Speaker: Prof. the Hon. Gareth Evans AC, QC

With the world’s attention focused on the threat posed by violent extremists in Iraq and the escalating conflict in Ukraine, it is timely that we remind ourselves of the threat posed by nuclear weapons – one that could add a further horrific dimension to modern conflicts.

Despite the lack of media coverage, the deliberate or accidental use of nuclear weapons poses a continuing and potentially existential threat to the world as we know it. There are at least 23,000 nuclear warheads still in existence, with a combined blast capacity equivalent to 150,000 Hiroshima bombs. The US and Russia together have over 22,000 nuclear weapons with 2,000 of them still on dangerously high alert - ready to be launched immediately. (International Commission on Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament, 2009).

May 2014: Australia’s Strategic Partnership with Indonesia: Respecting Differences and Aligning Interests

A constructive partnership with Indonesia is essential to Australia's national security interest, and it will become increasingly so into the future. To achieve that, we must respect and recognise differences between the two countries whilst seeking greater alignment of priorities and interests.
The first 2014 Kokoda Future Strategic Leaders’ Congress will examine the strategic relationships of Australia and Indonesia in the future decades. It will look at potential divergence in the strategic interests of the countries, how these can be resolved, and the kind of diplomacy needed to shape the bilateral relationship towards a mutually beneficial partnership.


  • Mr Yasmi Adriansyah, Founder and Director Projecting Indonesia and PhD student at the School of Politics and International Relations, ANU
  • Mr David Binns, Assistant Secretary Indonesia and Timor-Leste, South East Asia Division, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
  • Dr David Connery, Australian Strategic Policy Institute
  • Mr David Irvine AO, Director General, Australian Security Intelligence Organisation
  • VADM David Johnston AM, Commander Joint  Operations Centre
  • LTGEN Peter Leahy AC (Retd), Director, National Security Institute, University of Canberra and Kokoda Foundation Director
  • Dr Peter McCawley, Australian National University
  • CDRE Liz Rushbrook, Director General Joint Health, Joint Health Command

November 2013: The Future of the Indo-Pacific and Australian Regional Diplomacy “Solving future challenges through engagement”

With a proposed 60% of the US Navy being repositioned in the Indo-Pacific by 2020, the US strategic “pivot” highlights the significant importance of the region. Australia’s unique position of a western nation positioned between both the Pacific and Indian oceans and also operating between major powers such as India, China, Russia and the United States will pose significant challenges.

While emerging nations such as Indonesia and Vietnam will create significant opportunities and disruptions to regional economies, the rise of the middle class and the maturation of regional militaries will make the Indo-Pacific a hotbed of activity in the coming years.

This congress focussed on the near to mid future up to 2030. The Kokoda Foundation drew senior strategic thinkers from Government, Think Tanks and the Australian Defence Force to provide insight, provoke discussion and to encourage critical analysis of long-held ideals.

Key Speakers

  • Mr George Bailey, Director, Deliberate Planning And Strategic Wargaming, Department of Defence
  • Mr David Irvine AO, Director General Australian Security Intelligence Organisation
  • Dr David Brewster, Visiting Fellow, Strategic & Defence Studies Centre, Australian National University
  • Mr Michael Pezzullo, Chief Executive Officer, Australian Customs and Border Protection Service
  • CDRE Martin Brooker CSC RAN, Director General, Military Strategy, Department of Defence
  • Mr John Quinn, Assistant Secretary, Strategic Issues and Intelligence Branch, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
  • AIRCDRE Anthony Forestier OAM, Strategic Policy Division, Department of Defence
  • BRIG Michael Ryan AM, Director-General, Army Strategic Planning, Department of Defence
  •  Mr Michael Shoebridge, First Assistant Secretary Strategic Policy, Department of Defence

May 2013: Resource Security - Vulnerabilities of a Globalised Democracy

Resources of all kinds are fundamental to a prosperous society, and being a globalised democracy, Australia has a significant dependence on both the export and import of resources. From the export of gas and minerals, through to the import of petroleum and even medical bandages, Australia relies heavily on the global trade system to ensure our way of life. But this system is exposed to many risk factors, such as further global economic shocks, sustainability issues, and the prospect of “resource wars”.

This congress challenged future strategic leaders to scrutinise Australia’s resource security challenges and gain a comprehensive understanding of the key issues.

Key Speakers:

  • AVM John Blackburn, AO (Retd), Deputy Chair Kokoda Foundation
  • Mr Julian Cribb FTSE, Julian Cribb & Associates
  • Mr David Irvine AO, Director General, Australian Security Intelligence Organisation
  • Mr Mike Rothery, First Assistant Secretary, National Security Resilience Policy division, Attorney-General’s Department
  • Mr Barry Sandison, Deputy Secretary, Participation, Families and Older Australians, Department of Human Services
  • Mr Greg Williamson, First Assistant Secretary, Biosecurity Policy Division, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries & Forestry
  • Mr Andrew Balmaks, Director, Kokoda Foundation, Principal, Noetic Solutions
  • AVM Peter Nicholson AO (Retd), Chairman, Kokoda Foundation

May 2012: Intelligence and Australia's National Security - Future challenges in a global domain

The proliferation of threats to national security and the ambiguous nature of these threats make intelligence – including its organisation, products, processes and systems – a key enabler of national security decision-making.  Yet, intelligence remains the most commonly misunderstood aspect of national security.  What is the role of intelligence in contemporary society, and how should this role evolve into the future to meet emerging national security challenges?

Congress attendees will develop a deeper understanding of intelligence through learning, discussion and debate around strategic aspects of intelligence practice and the role of intelligence in contemporary Australian society.  The Congress program addresses different domains such as national intelligence, defence intelligence and counterintelligence. Legal and ethical facets will also be explored. The program aims expose a broad cross-section of the intelligence discipline and cast forward to some of the future challenges. As such, current practitioners in the field are encouraged to attend. Participants will workshop issues with colleagues from across government, academia and industry, as well as some of Australia's leading strategic thinkers and decision makers in examining the future intelligence challenges.

November 2011: Security Challenges of New Media – A Double Edged Sword

Over the course of the weekend, participants examined how government, industry and the public are involved in protecting the nation against exacerbated unintended consequences of new social media in an increasingly connected world. New Media has penetrated almost every part of our society. Social media based on unconstrained dynamic human communications pose challenges for national security, exemplified by:

  • Almost half of Australians using at least one form social media,
  • 6.6 million Australians logging in daily,
  • Indonesia becoming the second largest user of Facebook in the world behind the US with 60% of males registered on the site, and
  • The Asian region rapidly embracing new media with or without their governments' input

As New Media has rapidly become the new tool of influence, this Congress will explore the breadth of the dynamic social media environment and the whole of nation effort required to protect Australia’s interests from unwanted global influences, in particular exploring the nexus between New Media and National Security implications, its use, affects and cooperative efforts. Participants will workshop issues with colleagues from across government, academia and industry, as well as some of Australia’s leading strategic thinkers and decision makers in examining future national security challenges of new media.

Securing Digital Australia: Whole of Nation Approaches to the Cyber Challenge

This Congress explored the range of cyber challenges facing Australia to 2030.

Participants examined how government, industry and the public are each involved in defending the nation against cyber threats in an increasingly networked world. From protecting home users, to critical infrastructure, government networks, and international cooperation, this Congress will explore the breadth of the dynamic online environment, and the whole of nation effort required to defend Australia online. Participants will workshop issues with colleagues from across government, academia and industry, as well as some of Australia's leading strategic thinkers and decision makers in examining future national challenges in the cyber domain.

Australia's Place in 2030: Regional Power or Pretender?

This congress centred on examining Australia's position in the region and the world, and the future of Australia's role as a regional leader and middle power in an increasingly competitive and challenging strategic environment out to 2030.

Over the course of the weekend, participants were presented with a unique opportunity to engage with some of Australia's leading strategic thinkers, decision makers and their peers across government, industry and academia, on the challenges Australia faces, in economic security, regional engagement and assistance, national alliances, international cooperation, defence, and how these might be overcome.

Looking in: Examining Australia’s National Resilience to 2030

This congress focused on Australia’s internal capacity to provide a comprehensive, co-ordinated and national response to current and emerging security challenges to 2030. some of Australia’s leading strategic thinkers debated with participants the key issues concerning future national challenges in the fields of energy security, economic security, environmental security, emergency management and critical infrastructure, strategic immigration, organisational resilience and more.

Protecting our borders: Future challenges in a globalised world

This Congress debated the key issues concerning future challenges in Border Protection for Australia and internationally.

China's Strategic Future: Planning Options for the Western Allies

This Congress debated the key issues concerning future Australian and allied security strategy for the Western Pacific.

Future Security Strategy for the Western Pacific

Some of Australia’s leading strategic thinkers debated the key issues concerning future Australian and allied security strategy for the Western Pacific

Session highlights included:

Key Features of the Future Northeast Asian Security Environment The Military Capabilities of the Major Powers in the Western Pacific in 2030 China’s Strategic Future and the Implications for Australia and the United States United States Perspectives on Western Pacific Strategy and Implications for Australia.

Key Issues for the National Security Statement and the New Defence White Paper

Some of Australia’s leading strategic thinkers lead debate in the key themes that should characterise the pending national security statement and the new Australian defence white paper.

The program included the following session topics:

  • Intelligence Foundations for the National Security Statement and the Defence White Paper
  • Key Themes for the National Security Statement
  • Key Themes for the New Defence White Paper
  • Key Principles of Strategic Leadership and Management
  • Hypothetical: Strategy for the Defence of Australia in 2030
  • How to Foster a Highly Productive Organisation?

Strategy for Winning the Long Struggle Against International Terrorism: Key Factors for Success




The Future Strategic Leaders’ Congresses are proudly sponsored by the Australian Department of Defence and the Noetic Group