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others is inconceivably horrible" -- Mr Schumann nevertheles
understands that as long as war is "a feature of the human
condition", soldiers will be necessary.
"Everybody I engage with in the military is in no doubt that I
that they are necessary. They are also in no doubt that I am v
much understanding and supportive of them," he said.
"I think that's an easy distinction to make and operate within
"My position is that Australians can and, in some instances, d
have a moral obligation to protest our country's involvement
in a conflict. But we must always respect and support the m
and women we send into that conflict. We made that mista
Vietnam and I don't think we will make that again."
His well-aired views on this subject may have led to the initia
resistance in some quarters to the idea of John Schumann an
Vagabond Crew first being invited to perform to Australian p
keeping troops in East Timor in 2009.
"We did what we do when we play here in Australia. We talk
about the songs, introduced them, told stories and jokes. The
truth is we went down a storm and, on the basis of the respo
we were invited to go to Afghanistan."
There was little fanfare ahead of the band's visit to Kabul and
Tarin Kowt in late September and early October.
"Members of the Taliban monitor mobile phone, email, Faceb
and Twitter traffic to get as much information as they can ab
who is going where," Mr Schumann said.
Her original duties -- sorting through and entering claims for
expenses -- are a far cry from her current role: a member of BAE
System's Board of Management, she is Director of Business
Development and Director of Defence Logistics.
The company has changed too.
At the time she joined, Ms Seitz said the company had a turnover in
Australia of around $100 million and employed some 300 people.
"Now we have a turnover of close to two billion dollars with 6,000
people, so it's been a fantastic journey," Ms Zeitz said.
There was only one major bump in the road; after holding a variety
of roles and winning promotions which took her close to the top
of the finance section, Ms Zeitz felt she had run out of options
for advancement, and decided to resign. But instead, she was
persuaded to move across to marketing, taking up a role in which
she undertook pricing and estimating for BAE's bid submissions.
"Over the next 15 years I moved through different roles within
what we call 'commercial', becoming commercial director in 2000."
Her current portfolio includes relations with government, and in
a company that derives more than 90 per cent of its sales to the
Christine Zeitz's career didn't exactly get off to a flying start. At
the interviews arranged by Flinders for its final-year economics
and accountancy students with the major employers in the
field, many students get "picked up": Christine found herself
She then wrote to dozens of accounting firms and did find a
taker, only for the job offer to be withdrawn just before she
sat her exams.
But after registering with an
accountancy placement service
her luck changed, and within
weeks of leaving Flinders, she
had found work in the finance
section of the Australian arm of
multinational company British
Aerospace, now known as BAE
"Lo and behold, that was
January 1990, and I'm still here,"
Ms Zeitz said.
The sobering reality
of entertaining our troops
Still flying high with BAE
John Schumann accepts there is an
inherent irony in his being invited
to perform for Australian soldiers in
The recipient of a Flinders Distinguished Alumni Award has
a number of claims to fame: as former lead singer of iconic
Australian band Redgum; or as the political upstart who came
close to taking the federal seat of Mayo, held at the time with
a comfortable margin by Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander
Downer, in the 1998 federal election.
But, arguably, it is as the writer of I was only nineteen -- the
chart-topping, anti-war anthem about the experiences of
a young soldier in the Vietnam War, judged one of the top
30 Australian songs of all time -- for which Mr Schumann is
"The truth is I was only nineteen remains a very important song
inside the Australian Defence Force (ADF), much more so than I
realised," Mr Schumann said.
"Surprisingly, it's held in great regard by younger members
of the ADF who in lots of instances weren't alive during the
Vietnam War or who were very, very young when the song was
popular," he said.
Vehemently opposed to war -- "the idea that some human
beings can pick up arms and seek to visit death and injury on
"We were led to understand that it would be a very significant
PR coup for the 'bad guys' if they were able to bring down a
plane with a bunch of infidel entertainers onboard."
En-route, the band members underwent a series of security
and operational briefings which lasted about 12 hours at the
ADF airbase at Al Minhad in the United Arab Emirates where
they were issued with helmets and flak jackets ("very hot, very
heavy and very uncomfortable"), learnt about IEDs (improvised
explosive devices) and how to apply a tourniquet with one hand.
Mr Schumann said the arrival at Kandahar airbase aboard a
Hercules aircraft after a five hour flight was "mind-blowing".
"There, surrounded by sand, more sand and huge mountains,
the military might of the western world is assembled.
"Home to 35,000 military personnel, with 300-400
aircraft lined up at the busiest one-strip airport in the
world. It's huge."
John Schumann and the Vagabond Crew were
very well-received by the troops at each of their
five performances. Lucky for them, and unlike
the band Amy Meredith who were also on the
tour, the performances were not interrupted
by rocket fire.
"It was exhilarating, exhausting, instructive,
depressing and inspirational. All of those
things, all at once," Mr Schumann said.
The nine-day trip has enhanced his admiration
for the men and women of the ADF but also
spurred some soul-searching.
"The soldiers there feel they are making a
difference. They talk about their joy in seeing
little girls being able to attend school.
"But flying into that barren landscape...
there are seeming contradictions between the military might of
the west and the modest resources available to the Taliban.
"In February, Hugh McDonald and I played at the funeral of
Sapper Jamie Larcombe who died in Tarin Kowt. Looking at
this box surrounded by soldiers wearing armbands, looking at
the grieving parents, I wondered, 'what's it for?'. He was just a
country boy from Kangaroo Island."
government, with the Australian Defence Force as the prime
customer, it's a vital role.
While BAE Systems do supply military hardware, around half
of their income derives from so-called
sustainments, the maintenance and
support of weapons systems.
"We are working on a bid worth $700
million at the moment," Ms Zeitz said.
She said that she doesn't find the
"Having had a 20 year gradient, it's never
been a jump from the small to the very big,"
Ms Zeitz said.
Her work has taken her to several overseas
postings, and she also found time to marry
and have two children.
She said her experience in a senior role
with young children has given her a special
interest in women in the workforce, and on
the BAE management board she acts as the
champion for diversity and inclusion.
"I'm really quite enthused about the
dialogue that's going on in society and
business around diversity and gender, such
as the ASX guidelines to increase female representation on
boards," she said.
"As we look at how we attract and retain female talent and try
to encourage women into senior roles,
what I lived through informs me very well
for discussing it.
"We've moved to a point in our company
where the key enabler for having women
come through in senior roles is flexibility."
In her business development role, Ms Zeitz
is looking at new strategies for growth at
a time when traditional defence markets
The company's response has been to move
into adjacent markets, such as security.
"My function supports the strategic
rationale to plan and approve these
moves," Ms Zeitz said.
But, she said, the stress doesn't keep her
awake at night.
"The secret is you need to have good
people, and I have a great team."
Photo: ABIS Jo Dilorenzo
Lieutenant Colonel Ian Robinson and John Schumann
Photos: BAE Systems
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