Michael Smith AO

Major General (Retd)

Michael (Mike) Smith is a founding member of the Australian Peace and Security Forum and the Development Adviser and Chair of the Development Advisory Committee to the Calleo Indigenous Community Fund which provides education and development opportunities to deserving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Mike is also Chair of the Gallipoli Scholarship Fund, and a Non-executive Director of the Institute for Economics and Peace and the Australian Respiratory Council. He is a past National President of the United Nations Association of Australia, a former Visiting Fellow at the Asia-Pacific College of Diplomacy at the Australian National University, and a former Adjunct Professor at the Key Centre for Ethics, Governance, Law and Justice at Griffith University. Mike consults on peace and security issues and maintains a strong commitment to human rights. He has worked with the United Nations in military and/or civilian capacities in Cambodia, Kashmir, Libya, Myanmar, Nepal, Timor-Leste, and Yemen, developing effective cross-cultural experience on a diverse range of security and peacebuilding challenges.

From 2008-2011, Mike was the founding Executive Director of the Australian Civil-Military Centre, a multi-agency organisation established by the Australian Government in 2008 to support the development of national civil-military capabilities to prevent, prepare for, and respond more effectively to conflicts and disasters overseas. Under Mike’s leadership, the Centre successfully worked with the United Nations and the African Union to develop policy and doctrine to enhance the protection of civilians in peace operations. This work assisted Australia’s successful election for a seat on the UN Security Council. 

From 2002-2008, Mike was CEO of Austcare (now Action Aid Australia), an international humanitarian and development agency committed to supporting under-privileged communities, including refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) affected by conflict, landmines and explosive remnants of war, violence and natural disaster. Under his leadership, Austcare significantly increased its funding and pioneered a ‘protection of civilians’ program with UN humanitarian agencies. 

As Major General, Mike served for 34 years as an Army Officer in the Australian Defence Force. He graduated with the ‘sword of honour’ from the Royal Military College, Duntroon, in 1971, and had a distinguished military career as an infantry officer. His initial experience in cross-cultural training was forged as a Platoon Commander in the 2nd Battalion, Pacific Islands Regiment, in Papua New Guinea. He later served as Australia’s Defence Adviser to the Kingdom of Cambodia in 1994, working collegiately with the factional Cambodian Defence Force to counter the Khmer Rouge and embed the laws of armed conflict (LOAC) in its doctrine development. Throughout 1999 Mike served as Director-General for East Timor, responsible for advising the Chief of the Defence Force and forging strong relations with the United Nations. He was appointed as the Deputy Force Commander of the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) in 2000-2001, in recognition for which he was promoted from a Member to an Officer in the Order of Australia.

Mike has been active in international fora on cross-cultural and change management security and development issues, including security sector reform; peacekeeping and complex peace operations; refugees and IDPs; the responsibility to protect (R2P) and the protection of civilians; ceasefire and arms monitoring; human security; disaster relief; and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). He has published articles and chapters on these issues, including a book Peacekeeping in East Timor: the Path to Independence (Lynne Rienner, London and Boulder, 2004). 

Mike holds a Master of International Relations from the Australian National University and a Bachelor of Arts in History from the University of New South Wales. He is a Graduate of the Australian College of Defence and Strategic Studies, the Cranlana leadership programme in Melbourne, and the Company Directors Course at the University of New England. 

Mike lives in Canberra with his wife, Margaret. They have three adult sons and four grandchildren. Golf is their passion, and Mike’s downfall!