Sustained leadership for future Navy

This article has photo gallery Published on LEUT Will Singer (author), LSIS Lee-Anne Cooper (photographer)

Topic(s): Frigate Helicopter (FFH), HMAS Anzac (F150)

Director Anzac System Program Office, Captain Rachel Durbin, CSC, RAN, at Henderson Dockyard, Western Australia. (photo: LSIS Lee-Anne Cooper)
Director Anzac System Program Office, Captain Rachel Durbin, CSC, RAN, at Henderson Dockyard, Western Australia.

Growing up at the foothills of the Snowy Mountains is a far cry from leading the sustainment of Australian warships to fight and win at sea but the Director of Anzac Systems Program Office, Captain Rachel Durbin, got more than she initially expected when she joined the Navy to be an engineer.

“Navy provides a mix of engineering, leadership, and teamwork in all different types of projects,” Captain Durbin said.

“There is opportunity for a diverse range of experiences. Each contributes to your growth in leadership as well as in the engineering profession – which together are very effective and complementary skills.”

Leading diverse teams in support of the Anzac frigates comes with a huge responsibility and ongoing challenges.

“My role in working together with industry to sustain and deliver complex engineering upgrades presents challenges for our whole team. 

“Anything that might get in the way of ensuring we deliver on our promises to Navy keeps me awake at night.

“The role is a real challenge and is most satisfying when we have delivered on stretch targets by aligning our capability and our behaviours in a highly collaborative way,” she said.

“Any leadership role in the military is a privileged position that is bestowed on you by your followers. It is based on trust and mutual respect, and is more significant because of the potential sacrifice. 

“Being a leader in Navy is a particularly empowering and rewarding role,” she said.

Captain Durbin credits observing visionary role models who helped shape her behaviour and improve her performance in order to make an impact on the challenges faced in the workplace.

“I have learnt from my mentors that in order to deliver on a passionate vision, you need to have the ability to connect with people and empower your workforce to achieve more than they thought was possible.”

Captain Durbin says her current position has been most memorable and enjoyable.

“My role leading a highly capable team delivering both the anti-ship missile defence upgrade and future upgrade programs through a highly collaborative partnership with our committed industry partners is particularly rewarding,” she said.

“As a junior officer, my time in HMAS Anzac was pivotal in shaping my view on teamwork and collaboration.

“I was part of a highly proficient crew while deployed in the Gulf during the 9/11 attacks.

“I realised how important it was to lead your team and perform when you are the only ones to do the job,” she said.

Captain Durbin’s advice for new Navy leaders is to learn as much as possible and to ‘master your craft’.

“The foundation of everything is to master your job and develop confidence in your own ability.

“Find your own measure of life success, by discovering what drives you and what is the most satisfying for you. Then align your work to your passions – always listen to advice, then make your own career decisions based on what drives you. 

The Australian Defence Force Academy graduate continues to cultivate her leadership knowledge and recently attended a leadership course at Harvard University.

Despite a busy schedule, Captain Durbin participates in pilates and can be seen chasing her little toddler while supporting her daughter on the sidelines at weekend hockey games.