A former Australian Army officer has taken the reins at SME Gateway, one of Australia’s premier member organisations representing the interests of small to medium-sized enterprises working with industry, state and federal governments and Defence.
Having spent most of his career in the Australian Army, Richard Campbell has stepped in as the CEO of SME Gateway following Stuart Althaus’ recent retirement.
During his 40 years in the Australian Defence Force, Richard attained the rank of Colonel. Although most of his service was in the Army, principally in the Special Forces, he also held several Defence appointments representing the Australian Defence Force in his final decade of service.
Most recently, he served as the Chief of Plans for NATO Special Operations in Afghanistan, Exchange Officer in the UK’s Permanent Joint Headquarters and as the Australian Defence Attaché to the Republic of Turkey.
“On any given day I represented the navy, army and air force on a variety of issues,” he said.
“I often attended international trade shows, facilitated getting Turkish VIPs to events in Australia, such as the Avalon Air Show, Sea Power, Land Forces and other conferences. I liaised with Turkish defence industry about F35s, LHDs, infantry load-carrying equipment, the transfer of Australian Bushmaster vehicles to Ukraine, et cetera.
“I was fortunate to have the opportunity to see one of the largest domestic and international defence industries in the world up close, and now I’m hoping to be able to utilise some of the lessons I learned in the process.”
Richard has served in Australia, the UK, Papua New Guinea, Bougainville, East Timor, Iraq and Afghanistan.
He also worked for Qantas Airways for seven years in its ground operations and international security branches, and is a graduate of the UK’s Royal Military College of Science (MA), the Army Command and Staff College (MDS) and the University of Queensland (MBA).
Richard said SMEs would play an “essential” role in developing and maintaining Australia’s sovereignty in the coming years, but he saw some challenges ahead.
“Supporting Department of Defence and other Federal and State Governments and agencies over the next few years remains important for SME Gateway,” he said.
“Defence is trying to develop many capabilities in a short time, and other departments and organisations need support to deliver important outcomes.”
Richard said he also keenly awaited the release of the Defence Strategic Review.
“SME Gateway hopes to see an appropriate amount of Defence acquisition funding going to sovereign businesses,” he said.
“We can’t rely entirely on foreign companies for our Defence industrial capacity. Enhancing our own Defence industrial capacity will take time, but is essential to long-term national security.
“If we don’t represent our SMEs to the best of our ability, they may get absorbed by the big players, many of which are owned by foreign entities.
“It might seem like a tempting short-term answer, but it won’t address our long-term strategic defence challenges.”
SME Gateway is a wholly owned subsidiary of advisory and technology services business Atturra. The organisation provides Federal and State Governments, Defence and industry clients with direct access to over 400 Australian SME businesses nationwide.
Atturra CEO Steven Kowal said Richard is well placed to allow SME Gateway to work collaboratively and competitively “to deliver sovereign Australian capabilities across the nation, for the nation”.
“Richard Campbell has a passion for developing a sovereign defence industrial capability,” he said.
“He joins SME Gateway at an exciting time, as we consider new opportunities presented by the Defence Strategic Review and how to best represent small to medium-sized enterprises and their clients.”
Richard said he was ready to tackle the challenges ahead, hand-in-hand with clients and members.
“I’m excited to join SME Gateway at this pivotal time when small and medium companies are innovating at a rapid pace,” he said.
“At the same time, these organisations have incredible opportunities in the digital age to meaningfully engage and partner with government, Defence and industry to reinforce national resilience and economic success.
“I’m looking forward to supporting these organisations with best practice frameworks and advisory services to ensure their ongoing momentum.”