Phillip Bennett

General Sir Phillip Harvey Bennett AC, KBE, DSO, KStJ (born 27 December 1928) was the Governor of Tasmania from 1987 to 1995, and Chief of the Australian Defence Force from 1984 to 1987.

Early life

Sir Phillip was born in Perth, Western Australia and was educated at Perth Modern School and the Royal Military College, Duntroon, from which he graduated as a Lieutenant on 14 December, 1948. With 13 other new officers, he was posted in March 1949 to 67 Inf Bn. The Australian Regiment, then in the British Commonwealth Occupation Force, Japan.

Military career

He served in Japan until September 1950 and then embarked with the 3rd Battalion for Korea where he served for a year during which he was wounded in action on 14 October 1950, remaining on duty, and Mentioned in Despatches in 1951. He served again for 12 months in Korea from 1 September 1952 as Senior, then Chief Instructor with the 25 Cdn Inf Bde Jnr NCO School while posted as Tactics Instructor at the School of Infantry in Seymour, Victoria.

On return to Australia in 1953 he became Adjt 1 PIR in PNG. In 1954 he was Adjt with 16 Inf Bn (CMF) and in 1956 Staff Capt A in HQ W Comd Then in 1957–58 he served in the United Kingdom with the Royal Marine Commandos and saw duty in Malta, and operational service in Cyprus. He then served as OC 2 Cdo Coy from Jul 1957 to Jun 1961, and after attending the Australian Staff College, became the Senior, then Chief Instructor at OCS, Portsea from 1962 to 1965. He was then posted until 10 July 1967 to Army HQ which had moved to Canberra in the early 1960s from Melbourne.

He then commanded the 1st Battalion and for service in Vietnam in 1968–69 and was awarded the Distinguished Service Order. On return from UK Joint service training in 1971 he became Colonel Coordination in the office of CGS and in Apr 1974 became Brigadier, Chief of Staff at HQ Field Force Command in Sydney until Dec 1975.

He attended senior officer training at the Australian Staff College first long course in 1960–61, Joint Services Staff College in UK as a student then exchange instructor 1969–71, and then the Royal College of Defence Studies in UK in 1976.

He commanded the 1st Division 1977–79, became Assistant Chief of Defence Staff 1979–82, Chief of the General Staff 1982–84 and (the first) Chief of the Australian Defence Force in 1984 (the position having been changed from Chief of the Defence Staff). He retired from the Army in April 1987.

Governor of Tasmania

During his period as Governor, he was called on to be the adjudicator of a sensitive constitutional problem following the inconclusive Tasmanian state election in 1989. This led to the fall of the Liberal Government of Premier Robin Gray and its replacement with an Australian Labor Party Government led by Michael Field, reliant on the support of five Green Members of Parliament in what was known as the Labor-Green Accord. Bennett's handling of this situation was regarded by constitutional experts as assured and impeccable.

Sir Phillip on several occasions also became Administrator of the Commonwealth during overseas visits by the Governor-General, acting for the then Governor General of Australia the Hon. William George Hayden AC.


After retiring from the Governorship, Sir Phillip has also served as inaugural Chairman of the Australian War Memorial Foundation. He has been the Patron of the 2 Commando Association since 1985, Patron of The St John Ambulance in the ACT since 1996 and a past President of the Order of Australia Association (elected National President of the Order of Australian Association in March 1997). Sir Phillip is also the inaugural National Patron of the Royal Australian Regiment Association.

Awards and honours

He was appointed a Companion of the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) in 1969 for service as Commanding Officer of 1 Royal Australian Regiment in Vietnam. Bennett was made an Officer in the Military Division of the Order of Australia in 1981, a Knight Commander in the Military Division of the Order of the British Empire in 1982 and promoted to Companion of the Order of Australia in 1985.

In 1983 he received the US Legion of Merit (Degree of Commander) and in 1985 the Republic of Korea Order of National Security Medal. He was made an Honorary LLD (NSW) in Oct 1995 for his contribution to military education and the Australian Defence Force Academy. He was made a Knight of St John in 1988 and awarded the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, by the University of Tasmania in 1992. He was awarded the Centenary Medal in 2001.

Companion of the Order of Australia (AC) (1985)
Officer of the Order of Australia (OA) (1981)
Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE) (1982)
Distinguished Service Order (DSO) (1969)
Knight of the Most Venerable Order of St John (KStJ) (1988)
Australian Active Service Medal 1945-1975
Korea Medal with Bronze Oakleaf for Mentioned in Dispatches
United Nations Korea Medal
General Service Medal (With Malaya clasp)
Vietnam Medal
Australian Service Medal 1945-1975
Centenary Medal (2001)
Defence Force Service Medal (with Federation Star) (40-45 years service)
National Medal with first clasp (1977)
Australian Defence Medal
Vietnam Campaign Medal (Republic of Vietnam)
Commander of the US Legion of Merit (United States of America) (1983)
Order of National Security Merit (Tong-il Medal) (South Korea) (1985)


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