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Rebuilding Trust and Reputation.


James Brown was the youngest President elected in the Returned and Services League of Australia's history. An inspirational leader, he led the rescue and rebuild of this much-loved national institution after governance scandals and corrupt leadership brought it to the brink of failure.

A veteran himself, James served twice in Iraq as well as in roles with coalition special forces in Afghanistan and remains a passionate advocate for veterans and their families.

Current Work

A strategic thinker, he is an expert in national security and strategy and has held appointments at the Lowy Institute for International Policy, the United States Studies Centre, and was an Adjunct Associate Professor at the University of Sydney. He is the author of two books and a regular media contributor.

James was also a director of the 2018 Sydney Invictus Games and founded Veteran Sport Australia: a national program continuing the Invictus Games legacy of healing veterans through the power of sport.

Talking Points

Rescuing the RSL

For two years James led the team rescuing the RSL after governance and corruption scandals brought it to the brink of failure. He speaks to the challenges of rebuilding trust with members and the public, rediscovering the much-loved national institution's purpose and mission, and the hard learned lessons along the way. He'll speak to the challenges of leading change in an ancient organisation in the midst of intense public scrutiny and inspiring RSL members to save more lives of veterans who have served Australia.

Key takeaways:
- communications are critical but you have to speak to people in their language
- with trust you can do anything, without it nothing
- to change a culture, you have to preserve the key purpose of an organisation and lead by example

Audience: corporate, associations, member organisations

Inspiring a Better Culture

Elected to lead Australia's largest veterans charity, James Brown found himself mired in criminal investigations into former leaders, a royal commission-like inquiry into fraud and governance failure, and answering to 40,000 angry veterans and a public disappointed by scandal in one of Australia's most loved institutions. In this speech he charts the two year journey to fix the culture of an organisation that had lost its way and highlights lessons which are important to any organisation looking to build a strong and healthy culture.

Australia's Place in the World

Australia's strategic environment is getting more complex and significant changes are happening in the world around us. Our traditional ally the United States is retreating from the world and focusing more inwards. The rise of China is challenging international systems, Asia is becoming more militarized and complex, and terror threat remains constant. Technology is making security threats more pervasive and immediate.

Amidst all this change, Australia is revolutionising its Defence Force and reconceptualising its place in the world. New partnerships are being formed and stronger relationships developed in our near region. James Brown is a strategic thinker and international affairs analyst regularly called upon by Australian and international media to explain strategic changes and unpack security issues.

In this talk, he charts Australia's place in the world and the trends Australians should be aware of.

Audience: Schools, associations, and corporations
James Brown was guest speaker at a client event that we held for young professionals in the legal and private equity industries. James reflected on his life and experiences in the army, his role in exposing corruption in the RSL, and the struggles faced by servicemen and women returning to professional and civic life. James was an inspiration to those in the room, stimulating discussions not only about his own experiences but also how the governance and leadership skills of ex-servicemen and women can benefit large organisations such as HSF and our clients. We feel lucky to have had James speak at our event. Herbert Smith Freehills
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