Occasional Papers Series

The ACSACS on-line publication series embodies UNSW Canberra’s commitment to engaging in public discussion and, where possible, the development of public policy. This series was created in response to requests from Centre Fellows and Adjunct Lecturers for a vehicle to gain an audience for research and writing that relates to specialist topics that are not addressed in standard scholarly publications.

Three broad categories of work are ‘published’ in the Series, each reflecting the length and purpose of the manuscript rather than its academic discipline:

  1. Position Papers: 2,000-4000 words, seeking to shape debate, direct discussion, or outline a position on some aspect of policy. The emphasis is on highly topical work embodying the opinion and judgements of the contributor on matters of contemporary concern.
  2. Working Papers: 3,000-5,000 words, intending to be a ‘work-in-progress’. Papers are offered for comment from other scholars working in the area. These papers are ‘first drafts’ of more substantial pieces of writing and present interim conclusions.
  3. Occasional Papers: exceeding 5,000 words and constituting completed work. Papers in this category include high quality descriptive and analytical work that might be too specialised or too topical for a scholarly journal. There is no upper word limit for papers in this category.


These papers are available in identical HTML and print-ready PDF formats and include an author note, illustrative material and references for further ready. The series is promoted through UNSW Canberra and ACSACS social media.


Occasional Paper Series No. 9 - Social Mobilisation in a Contested Environment

Occasional Paper Series No. 9 - Social Mobilisation in a Contested Environment

This paper tackles an important and interesting question: how should governments approach the new global battle space where ideas, ideologies, information and misinformation are weapons and where the battlefield is society and its support or otherwise for government action.

Occasional Paper Series No. 8 - Why did Australia go to the Great War

Occasional Paper Series No. 8 - Why did Australia go to the Great War

The Great War, in which hostilities formally ended just on a century ago, remains a subject of active interest in Australia, both among academic historians and even more among a substantial minority of the population which researches family history, visits battlefields and cemeteries, purchases (and perhaps reads) popular histories and watches documentaries.

The significant academic interest in the Great War generally and UNSW Canberra’s work in particular explain why we held a symposium under the auspices of the Australian Centre for the Study of Armed Conflict and Society at UNSW Canberra on 8 May 2018.

The paper includes the following contributions:

  • Peter Stanley – Introduction
  • Greg Lockhart – Effacing the nation: the imperial romance and its persistence in Australian Great War history
  • John Mordike – Outlining national-imperial tensions in the development of the Australian Military Forces, 1901-14
  • Douglas Newton – Choosing war, and choosing war aims: British and Australian decision-making, 1914-1918
  • Gerhard Fischer – The Little Welshman’s dream: the war aims of William Morris Hughes
  • John Moses – Between truth and polemic: comprehending imperial Germany’s war-aims 1914-18
  • Robert Stevenson – ‘Why Australia Went to the Great War’: Commentary

Occasional Paper Series No. 7 - DDG in Vietnam and Lessons for the Royal Australian Navy

Marking the 50th anniversary of the RAN involvement in the Vietnam War, the Naval Studies Group of the Australian Centre for Armed Conflict and Society held two seminars. The first was The DDGs in Vietnam & Lessons for the RAN at the UNSW/Australian Defence Force Academy on 17 August 2017. The second seminar, on the RAN Helicopter Flight in Vietnam, was held in October 2017 at the Australian Naval Aviation Museum at HMAS Albatross.

Just two years after the first of three Charles F. Adams class guided missile destroyers (DDGs) entered service in the RAN, HMAS Hobart sailed for the Vietnam War. This Occasional Paper examines the impact of the DDGs on the RAN, their role in the Vietnam War, logistics and technical issues as well as the human dimension. Each chapter is written by veterans of that war and include five admirals, each with a deep understanding of the destroyers’ service in the Vietnam War.

Occasional Paper Series No: 6 - ‘We Need to Talk About Marine A’

The story of ‘Marine A’ is a complex one. Blackman’s case is a microcosm of the human and societal impact of fifteen years of persistent war - a tragic theatre of lessons that reaches in ‘breadth, width and depth’ from the hidden ethical risks of Counter Insurgency (COIN) tactics, through the psychological influence of constant combat, and as far as strategy and the relationship between a society and its military.

In 2011, Alexander Blackman was a 37 year-old elite Royal Marine commando with thirteen years’ experience. He was combat hardened, having served in Iraq three times, and Afghanistan. The Supreme Court would later describe his service prior to the incident as ‘exemplary’. With over a decade under his belt, Blackman landed in Helmand Province facing a challenging tour in a highly contested and kinetic area. Five and a half months later, Blackman was filmed deliberately killing a wounded Afghan insurgent by firing his pistol into the man’s chest; he and others were subsequently charged with murder.

In November 2013 Blackman (known at the trial as ‘Marine A’) was convicted of murder; the others were acquitted. A psychiatric defence was not pursued by Blackman’s legal team, but basic psychiatric analysis was submitted as part of mitigation for sentencing; successfully influencing the leniency of the Court. Blackman was sentenced to life with a minimum term of ten years, and dishonourable discharge from the Royal Marines. A 2014 appeal to the Supreme Court, based on the extreme stress that Blackman was under at the time of the killing, reduced this minimum term to eight years.

Occasional Paper Series No: 5 - The Raids Across the Malacca and Singapore Straits during Confrontation 1963-66

This paper shows that low intensity guerrilla wars are not confined to land operations, but can have a full-blown maritime dimension. The British Commonwealth experienced this as an aspect of its struggle with Indonesian subversion and sabotage of the new state of Malaysia in Confrontation 1963 to 1966. The study draws on a number of computerised databases to chart the ebb and flow of the maritime campaign through the quantitative analysis of Operations Research.

Occasional Paper Series No: 4 - Intelligence analysis: what is it good for? The problem with probabilistic forecasting

There are a number of challenges associated with trying to measure the value of intelligence analysis. One current solution that has gained popularity is to focus on predictive intelligence, and to use statistical techniques to test predictions against the actual course of events. I will to demonstrate that this approach is not only fundamentally flawed in terms of method it is also dangerous because it gives priority to idle speculation about unknowable futures. I want to show that intelligence analysis is best measured by its ability to give decision-makers the broadest set of options and that its value resides in the outcomes of the actual choices that are made. My arguments and conclusions are based on two case studies: the Battle of Kursk during 1943 and the 2012 Malian coup. This approach will assist senior managers and strategic direction setters across intelligence agencies whose output includes predictive intelligence. It will be especially helpful to officials grappling with the problem of how to measure the quality and value of their intelligence analysis. 

Occasional Paper Series No: 3 - Australian Political Perceptions of the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin

Occasional Paper Series No: 3 - Australian Political Perceptions of the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin

On Easter Day 1916, the radical Irish Republican Brotherhood launched a rebellion against British rule with support from the Irish Volunteers. In the hope of inspiring a mass movement across they country, the rebels occupied a number of key buildings across Dublin including the General Post Office. The ‘Rising’ was largely confined to the Irish capital and quickly defeated by British military forces. The leading rebels including Thomas Clarke, Sean MacDermott and Patrick Pearse were summarily executed. This occasional paper examines Australian political perceptions of the Easter Rising. While the British Government considered the Rising to be a serious wartime threat to the British Empire, Irish-Australians were less than convinced. While many non-Irish Australians saw the Rising as sedition, their attitudes changed in the wake of the executions and the continuing brutal suppression of republican spirit in Ireland.

Nobility Down Under: How the Duchess became an Australian

Occasional Paper Series No: 2 - Nobility Down Under: How the Duchess became an Australian

The loss of HMAS Voyager after a collision with HMAS Melbourne off Jervis Bay on 10 February 1964 left 82 men dead and created a serious operational problem for the RAN. On completing her work-up, Voyager was due to return to South East Asia with HMAS Vampire for service in the Strategic Reserve. With the loss of HMAS Voyager, it seemed the best solution was to order Vendetta to accompany Vampire to the Strategic Reserve in May. HMAS Quiberon, which was to pay off, would remain in commission. She would be refitted in early June at Williamstown Naval Dockyard and relieve Vendetta at the end of the year. This action was subsequently agreed by the Naval Board. Yet, the RAN was still one destroyer short of what it needed to fulfill extant strategic demands and long-standing operational commitments. A crisis was looming.

Occasional Paper Series No: 1 - Soldiers, Squadrons and Strategists

Occasional Paper Series No: 1 - Soldiers, Squadrons and Strategists

The Western world is weary of conflict. Fifteen years of war since 2001 have drained the resources of many First World nations and have left an indelible stamp on their armed forces. Many militaries are now struggling to change and adapt in the aftermath. They are facing an identity crisis that must be resolved if they are to be prepared for future challenges. Cultural issues and the need for a better defined virtue-ethic from the tactical to the strategic sits at the heart of the struggle. Guiding this change is a major opportunity for the military ethicist who can contribute to the thinking of individuals, groups and strategists. This article outlines three ethical priorities – the resurgence of operational mentoring as a core role for ground forces; the ethics of operating in modern, massive multinational operations; and, the future ethics of robotics and the automation of war – which require the recasting of virtue ethics and their nuanced application by individuals, groups and strategists.