Board of Trustees v2
Donations to the Trust will be applied either to the ongoing support of those families left behind by the death of their loved one in the service of our country. Alternately funds will be directed into making life the best it can be for the families of those Commandos who are seriously injured whilst on operations. The Trustees will consider each case on its merits based on a complete brief provided by a Military Board convened to assess and recommend suitable levels of support to affected SOCOMD members and families.
The Patrons, Ambassador & Trustees of the Commando Welfare Trust are;
Patron - MAJGEN Tim McOwan AO DSC CSM (Retd)
Major General Timothy Joseph McOwan, AO DSC CSM is a retired senior officer of the Australian Army. McOwan enlisted in the Australian Army in 1976, and gained his commission via the Royal Military College, Duntroon in 1980. McOwan served in regimental appointments with the 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (1RAR) and the Special Air Service Regiment (SASR). His service with 1RAR included an attachment to the Rifle Company Butterworth, in Malaysia while his service with the SAS included a two-year secondment to the headquarters commanding the British Special Air Service and the Special Boat Service. Whilst in SASR he served as a vehicle mounted troop commander, a counter terrorist troop commander, an operations officer and adjutant. He also commanded SAS Operations Support Squadron, between 1990 and 1991.
In 1992 McOwan attended the Army Command and Staff College at Fort Queenscliff, following which he served in staff appointments within the Directorate of Operational Support in Army Headquarters. In 1994 he was then appointed as Commander Australian Service Contingent Operation Mazurka, with the Multinational Force and Observers, Sinai, Egypt where he served as the force assistant chief of staff. In 1998 McOwan attended the Joint Services Command and Staff College in the United Kingdom, before being deployed to the Persian Gulf on Operation Pollard as a member of the United States Central Command-led Coalition Headquarters.
McOwan assumed command of the SASR in 1999, holding that position until 2001. During his time as commanding officer, McOwan commanded Joint Task Force 504 during Operation Spitfire, the Special Operations Component of International Force for East Timor during Operation Warden, and Joint Task Force 643 during Operation Gold, the ADF Counter Terrorism support to the Sydney Olympics. For the former deployment, McOwan was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, while 3 Squadron SASR was granted the Meritorious Unit Citation.
During 2001 McOwan was appointed the chief staff officer plans in Joint Operations Command. In this capacity he was responsible for operational planning for Australia’s commitment to the War On Terror, Operation Slipper in Afghanistan and Operation Falconer in Iraq, as well as numerous other ADF operations. In 2004 he became the director strategy and international engagement in Army Headquarters, before assuming the appointment of deputy special operations commander, Australia. In January 2006 he was appointed the chief of defence force liaison officer to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in The Pentagon, Washington, D.C. This appointment saw him responsible to the Chief of the Defence Force for liaison between the US Defence Force and the Australian Defence Force in the areas of operations, strategic plans and intelligence. McOwan assumed the appointment of Special Operations Commander Australia in February 2008 he relinquished this post in January 2011. He then served as Australian Defence attaché and Head, Australian Defence Staff in Washington, D.C.
In the 2012 Australia Day Honours, McOwan was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia in recognition of his “substantial contribution to the capabilities, operational successes and international reputation of Australia’s Special Forces”. He retired from the army in 2014.
Patron - The Hon Dr Brendan Nelson AO BMBS FRACP (HON) FAMA FRSN
Dr Brendan Nelson AO Dr Nelson is one of two Patrons of the Commando Welfare Trust.
After attaining his medical degree at Adelaide’s Flinders University Brendan practiced in Hobart and in 1993 he was elected unopposed at the National President of the Australian Medical Association.
In 1996 having retired from the AMA role he was elected to the Federal seat of Bradfield in Sydney. He served in the Australian Parliament for 15 years including time as Minister for Education, Science and Training and as the Minister of Defence during which time troops were deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan East Timor and the Solomon Islands . He oversaw major new investments if defence acquisitions including the purchase of 24 FA-18 Super Hornets, three Air warfare Destroyers, two Landing Helicopter Docks (LHDs), two additional Infantry battalions for the Army and a multi billion dollar recruitment and retention package.
Following some time as the Opposition Leader Dr Nelson resigned from politics and soon after took up the role of Australian Ambassador to Belgium, Luxembourg, the EU and NATO. Returning to Australia in 2012, Dr Nelson then was appointed Director of the Australian War Memorial – a role he fulfilled until December 2019.
Dr Nelson has been awarded the AMA’s highest honour , a gold medal for “Distinguished Service to Medicine and Humanity, he was appointed as an Officer within the Order of Australia in January 2016 and has also been awarded an Honorary Fellowship of the Royal Australian College of Physicians.
In February 2020, Nelson became the President of Boeing Australia. Dr Nelson joined the Commando Welfare Trust in 2019.
Ambassador - Ms Gwen Cherne
Ms Gwen Cherne is the first appointed Ambassador of the Commando Welfare Trust.
Gwen is an Australian war widow. Following the loss of her husband, Sergeant Peter Cafe, to suicide in 2017, she has provided essential advocacy for Australian war widows and families, and now serves as a Member Director and a Contemporary Widow Advisor for the War Widow’s Guild of Australia, New South Wales.
In 2018, Gwen was appointed as an Invictus Games Ambassador for Clubs NSW. Born in the United States, her career has spanned a diverse geographical area, including the US, Australia, Afghanistan, Africa, Central and South America, and the Caribbean, with a focus on stability, relief, and development for youth, women, and families living in crisis and extreme poverty.
In her early career she co-founded a school for low-income children with the New York Nativity Centers, an organisation she also helped restructure. She has worked in Afghanistan as an international development worker, and then at IDS International as a Senior Trainer and Manager for Curriculum and Training for both the military and civilians.
Gwen has spent the last seven years in Australia, where she has worked at the Australian Civil–Military Centre as a Program Manager for Civil–Military–Police Projects.
Gwen has a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology with a minor in Women’s Studies, and a Master’s degree in Public Administration with a concentration in International Policy from the NYU Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service.
CWT Chairman - BRIG Mark Smethurst DSC, AM (Retd)
Mark Smethurst DSC, AM served for 35 years in the Australian Army, and 27 of those years as a Special Forces Officer. He has commanded up to Squadron level in the Special Air Service Regiment, was the Commandant of the Special Forces Training Centre and Commanded the 2nd Commando Regiment in Sydney during their busiest operational period since inception. He was the Deputy Commander of the Australian Special Forces Command, Commanded the NATO Special Forces in Afghanistan and was the Deputy Chief of Operations for US Special Operations Command. Mark retired from the Australian Defence Force in March 2017 and until March 2019 was the Commissioner of the State Emergency Services (SES) for New South Wales.
Mark now runs his own business assisting the development of boards and senior leadership mentorship. As the Chair of the Commando Welfare Trust, he is committed to supporting current and former members of Special Operations Command and their families in times of need and to recognise their commitment to the Australian Defence Force.
CWT Deputy Chairman - BRIG Craig Shortt DSC, CSC, DSM
Brigadier Craig Shortt was appointed as the Commander of the Australian Special Forces Group in December 2018.
Brigadier Shortt has commanded from Platoon through to Group level in both Conventional and Special Forces Units. This has included command of the 2nd Commando Regiment, a Special Operations Task Group in Afghanistan and a Domestic Counter Terrorism Task Group.
His operational service in staff appointments includes: a tour as the CJ3 for the Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan; CJ35 at the Special Operations Command and Control Element in Afghanistan during the International Assistance Security Force mission; a tour in East Timor with the First Battalion Advisory Detachment; and a tour with 45 Royal Marine Commando (UK) in Kosovo as the training officer.
Brigadier Shortt’s recent Australian staff appointments have included: Director General Land and Director General Career Management for Army; Chief of Staff to the Vice Chief of Defence Force; and a variety of different appointments in the operations and plans functions for Headquarters Special Operations Command. He also completed a two-year exchange as an instructor with the School of Infantry in the United Kingdom.
Brigadier Shortt has been awarded two Masters – Masters of Defence Management through the University of Canberra and a Masters of Business Administration from Deakin University – and a Bachelor of Science with First Class Honours from the University of New South Wales.
Brigadier Shortt is married to Jasmin and has two daughters, Hannah (18) and Laura (15), one who is attending University and one at high school. He is a keen sportsman and particularly enjoys mountain biking.
Trustee - Bruce Parker
Former Commando, Bruce Parker, commenced his career in the automotive industry as an apprentice mechanic. During his apprenticeship he also studied engineering until being called up for national service. Bruce currently owns and manages HM Gem Engines and Nason Engine Parts employing in excess of 200 personnel.
Bruce has been dedicated in developing employment opportunities for people with disabilities. The provision of a stimulating environment for these employees has improved their learning, knowledge and skills. The company has been awarded the Prime Minister’s ‘Employer of the Year Award Large business’ on four occasions. In 1999 Bruce’s company was awarded the Victorian State Premier’s Award for Manufacturing and was also overall Business Winner for the South East Region. In 2000 Bruce was inducted into the Victorian Manufacturers Hall of Fame. Bruce’s company have provided skills and machinery to defence partners in our region. Bruce is a past President of both the Victorian and Australian Engine Remanufacturers Association. HM Gem Engines has won Motor Trades awards in 2016, 2017 and 2019 and was inducted to their Hall of Fame in 2019.
For more than twenty-five years Bruce has had a personal commitment to the Victorian Police initiative – ‘Hand Brake Turn’ scheme where disturbed or troubled young people are refocused and assisted into the workforce. The Parker family has also established the Michael Parker Foundation to provide education for underprivileged children in Australia, East Timor and Nepal.
He is a past President of the Australian Commando Association Victoria and remains an active member of that organisation.
Bruce was directly involved in the Australian Government initiative for the retraining of Falintal guerrillas in East Timor, that were deemed unsuitable for their armed forces.
Bruce and fellow former Commandos established the Commando Welfare Trust to provide quality education for the dependent children of Commandos who have been killed in action or training or have been badly wounded or injured whilst serving their country. This extends to quality of life initiatives for the wounded. The underlying ethos is “we look after our own”.
Trustee - Peter Laverick
Peter Laverick has been a professional tax advisor for over 25 years and is a foundation Trustee of the Commando Welfare Trust.
Following his university studies, he entered the taxation industry and for several years he worked for the Australian Taxation Office and then for three international accounting firms as a taxation adviser.
After his transition from advising on tax in an accounting practice to solicitor, Peter’s taxation expertise and experience were quickly recognised in the legal industry and Peter was made a partner in one, then a second Sydney law firm. The combination of an ATO background, commercial accounting firm experience and legal knowledge, meant that clients were always able to get the best commercial outcome having regard to all relevant factors.
After establishing Laverick Legal in 2011, Peter now works for a diverse range of clients including accounting practices, and law firms that do not have their own in-house tax expertise.
Trustee - Ian Breedon
Trustee - Mark Coad
Mark Coad is CEO of IPG Mediabrands Australia, one of this country’s largest media agency groups. He joined in early 2020. Prior that he was CEO of PHD Australia, a role he held since joining the business in 2012.
He has 28 years of experience having commenced his career in advertising and media in 1991 immediately after university. He has a Bachelor of Business majoring in Quantitative Analysis and Applied Economics.
Mark has built his career leading successful media agencies, and has worked with some of the largest and most complex advertisers: Telstra, McDonalds, Mazda, Village Roadshow, Unilever, ANZ Bank, CUB and VW Group. He has won multiple industry awards for his achievements – with several agency of the year awards, client campaign awards and employer of choice awards.
In addition to this role – he is a Board Director of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival and a Board Member of the Media Federation of Australia.
Mark is based in Melbourne.
Trustee - BRIG Alison Creagh
Brigadier Alison Creagh was appointed as a trustee of the Commando Welfare Trust in April 2019.
She is Chair of the ACT Ministerial Advisory Council for Veterans and their Families and is a Non-Executive Director of The Hospital Research Foundation, The Road Home and Veterans Film Festival. Alison chairs the Board of Governors for The Road Home and is President of Rowing ACT.
Brigadier Creagh is a member of the ACT Defence Industry Advisory Board and the AustCyber Canberra Node Industry Advisory Group and a strategic adviser for the University of New South Wales Defence Research Institute. She was previously a Member of the Australian War Memorial Council and Vice Chair of the Australian Peacekeeping Memorial Project.
Brigadier Creagh retired from the Australian Regular Army in March 2015 after a 30-year career and continues to serve in the Army Reserve. She is the Representative Colonel Commandant for the Royal Australian Corps of Signals.
Brigadier Creagh served on operations in Cambodia, East Timor, Iraq and Afghanistan and is passionate about supporting and representing the interests of the veteran community.
Trustee - Miriam Dwyer
Trustee - RADM Robyn Walker AM, RAN
Robyn Walker is a qualified specialist medical administrator with experience working in the Queensland public health system and the Royal Australian Navy. Her initial Navy career was focused on diving and submarine medicine and support to operations. Approaching 25 years of Naval duties her service culminated in her appointment as Commander Joint Health and Surgeon General Australian Defence Force with responsibilities for health care for all ADF personnel.
Robyn remains an active Reservist, is a non executive Director of Navy Health Pty Ltd and undertakes health consultancy projects.
A Donation to the Commando Welfare Trust is a donation to families
We support soldiers and their families during times of hardship.