David Hurley greets the Prime Minister during an International Women's Day breakfast at Parliament House in March. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
Out of uniform and thrust blinking into the world of officiating, unveilings and countless morning teas, General David Hurley and his wife Linda will “carve our own path” when he takes up the nation's oldest public position.
After 42 years of soldiering, the next NSW governor will turn to a more genteel kind of public service, and must walk in the footsteps of a much-revered predecessor.
“I was quite overwhelmed when I was asked to consider taking on this appointment. [I have] enormous shoes to fill because Governor [Marie] Bashir has put her whole life and enormous passion into her role,” he said on Thursday.
General David Hurley (second from right) greets the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in Queensland in April Photo: Harrison Saragossi
The Wollongong-born Chief of the Defence Force, 60, steps down from his current role at the end of this month. The Queen approved General Hurley's appointment, which takes effect on October 2. He becomes the state's 38th governor, and will take on a host of constitutional, ceremonial and community duties.
There was speculation that former defence force chief Peter Cosgrove would take up the role, but he has since been appointed as Governor-General.
General Hurley graduated from the Royal Military College at Duntroon in 1975 and was swiftly promoted through the force's ranks, becoming Chief of the Defence Force in 2011.
In 2010 he became a Companion of the Order of Australia for eminent service to the defence force. He has also been also awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for service in Somalia.
Premier Mike Baird said the appointment reflected General Hurley's “incredible career”.
“It is great to have a Wollongong boy in the top job and it is great to have someone who has led a military in difficult times … every single hour he has been about dedicating his life and cause to the service of the people of this country,” Mr Baird said.
The Premier paid tribute to Governor Bashir and her husband, Sir Nicholas Shehadie, for their dedication and service.
The public has developed a deep affection for Governor Bashir since she took on the role 13 years ago. The appointment broke the mould – she became the first woman in the position, and the first person of Lebanese descent.
She is known for delivering heartfelt, erudite speeches and is admired for her determined support for society's marginalised groups, including refugees, indigenous people and the mentally ill.
General Hurley said the “themes” of his five-year tenure would emerge in time. He signalled an interest in advancing the role of women in the workforce, assisting soldiers suffering post-traumatic stress disorder and increasing opportunities for youth.
“One of the great things about the role of governor is you are in the position to be able to create opportunities for people, because you can knit communities to opportunity, to resources - you have a very broad view of what's happening in the state,” he said.