Rear Admiral Robert Plath

Commander, Defence COVID-19 Taskforce, Australian Defence Force

Robert Plath joined the Royal Australian Navy as a Midshipman in January 1983 and studied at the Naval College in Jervis Bay, NSW, graduating July 1985. He was promoted to Sub Lieutenant in 1986 and selected for an exchange posting to the Canadian Navy, in HMCS Yukon.

On returning to Australia he served in HMAS Success and then, after promotion to Lieutenant in 1989, as the Navigator in HMA Ships Curlew and Cessnock. In 1990, Plath undertook specialist warfare training in mine warfare, clearance diving and explosive ordnance disposal. A year of intensive training was followed by postings to HMAS Protector, Clearance Diving Team 1 and the RAN Mine Warfare School.

At the end of 1994, he was again selected for an exchange posting, this time to the Royal Navy. He served as the Executive Officer in HMS Chiddingfold throughout 1995 and 1996. Plath was promoted to Lieutenant Commander mid-1996 and returned to Australia later that year. During the first half of 1997 he attended the Navy Staff College at HMAS Penguin and commenced studying for an MBA. After Staff Course he served as the Operations Support Manager for the Navy’s Mine Warfare and Clearance Diving Forces until mid-1999.

In October 1999, he assumed command of HMAS Geelong, a Fremantle Class Patrol Boat based in Darwin. During this time he also completed his MBA. Plath handed over command in April 2001 and remained in Darwin as the Staff Officer Current Capability in the Patrol Boat Force Element Group.

Plath was promoted to Commander in January 2002 and moved to Canberra to head Navy’s Reputation Management Directorate. After three years in Navy Headquarters, Plath was selected for the position of Commanding Officer Navy Headquarters South Queensland and Senior Naval Officer South Queensland, assuming command in January 2005. His responsibilities in South Queensland were extremely varied, from managing Navy Cadet operations to representing Navy’s interests to Queensland Business and State Government entities. In 2006, Robert was selected for the position of Naval Attaché in Jakarta, handing over command in South Queensland in December that year and commencing Indonesian language training at the Australian Defence Force School of Languages in January 2007.

He was promoted to Temporary Captain in December 2007 and assumed the duties of Naval Attaché Jakarta on 28 December 2007. During his tenure in Indonesia, the bilateral Navy relationship advanced significantly with the highlight being the conduct of the first maritime security coordinated patrol. Plath also played a role in the Australian Government response to the Padang earthquake and the Jakarta bombing in 2009. He returned to Australia in January 2011, was confirmed in rank, and joined the Special Operations Command as the Director Special Operations Development.

Plath was selected to command the Mine Warfare, Clearance Diving, Hydrographic, Meteorological and Patrol Force in July 2012 assuming command on 31 August. He relinquished command in September 2014 and returned to Indonesia to study at the Indonesian Institute of National Resilience. He graduated in October 2015, was promoted to Commodore and assumed the responsibilities as Defence Attaché and Head of Defence Staff Jakarta on 18 December 2015; the first naval officer to serve in this capacity. In January 2019 he returned to Australia and served as the Deputy Fleet Commander until September 2020.

Plath was promoted to Rear Admiral on 28 September 2020 and appointed as Commander Joint Task Force 629, headquartered at Randwick Barracks, Sydney. He was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia on Australia Day 2021.

June 2021, Rear Admiral Plath was assigned as Commander Defence COVID-19 Task Force situated at Russell Canberra.