Rear Admiral Katherine Richards

Head Navy Engineering (2021 - 2023)

RADM Katherine Richards

Katherine Anne Reid Richards, AM, CSC, RANwas born in Portsmouth, UK and educated in Sydney, NSW before joining the Royal Australian Navy on 20 January 1989. Katherine studied at the Australian Defence Force Academy and was awarded the Chief of Defence Force Navy Prize in 1991. She completed a Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering with First Class Honours in 1992. Promoted sub-lieutenant, in January 1993, she undertook training at HMAS Cerberus, as a Marine Engineer Officer, before serving in the guided missile frigate HMAS Canberra during 1993-1995 and was promoted to Lieutenant on 1 January 1995.

During 1996-1997, Lieutenant Richards served in Naval Support Command, as a member of the Permanent Naval Representative staff, at Garden Island in Sydney. She then served in the guided missile frigate, HMAS Newcastle, during 1997-1998 where she was awarded her marine engineer charge qualification. During 1998-1999, Lieutenant Richards attended the Royal Navy ‘Dagger’ Engineer Course as a Chevening Scholar and read for a Master’s of Science in Marine Engineering at the University College London.

Upon return to Australia in late 1999 she joined the commissioning crew of the Leeuwin Class Hydrographic Ships (alternating her service between HMA Ships Leeuwin and Melville) as the marine engineer officer before promotion to Lieutenant Commander, on 1 January 2001. Lieutenant Commander Richards was appointed as the marine engineer officer in the frigate HMAS Melbourne on 19 May 2001 becoming the first female officer in the RAN to become a charge engineer of a major fleet unit. During her time at sea, she saw operational service in the Southern Ocean in early 1998 (Operation STANHOPE), the Solomon Islands during 2001 (Operation TREK) and the Persian Gulf during 2002 (Operation SLIPPER).

On posting ashore in 2003, Lieutenant Commander Richards attended the Australian Command and Staff College at Weston Creek, ACT; completing a Masters of Management in Defence Studies (University of Canberra). In 2004 Lieutenant Commander Richards became Staff Officer to the Vice Chief of the Defence Force. Promoted commander on 1 January 2005 she remained in Canberra and served in a variety of general duties and specialist staff appointments, including Marine Engineering Category Manager (2005), Directing Staff at the Australian Command and Staff Course (2007) and as the LHD Sustainment Manager (2008-2009). In this later posting she was recognised as a Chartered Professional Engineer (CPEng) by Engineers Australia.

Following promotion to captain, on 24 January 2010, she was appointed as the Director of the LHD Systems Program Office in the Defence Materiel Organisation. Captain Richards went on to command the RAN’s premier training establishment HMAS Cerberus, in Victoria, during 2012-2013. Captain Richards then attended the Centre for Defence and Strategic Studies, in Canberra, in 2014 graduating with a Master of Arts.

Captain Richards was awarded a Conspicuous Service Cross (CSC), in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List 2014, for outstanding achievement in the performance of duties as the Commanding Officer HMAS Cerberus and Director Training Authority - Engineering. She was subsequently promoted Commodore in December 2014 and appointed as the Director General of Engineering for the Royal Australian Navy. This role also included a significant focus on seaworthiness across the fleet. In 2018, Commodore Richards was appointed Chief of Staff of the Royal Australian Navy’s Strategic Command in Canberra, later renamed Navy Headquarters. In 2019 she was made a Fellow of Engineers Australia in recognition of her contribution to the engineering profession.

Katherine Richards was promoted to the rank of Rear Admiral on 1 August 2020. She was appointed as a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in the Australia Day Honours List 2021 “For exceptional performance of duty in Royal Australian Navy command and management postions.” This was for her outstanding professionalism, risk management and strong direction as Chief of Staff Navy Headquarters, and in contributing to the rebuilding of Naval Engineering as a professional workforce. Rear Admiral Richards was Head Navy Engineering from February 2021 to March 2023.