Vice Admiral David John Shackleton

Chief of Navy (1999 - 2002)

VADM David John Shackleton

David Shackleton was born in Leeds, UK on 2 March 1948.  He joined the RAN from Adelaide in March 1966 as a Supplementary List seaman officer, becoming the youngest Midshipman of SLEX 3/66.  After basic training and a short period in HMAS Vampire, he qualified as a bridge watchkeeping officer during HMAS Perth’s second Vietnam deployment in 1968/69.

As a Sub Lieutenant and then Lieutenant, until late 1975 he then served in HMA Ships Queenborough, Curlew and Hobart, completing this period with three years in Navy’s flagship, Melbourne.  In the interim, he qualified as an Operations Room Officer and as an air controller.  Warfare training in UK followed, accompanied by two years exchange service at sea in HMS Ariadne, and then completion of the RN Advanced Warfare Course (Above Water).

Returning to Australia in late 1978, Lieutenant Commander Shackleton undertook comprehensive training at the Combat Data Systems Centre in Canberra, and then joined HMAS Hobart as her Direction Officer.

On graduation from the RAN Staff Course in 1980, he joined the Naval Staff in Canberra, subsequently serving in HMAS Perth as her Executive Officer.  On promotion to Commander in 1983, he spent two years on the Directing Staff of the RAN Staff College.

Commander Shackleton returned to Navy Office as project director for the Maritime Command Support System, being the second of several shore postings closely associated with C3I.  After graduation from the Joint Services Staff College, in May 1988 he commenced a busy time in command of the River Class frigate HMAS Derwent, based at HMAS Stirling in Western Australia.  He was promoted to Captain in June 1989, handed over command in August, and in January 1990 witnessed Derwent receiving the Gloucester Cup.


Following a period as Director of Operational Requirements for the Jindalee radar system, in late 1991 Captain Shackleton then took command of HMAS Brisbane, being his fifth posting to an Adams Class guided missile destroyer.  After returning from command of an RAN task group deployment to South East Asia, he joined the staff of the Maritime Commander in Sydney as the inaugural Chief Staff Officer C3I.

In December 1993, Commodore Shackleton became Director General Naval Policy and Warfare, responsible for development and coordination of strategic policy for the RAN, and in late 1996 joined the Defence Acquisition Organisation as Director General Information Management.  Following the Defence Reform Program, in July 1997, he became the first Director General Command and Support Systems and responsible for development and acquisition of all of Defence's major command and intelligence information support systems and major operational headquarters.  During this period, he completed his MBA degree.

Rear Admiral Shackleton became Head, Capability Development in July 1998, with responsibilities for sponsoring all new major capital equipment requirements and initiatives for the Australian Defence Force.

Vice Admiral Shackleton assumed command of the RAN as Chief of Navy in July 1999.  After an extremely active and demanding tenure, he retired from the RAN in July 2002, completing 36 years’ service.  He was made an Officer in the Order of Australia in January 2000, and in October 2001 was awarded the United States Legion of Merit (Commander).

In December 2017 he earned a doctorate of philosophy from the University of NSW, and until late 2019 was an active member of Australia’s defence industry.