James Lister - Aide-de-Camp to the Governor of Queensland, Government House, Queensland

James Lister
'I travel with the Governor and assist with all her daily activities. A military officer wouldn't normally get a chance to interact with people from all walks of life but I do.'

You might have seen Flight Lieutenant James Lister at Queensland's Government House dressed in his military uniform complete with ceremonial sword, snacking on scones and drinking champagne. He is the aide-de-camp (ADC) to Ms Quentin Bryce AC, the Governor of Queensland; a position that requires him to meet and greet the VIPs who relax in the luxurious dining areas of Government House.

Throughout the Commonwealth, ADCs are drawn from the ranks of the military to serve under the Queen's representatives as well as the top echelons of the judiciary and military. James's job sounds like one of luxury, especially for a military man, but it's not easy flying for this air force officer. James is an elite type of personal assistant   the confidential secretary and right-hand-man of the Governor.

What do you do in your job?

I travel with the Governor and assist with all her daily activities. It's difficult because I have to organise and be part of all of her activities. I do everything from writing media releases about what the Governor will do each day, to escorting her to Parliament House when she meets government ministers.

How did you get into this role?

To become an ADC, you have to be an officer in the Australian army, navy, or air force and have great communication skills. As an ADC you're in a conspicuous armed forces role  so you need excellent presentation as well.

I joined the air force in 2000 and four years later I was appointed to the role of ADC to the Governor-General. That finished, and a couple of years later I got a new position, this time with the Queensland Governor.

What did you do before joining the air force?

I studied a Bachelor of Applied Science at the Queensland University of Technology and worked as an executive assistant for a businessman on the Sunshine Coast. I also had a brief stint working for a political party.

Is there any special training for the role of ADC?

No, but it's an easy transition from military service. I still have to stay fit, be highly organised and have great teamwork skills. The major difference in this role is there's greater emphasis on the ceremonial side of military service.

What are your most memorable experiences?

I once marched into the chamber of Legislative Assembly with my sword and uniform on to deliver a message to the Speaker of the Queensland Parliament. As I was leaving, the politicians suddenly started jeering and hooting at me. I heard one of them say: 'he's better than the last one', and another called out, 'yeah, he can come back'. It's some strange tradition of theirs that always cracks me up. 

Is being the ADC an unusual experience for someone who is in the military?

It's unusual for anyone! Not only am I involved in all the military parades like Anzac Day, but I've also attended the swearing in of government ministers and even Premier Bligh. It's a unique role and I count myself fortunate because not many people are lucky enough to see these things close-up.

What are the best parts of your job?

A military officer wouldn't normally get a chance to interact with people from all walks of life but, as ADC, I do. One day, I might meet with the Chief Justice over a glass of champagne at Government House, and the next, I might travel to a remote community to have scones and tea with the locals. It's fantastic! It's a great experience to travel and to learn about community organisations and the work they do.

What makes your work difficult?

The time frames are very tight. I'm continuously running around trying to organise everything. The Governor works at such a fast pace and has so many commitments that it's always a challenge to find time to plan ahead.

Where are you going to from here?

I'm returning to an air force job, so I'll just be Flight Lieutenant Lister again! The work is with a unit that controls the squadrons assisting the air force in overseas deployment. I won't be attending the Government House receptions and dinners, meeting the top people in the state. It's an end to the travel, buzz and pomp and ceremony that surrounds the Governor. This will be a bit of a reality check.

Since doing the interview James has moved on to his new air force role.

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