This article traces the role of amphibious operations in the evolution of Australian defense policy. It argues that the Australian experience with amphibious operations has been ironic, in that while Australia’s military forces conducted them in both world wars to support its interests and those of its major alliance partners, the potential for managing the nation’s own regional security was not realized. Thus, during the Cold War and immediate post–Cold War years the amphibious capabilities of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) were not robust. However, with the end of the Cold War the ADF was forced to reorient its security strategy toward one requiring moderate projection and sustainment of forces to promote regional stability. As the necessary capabilities were being developed in response to the demands of the new era of “Regional Defence,” moreover, major shifts in the strategic environment were under way. The rise of China, the movement of the global strategic center of gravity to the Asia-Pacific region, and, after 2011, the US “pivot,” or “rebalance,” to the region have reshaped Australia’s security future.
As the nation commits itself accordingly to a strategy of both maritime security and regional engagement, what emerges is an end to what has been described as the “tyranny of dissonance” in Australian strategic policy. As a result, amphibious operations are finally coming of age in Australia and will play a more crucial role in the nation’s defense policy for the “Asian Century”.