Clare Birgin and John Blaxland Meet the Author

17 May 2023

ANU/Canberra Times. Meet the Author. Clare Birgin and John Blaxland

Clare Birgin and John Blaxland  will be in conversation with Sue Williams on their new book, Revealing Secrets. An unofficial history of Australian Signals intelligence & the advent of cyber.

For a long time, the Australian Signals intelligence (or Sigint) story has been kept secret. Until now…Why does Australia have a national signals intelligence agency? What does it do and why is it controversial? And how significant are its ties with key partners, the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and New Zealand, to this arrangement?

Revealing Secrets is a compelling account of Australian Signals intelligence, its efforts at revealing the secrets of other nations, and keeping ours safe. It brings to light those clever Australians whose efforts were for so long entirely unknown or overlooked. Blaxland and Birgin traverse the royal commissions and reviews that shaped Australia’s intelligence community in the 20th century and consider the advent and the impact of cyber. In unearthing this integral, if hidden and little understood, part of Australian statecraft, this book increases our understanding of the past, present and what lies ahead.

‘George Orwell famously wrote during World War Two, “we sleep safe in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm”. Reading this superb history by John Blaxland and Clare Birgin on Australia’s involvement with Sigint and cyber we can contemplate a new formula. We sleep safer because 24/7 intelligent, technologically competent patriotic men and women who work for our agencies, develop and work our electronic defence and offence capacities at worldclass standard. This in a world now in which we are constantly under attack. The work so secret it is proving impossible to produce an official history. This is the closest we can get and it is very good. If you are seriously interested in our defence and survival, or you would just like a good read, this belongs on your bookshelf.’ – Kim Beazley

‘A meticulous compilation of the largely unsung past achievements of our most consistently productive intelligence source. And a thoughtful analysis of how to approach the extraordinary challenges posed by the new cyber universe. Blaxland and Birgin make an important contribution to our understanding of issues needing much more open debate than our own and allied governments have traditionally allowed or encouraged.’ – Gareth Evans.

ANU alumna Clare Birgin is a former Australian diplomat including postings as Ambassador in Hungary, Serbia, Kosovo, Romania, North Macedonia and Montenegro. Subsequently Clare was a Visiting Fellow at the ANU before joining John Blaxland’s history writing team.

John Blaxland is Professor of International Security and Intelligence Studies in the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre (SDSC), Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs, ANU and a regular media commentator. He has previously been a Chief Intelligence Staff Officer (J2) at HQ Joint Operations Command, defence attaché to Thailand and Myanmar, Head of SDSC and Director of the ANU Southeast Asia Institute.

Sue Williams is an award-winning journalist and columnist who’s written for all of Australia’s leading newspapers and magazines. Sue is the author of a number of bestselling books including And Then The Darkness, about the disappearance of the British backpacker Peter Falconio.

Introductory comments will be given by Professor Brian P. Schmidt AC FAA FRS, Vice-Chancellor & President ANU

The vote of thanks will be given by Steve Meekin, retired senior Army officer and former Deputy Secretary for Intelligence and Security in the Department of Defence.

This event is in association with Harry Hartog Bookshop. Books will be available for purchase on the evening in the Cultural Centre foyer. Pre-event book signings will be available from 5.30pm, and available again after the event.


  • Registration is required for this event.
  • Accessible parking spaces are available around campus should you require them.
  • To help keep everyone safe, please ensure that you are familiar with, and follow, the advice from ACT Health regarding COVID-19.
  • If you do not feel well, please refrain from attending this event.
  • By registering for this event, you are accepting our privacy policy.
  • podcast will be made available after the event.

TEQSA Provider ID: PRV12002 (Australian University) | CRICOS Provider Code: 00120C

Similar Events