From sea to Southbank

Katie Johnson

After a vibrant career that saw him jump from Sydney to Canberra to Perth, Commodore Greg Yorke is happy to be settled in the heart of Southbank.

For the past seven years he and his wife have been living in Mainpoint having traded their four-bedroom house in Western Australia for a city apartment.

“It’s nice to be grounded in one place and establish our roots. Particularly with all our children and grandchildren down here, we wouldn’t want to be anywhere else,” Commodore Yorke said.

“We love living in Southbank, it’s a fantastic place to live.”

As the Senior Naval Officer of Victoria, Commodore Yorke has had his fair share of adventure over the years. After joining the Royal Australian Navy in 1974, he quickly moved up the ranks to become the Principal Warfare Officer after training with the Royal Navy in England in 1984.

He then served with the Royal Navy from 1985 as the principal warfare officer of HMS Liverpool for three years.

“It was definitely a highlight going to the different places around England and Europe on that ship,” Commodore Yorke said.

He has also had two successful Commands, first with HMAS Gladstone and then HMAS Arunta.

“HMAS Arunta was a brand-new ship commissioned at Station Pier in 1998. It was an amazing challenge to bring 160 people together to turn what was a metal box into a living, breathing, operating ship,” Commodore Yorke said.

“It was an enormously rewarding experience.”

In 2006 he decided to do a decade-long stint as a management consultant at KPMG before coming back to the navy in 2016.

“I was asked to come back to do a particular role in Canberra and that came with a promotion to the rank of Commodore,” he said.

“As that role came to an end I was asked if I wanted to take on the role of the senior naval officer of Victoria.”

As part of his role, Commodore Yorke engages with state and local government in Victoria, industry leaders and academics to sell the navy message.

He also acts as the reviewing officer in appointment ceremonies for officers and graduating navy sailors.

“I attend all the major commemorative services at the Shrine, Town Hall, Parliament or Government House,” Commodore Yorke said.

However, with commemorative services largely cancelled due to COVID-19, Commodore Yorke’s work has primarily been from home instead of at Victoria Barracks in Southbank.

“It’s a challenge to maintain communication and relationships with people, particularly when you have things like the Remembrance Service done remotely,” Commodore Yorke said.

In his spare time, Commodore Yorke is also a member of the Board of the Australian National Veterans Arts Museum (ANVAM), which provides art-based programs to veterans and their families.

Commodore Yorke said the main goal of the non-profit organisation was to enhance the mental, physical and social wellbeing of veterans.

“We support veterans using art as a means to help them work through their experiences and express themselves after they leave the defence force,” he said.

Currently the organisation is trying to procure the former repatriation clinic at 310 St Kilda Rd for use as an arts-focused rehabilitation centre for veterans.

“It was opened in 1937 and provided support to WWI and WWII, Korean and Vietnam veterans until about 1987. But since the mid-90s it has sat idle and is basically falling down with very little maintenance,” Commodore Yorke said.

 

We want to re-invigorate the building and turn it into something valuable for veterans.

 

As a maritime enthusiast, Commodore Yorke is also part of the Melbourne Maritime Heritage Network (MMHN) which aims to better coordinate how Melbourne presents itself as a maritime city.

One of the main goals of the network is to have a maritime museum in Melbourne to celebrate Melbourne’s maritime history.

“Melbourne is one of the largest ports in Australia and the most containers come across the docks here, yet so few people in Melbourne think of it as a maritime city,” Commodore Yorke said.

“We want to change that.”

You can learn more about Melbourne’s maritime history at mmhn.org.au •  

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