Our History

31 Army Cadet Unit – Unit History

31 Army Cadet Unit was initially raised as a school cadet unit that was known as Norwood Cadet Unit and was based at Norwood High School (now Norwood Secondary Collage), Byron Road, North Ringwood. In approximately 1972, 3 students – Michael Irving, Mark Venables and Darren Whitehead, who eventually became the first members of the 31 Army Cadet Unit, approached the Principle of Norwood High School (Lionel Waterson), and requested to form an Army Cadet Unit at the school.

The Principal accepted the idea, however he indicated that due to teaching commitments he didn’t think any of the teaching staff would be available to participate in cadet activities. He offered a comprise to the students proposal, that if a parent with prior military experience was found and would be prepared to organise and run the cadets, he would be prepared to act as sponsor and approach the military to make the appropriate enquiries.
John Irving, having served as an officer in the artillery, agreed to accept the role of organising and running the cadets and was subsequently appointed as the Unit’s first Commanding Officer.

A meeting was shortly arranged with the parents and representatives of 3 Cadet Battalion. It was agreed on the basis of an establishment being raised comprising of 4 parents to act as Officers of Cadets and maintaining a Unit strength of 60 cadets, permission would be granted to form a school unit at Norwood High School, when this was achieved. In addition to John Irving, the following parents agreed to act as the Unit’s first officers, Lt. Colin O’Malley (Adjutant), Lt. Mike Kaukas (Quartermaster) and Lt. Peter McCloud (Training Officer).

It soon became obvious that as the cadet unit trained outside of school hours, it became slow and difficult to recruit members. It was becoming unlikely that the required target strength of 60 cadets could even be achieved due to existing constraints. Subsequently, a meeting was arranged with the school Principal, Lionel Waterson, advising him of this dilemma and recommending the Unit adopt a new strategy for recruiting which was to approach other secondary schools in the region as well as recruiting other youths from the wider community, in order to meet the strength requirement.

This recommendation was readily accepted by the Principal who agreed to open the cadet unit to the broader community, and to also continue as the Unit’s sponsor. That decision resulted in 31 Army a cadet Unit later becoming the first community based Army Cadet Unit in Australia. In the early part of the 1970’s the Unit strength was evenly spread between Norwood High School, Aquinas College, Ringwood and additional youth from the wider community.

In 1974, 3 Cadet Battalion formally approved the raising of a school cadet unit at Norwood High School. Recognition is given to the officers and staff of the cadet units of Melbourne High School, Camberwell Grammar School and St Joseph’s College for their support and assistance for NCO and CUO training which was vital in the development of the Unit in its early years.

31 Army Cadet Unit’s first members to qualify as Cadet Under Officers were:
– Michael Irving (Norwood High School)
– Francis Quinlan (Aquinas College)
Michael Irving later returned to the Unit and served as an Officer of Cadets.

31 Army Cadet Unit – Badge History

31 Army Cadet Unit is the only cadet unit to incorporate the Coronation Crown of Queen Elizabeth II into the design of its logo. The badge design also incorporates the torch and sword elements of the Australian Army Cadet Corps.

The torch is often referred to as the Torch of Learning, and signifies enlightenment and guidance. The sword is said to be the emblem of the military and represents honour, strength and courage. The escutcheon or shield incorporates a charge in the form of a contemporary design of a reaper and the word Fidelis, meaning loyalty, and are both featured on a gold and purple background. The reaper symbolises he gathering of knowledge. By incorporating these elements in the badge design, 31 ACU acknowledges the origin of the Unit at Norwood High School (Now Norwood a secondary Collage), with Norwood being an acronym for North Ringwood, the birthplace of 31 Army Cadet Unit.

31 Army Cadet Unit – Corps Reorganisation

In 1976 the Australian Army Cadet a corps was re-structured. School cadet units which were once considered the elitist, were being disbanded. They were subsequently replaced by community based Regional Cadet Unit’s (RCUs), and we’re now accessible to both male and female youth of the wider community. At the time, Norwood Cadet Unit was already organised and running as a functioning community based cadet unit (however was not recruiting female cadets) and had been operating so for a number of years. Norwood Cadet Unit was the first community based cadet unit to be raised in Victoria under the new guidelines.

Norwood Cadet Unit never officially disbanded but instead was renamed and re-designated as 31 Regional Cadet Unit. After Norwood Cadet Unit completed its re-designation as a Regional Cadet Unit, Lt. Anne Beasley was appointed the Unit’s first female Officer of Cadets, permitting female cadets to be recruited into the unit. 31 Regional Cadet Unit continued to train at Norwood High School until 1981-1982, where it re-located to 4 Combat Engineer Regiment (4CER) on Dublin Road, Ringwood East.

Capt. John Irving retired from 31 Army Cadet Unit and as Commanding Officer in 1988, and was succeeded by Maj. Richard Gough who had previously served as Quartermaster since joining the Unit in 1978. He was appointed to Lt. Wef on the 1st of January 1980 following service in a probationary rank. In 2005 Maj. Gough retired from 31 Army Cadet Unit as the Commanding Officer after having served 27 years with the Unit.

31 Army Cadet Unit has every reason to be proud of its history and achievements towards the character development of many young people who have passed through the ranks of 31 ACU over the past 40 years, and for its contribution in active youth development over that time.

31 Army Cadet Unit – Previous and Current Officer Commanding

As we celebrate our 50th year, it is important to look back on where we have been, and who has helped us get to where we are. Below we have compiled a brief description on each of the unit’s OCs, from our first day as a unit, through to the current era.
As you will see, 31 ACU has been extremely lucky to have many very dedicated individuals serve as staff, and most of them with some military experience as well, with many of them serving our unit for decades.

CAPT John Irving: 

Joined 31 ACU 1974
Left 31 ACU 1988

John was the unit’s first Commanding Officer. He was appointed into the role after Norwood High School Principal Lionel Waterson had indicated to students trying to raise the new unit that teachers would not be able to fill the role of Commanding Officer.
John, who had previously served as an officer in the artillery, agreed to take on the role.
He also guided the unit through a wider Cadet Corp restructure, which saw our unit become the first Regional Cadet Unit in Australia. At this Time, we became 31 RCU (Norwood).
MAJ Richard Gough:
Joined 31 ACU 1978
Left 31 ACU 2005
Richard joined the unit as a Quartermaster in 1978. after serving the unit for 10 years, he took on the role of Officer Commanding when John Irving retired in 1988.
Richard continued to serve the unit as OC until his retirement in 2005, giving a total of 27 years service to 31 ACU, 17 as OC. Richard also oversaw the rebranding of 31, when all Regional units changed to Australian Cadet Unit in 2004. This is when we became 31 ACU
CAPT Anne Larkin (nee Beasleigh)
Joined 31 ACU 1976
Left 31 ACU 2006
Anne joined the unit in 1976, as the first female officer, after the unit was redesignated as 31 RCU (Norwood). This appointment allowed 31 RCU to accept female cadets into the unit, which previously was not possible.
Anne served as our Officer Commanding after Richard Gough retired in 2005, and then moved into a Battalion role in 2006. An amazing commitment, totalling 30 years at 31 ACU.
31 ACU was very privileged to have access to Anne’s rural property for many years, including after she left, which we utilised for our field weekends.
CAPT Ron Walliker
Joined 31 ACU 1991
Left 31 ACU 2021
Ron joined the unit as a serving WO1 in ordinance. He was promoted to Captain upon his appointment as Officer Commanding in 2006, after Anne Larkin moved onto Battalion.
Ron guided the unit through 15 years as OC, including the very challenging COVID years.
Yet another committed staff member, Ron served with our unit for 30 years
CAPT Russell Halden RFD
Joined 31 ACU 1986
Left 31 ACU 2023
Russell joined the unit in 1986, in addition to his commitments in the defence force. He continued with the unit long after leaving the Army and took over as Officer Commanding in 2021. Russell brought vast military knowledge to the unit, and always strived to align the unit as close as possible to military training. Russell committed an incredible 37 years of service to 31 ACU, before retiring in 2023.
CAPT Adam Griffiths
Joined 31 ACU 2019
Current Officer Commanding
Adam joined the unit in 2019, after service in the army, and the British Cadets. He quickly became a valued member of the ACS, and took over as Officer Commanding in 2023, after Russell Halden retired.