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Lieutenant General John Murray Sanderson AC (born 4 November 1940) is a former Governor of Western Australiamarker and a former Chief of the Australian Army.

Early life

Born in Geraldtonmarker, Western Australiamarker on 4 November 1940, John Sanderson completed his secondary education at Bunburymarker High School in 1957 before entering the Royal Military College, Duntroonmarker in 1958. He graduated in 1961 and was commissioned into the Royal Australian Engineers in December 1961.

Service History

After completing a Fellowship Diploma in Civil Engineering at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technologymarker, John Sanderson had a series of regimental postings. These included second in command of 10 Field Squadron and Troop Commander and Construction Officer of 21 Construction Squadron on operational service in Sabahmarker, Malaysiamarker. He was promoted to Captain in 1965.

Following eighteen months as a Staff Officer in the Office of the Engineer in Chief, he was posted as the Exchange Instructor at the Royal School of Military Engineering, Chatterden UK from 1967–1969. He returned to Australia to command 23 Construction Squadron at Holsworthymarker prior to taking up command of 17 Construction Squadron in South Vietnam at the end of 1970.

Returning to Australia in late 1971, he was the Senior Instructor at the School of Military Engineering throughout 1972 before attending the Army Command and Staff College at Fort Queenscliffmarker during 1973.

Sanderson was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in 1975 after serving for a short period as a Staff Officer at the Headquarters of Field Force Command. His initial appointment as Staff Officer Grade 1 at the Directorate of Engineers was followed by two years (1976-1978) as the Exchange Instructor at the British Army Staff College, Camberley.

He commanded the 1st Field Engineer Regiment from 1979–1980, and then attended the Joint Services Command and Staff Collegemarker in 1981. Sanderson was appointed as the Military Assistant to the Chief of the General Staff in late 1981, serving in that capacity until being promoted to Colonel as Director of Army Plans in 1983.

From June 1985 to the middle of 1986 he attended the U.S.marker Army War Collegemarker, returning to Australia with the rank of Brigadier. After a six month period as Chairman of the Army Reserve Review Committee, he assumed command of the 1st Brigade at Holsworthy.

Sanderson served as Chief of Staff Land Command for a brief period in 1989 and was then promoted to Major General and appointed as Assistant Chief of Defence Policy. In this role he was tasked to develop and carry out major reforms to the Higher ADF Staff, which resulted in him becoming the first Assistant Chief of Defence Force Development at the end of 1989.

From October 1991, Sanderson became engaged directly in the United Nations process to bring peace to Cambodiamarker, first as adviser to the Secretary General of the United Nations, and then from March 1992, in the rank of Lieutenant General as the Commander of the 16,000 strong international military component of the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC).

After the successful completion of the UN mission in October 1993, Sanderson returned to Australia to be appointed as the first Commander Joint Forces Australia (now CJOPS), and developed this role until becoming Chief of the General Staff in June 1995. This position was renamed to Chief of Army in 1997, and Sanderson continued in this position until his retirement from the army on 23 June 1998.


On 18 August 2000 John Sanderson was sworn in as 32nd Governor of Western Australiamarker.

Sanderson retired as Governor of Western Australia in June 2005 after his term of office expired, but agreed to stay on until 31 October 2005 to assist with the transition to the new Governor. His successor was Dr Ken Michael who was sworn in on 18 January 2006.


Over time General Sanderson's service to Australia has been recognised by the award of Member of the Order of Australia(1985), Officer of the Order (1991) and Companion of the Order (1994). He was also awarded the Centenary Medal in 2001. General Sanderson has also been recognised by the United States of Americamarker for his service to the region and the alliance by the award of the Legion of Merit Commander Class.

In July 2008, General Sanderson was selected as one of the inaugural fellows of the Australian Institute of International Affairs to highlight his very high level of distinction in and distinguished contribution to Australia's international affairs.


  1. Vietnam War Nominal Roll
  2. Lieutenant General John Murray Sanderson, AC - Australian War Memorial
  3. It's an Honour - Member of the Order of Australia
  4. It's an Honour - Officer of the Order of Australia
  5. It's an Honour - Companion of the Order of Australia
  6. It's an Honour - Centenary Medal

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