Carlyle A. Thayer

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Carlyle A. Thayer

Politics and Visiting Fellow, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, UNSW Canberra


Carlyle (Carl) Alan Thayer is Emeritus Professor of Politics, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, The University of New South Wales (UNSW) at the Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA), Canberra. He is also Director of Thayer Consultancy, a small business registered in Australia in 2002 that provides political analysis of current regional security issues and other research support to selected clients.

Professional Career

Carl Thayer was educated at Brown University where he majored in Political Science (B.A. 1967). He holds an M.A. in Southeast Asian Studies from Yale (1971) and a PhD in International Relations from The Australian National University (ANU, 1977). After graduating from Brown, Carl served in the Republic of Vietnam with the International Voluntary Services (1967-68) and as a volunteer secondary school teacher in the Republic of Botswana with the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (1968-69).

Thayer commenced his academic career as Lecturer at the Bendigo Institute of Technology, Victoria in 1975 (renamed the Bendigo College of Advanced Education in 1976). In 1979, he joined The University of New South Wales (UNSW) and taught first in its Faculty of Military Studies at The Royal Military College-Duntroon (1979-85) and then at the Australian Defence Force Academy (1985-2010). He served as Head of the School of Politics from 1995-97. In 1998, he was promoted to full Professor. During 2007-08 and 2010 he directed Regional Security Studies at the Australian Command and Staff College. Upon retirement in 2010 he was conferred the title Emeritus Professor.

Thayer served three major periods away from UNSW@ADFA:

From 1992-95, he was seconded to the Regime Change and Regime Maintenance Project, Department of Political and Social Change, Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, ANU to conduct research on Vietnamese domestic politics.

From 1999-2002, he was granted ‘leave in the national interest’ to take up the position of Professor of Southeast Asian Security Studies and Deputy Chair of the Department of Regional Studies at the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies (APCSS), U.S. Pacific Command, Hawaii. He revised the curriculum for the Executive Course and helped design the Senior Executive Course (two-three star/vice-ministerial level).

From 2002 to 2004, Carl was seconded to Deakin University as On-Site Academic Co-ordinator of the Defence and Strategic Studies Course, Australia’s senior defence course, at the Centre for Defence and Strategic Studies (CDSS) at the Australian Defence College, Weston Creek.

During his career, Professor Thayer undertook special study leave at the ANU’s Strategic and Defence Studies Centre; Harvard’s Center for International Affairs; International Institute of Strategic Studies in London; Institute of Strategic and International Studies, Chulalongkorn University in Thailand; Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore; and the Department of Political Science at Yale. In 1993, in a career highlight, he was appointed a United Nations Observer for elections in Cambodia.

Service to the Profession

  • Thayer was a founding member of the Vietnam Studies Association of Australia and served three terms as National Secretary/Treasurer (1994-98). He also served as National Secretary of the Asian Studies Association of Australia (1996-98).

Professional Recognition

  • In 2003, Thayer was conferred the Joint Meritorious Service Award by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for his contributions to the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies, U.S. Pacific Command.
  • In 2005, Thayer was appointed the C. V. Starr Distinguished Visiting Professor of Southeast Asian Studies at The Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), Johns Hopkins University in Washington, D.C.
  • In 2006, Thayer was awarded the Rector’s Commendation for Excellence in Classroom Teaching at UNSW Canberra.
  • In 2008, Thayer was appointed the Inaugural Frances M. and Stephen H. Fuller Distinguished Visiting Professor of Southeast Asian Studies conjointly at the Center for International Affairs and Center for Southeast Asian Studies at Ohio University, Athens, Ohio.
  • In April 2015, Thayer was appointed Eminent Person by the Department of Defence Australian Civil-Military Centre, to facilitate the East Asia Summit mandated Rapid Disaster Response: Lessons Learned Seminar held in Sydney in September that was attended by senior officials from fifteen countries. Thayer wrote the Seminar Discussion Paper.
  • In April 2020, Professor Thayer was inducted into the Marquis Who’s Who Biographical Registry and in Marquis Who’s Who Top Professionals.
1-2 NOVEMBER 2023

Protective Security in Government Conference