Breaking Boundaries: Australian Defence Apparel and Indigenous Design Labs Forge Pathways for Indigenous Youth in Uniform Design and Production

Australian Defence Apparel (ADA) proudly announces an industry-first collaboration with Indigenous Design Labs (IDL), marking a significant milestone set to champion and showcase Indigenous youth creativity and community engagement.

Chris Dixon, CEO of ADA, emphasised the significance of this collaboration within the Defence and manufacturing sectors, stating, “This pioneering partnership not only represents a groundbreaking endeavour in crafting new apparel, but also underscores ADA and IDL’s commitment to driving positive change and fostering cultural appreciation within Australia’s apparel manufacturing landscape, aligning closely with ADA’s Reconciliation Action Plan. Through innovative design, community engagement, and social responsibility, ADA and IDL are poised to set new standards for inclusive practices.”

Phase one of the collaboration will see IDL creating modern and contemporary print artwork applicable to uniforms , bringing a fresh aesthetic to ADA’s warehousing and manufacturing operational crew .

Phase two of the collaboration will launch an 8-week training program, integrated into a real-world uniform development project, where IDL youth will collaborate with ADA designers to develop a new clothing range from concept to prototype and manufacturing. The launch will coincide with Closing the Gap Day on 21 March 2024, amplifying the initiative’s significance and sparking conversation around social cohesion and economic empowerment.

Leigh Harris, Indigenous business owner of ingeous studios and IDL Founder highlighted, “Indigenous Design Labs consist of a team of young creatives focusing on abstract and contemporary designs that reflect a diverse representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures. We view every opportunity as a chance to contribute to and expand upon the ongoing narrative of Indigenous design.”

Sheree Jacobs, IDL Torres Strait Mentor, added, “We are passionate about ensuring equal opportunities for individuals in regional areas. Partnering with a significant organisation such as ADA, not only grants access to urban opportunities but also empowers us to showcase what is possible. This collaboration enables regional youth to access opportunities previously out of reach, breaking down barriers and paving the way for a brighter future.”

Casey Demko, Designer at ADA, who is leading the partnership, shared her insights: “Growing up in rural Victoria, I was really excited about this partnership with IDL. I understand, first-hand, the difficulties faced by young Australians wishing to pursue creative career paths and the lack of industry partnerships available to remote communities, which can be really empowering for young people . This program will be a platform to connect indigenous and non-indigenous communities through clothing and art, representing ADA’s commitment to driving meaningful change and nurture diversity and inclusion amongst the wider community whilst representing ADA’s values and commitment to meaningful change.”

Mel Suares, Lead Design Manager at ADA, expressed her enthusiasm for the partnership, stating, “The ADA and Indigenous Design Labs partnership connects our shared desire to shake up the clothing industry while amplifying the voices of young and diverse Indigenous creators. We are thrilled that these talented designers will be recognised for their exceptional work, which will soon be available for all of our local makers, teams, and broader community. This collaboration represents an exciting new frontier for young artists, opening up conversations that support Indigenous youth and create a world of possibilities for their future.”

Chris Dixon, CEO of ADA, says, “This initiative not only provides valuable paid creative work and mentorship opportunities for young First Nations people but also injects funding into creating real-world opportunities for them to activate their creativity and upskill in the digital and creative design space.”

Sizing collation and fitting for ADA team members are set to occur in mid-May 2024, with final orders set for delivery to ADA HQ by mid-August 2024. The eagerly awaited launch event to celebrate this transformative collaboration will see the Indigenous youth creatives and mentors being flown down to Melbourne from Far North Queensland at the end of August 2024.

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ADA Steps Forward: Unveiling a Comprehensive Modern Slavery Statement for a Fairer Future

At ADA, we understand that modern slavery is a complex and evolving challenge that requires our proactive engagement. This statement reflects the efforts we have made to prevent, identify, and mitigate the risks of modern slavery within our business and throughout our supply chain. It also highlights the areas we have identified where we can make improvements and have an impact within our industry.

The exploitation of human beings for financial gain continues to persist in various forms and across diverse industries. ADA recognises the risks within our industry and the significance of our role in combatting Modern Slavery. This Modern Slavery Statement is our fourth under the Australian Modern Slavery Act 2018 (Cth) and sets out the actions ADA has taken to understand and mitigate our modern slavery risks during our 2022 – 2023 financial year from 1st June 2022 to 31st May 2023. It is a reflection of our dedication to addressing modern slavery risks within our operations and supply chains, as well as our commitment to fostering a society where every individual can live a life of freedom and dignity.

There has been little change to the company structure, our operations and our supply chains during this reporting period. Therefore, these sections of this statement closely resemble those from the FY 21-22 Statement, with updates to numbers and statistics as required.

In this Modern Slavery Statement, we have outlined the steps we have taken, the progress we have achieved, and our ambitions for the future. We commit to regularly reviewing and enhancing our strategies, practices, and outcomes as we continue to develop our ethical sourcing program and modern slavery framework to combat modern slavery within our supply chain.

There is still much work to be done.

➡️ Click here to view our latest Modern Slavery Statement:

Chris Dixon

CEO, Australian Defence Apparel

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Palmerston North creates defence warehouse, clothing 12,000 personnel

Palmerston North’s building its case as our Defence Force capital — along with nearby bases, it now has a new warehouse home to the nation’s military uniforms.

After 31 years in the Air Force, Shar Carson knows all the tips and tricks to putting together a tidy uniform. Now she’s using her experience to help kit out the front lines.

Today, she showed 1News around the new warehouse, storing nearly 300,000 items to support around 12,000 Army, Navy and Air Force personnel.

“Some get eight pairs, some get five. They’re very well catered for, there’s a shoe for every purpose,” quality and compliance manager Carson said.

The new distribution centre is bringing in dozens of extra jobs and mayor Grant Smith said it was a boost for the city.

“It’s pretty huge. Fifty-five jobs but also the multimillion-dollar build and possibly more to come,” Smith said.

Australia Defence Apparel New Zealand chief executive Chris Dixon said “conversations are underway” with emergency services about storing their uniforms at the Palmerston North hub too.

“We won’t be stopping here. We see opportunities in law and healthcare, fire and other first responder sectors in the industry,” Dixon said.

But for former Air Force personnel like Carson, her new job is a chance to continue serving the country.

“The thing is, when you join the military you are in it for life. It’s something about being part of a family and a camaraderie built within that. This job enables me to be connected, and still close to that.”


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Military precision major component of Defence Force’s newly-opened apparel centre

All the kit a New Zealand soldier, sailor or aviator can wear or carry has started passing through Palmerston North’s newest distribution centre.

ADA NZ’s leased warehouse near Milson Airport has been officially opened and is fully operational with room to grow the business.

The 3000 square metre warehouse and offices are the centre for receiving and distributing some 2000 different pieces of uniform and gear for more than 12,000 personnel in the NZ Defence Force.

Chief executive of parent company Australian Defence Apparel, Chris Dixon, said he was delighted with the purpose-built facility, which was more than just a warehouse.
“The site will allow NZDF personnel to receive the highest quality care and service, complemented by high-tech apparel systems to enable them to perform their duties comfortably and efficiently, taking less time away from training and fieldwork.”

The bulk of the centre is made up of the warehouse, with storage racks designed for seismic strength, and pick and pack areas arranged with highest-demand items in the most accessible areas.

There is no paper, and clever layouts enable staff to quickly and efficiently collect 120 items an hour.

The orders include combat clothing and service dress, boots, socks, gloves and badges, packs and bags and everything that goes in them, including water bottles and laundry bags.

Outside the main warehouse, a full canopy enables under-cover drop-offs and pick-ups from 70 trucks a week.

The facility is also home base for ADA NZ’s procurement, contract management, demand planning and quality control staff, and for research and development.

One of the development projects in the final stages of validation is the Bodd 3D scanner, which promises to take all the tape measures and personal preferences out of dressing service men and women.

In charge is development manager for wearable systems Graham Fordy, a scientist with a background in physiology.

The portable scanner equipped with a series of cameras and lenses created a 3D image of the person who stood on the rotating base for about a minute.

From there, it calculated the correct sizing for the complete set of garments from head to toe.

Fordy said it would ensure every person was dressed to the standard uniform fit, nothing looser or tighter, and it would save time.

Using traditional systems, it could take two days to measure up a batch of 120 recruits. With three scanners operating, the work could be done in three hours.

The orders came to the Palmerston North centre for dispatch to Defence clothing stores run by ADA NZ at each base through the wearables supply and managed services contract.

Last week, the first refurbished army clothing store was opened at Trentham, with upgrades planned for the remaining bases.

Chief Joint Defence Services Brigadier Rob Krushka said the facility would provide employment – 25 staff are based there – and other economic opportunities that would bring “a positive impact to the community in which we live and work”.

The facility was close to bases at Ohakea and Linton, and to convenient national transport links to other bases.

Dixon said Palmerston North’s industrial and distribution cluster provided an ideal location for distribution to New Zealand’s defence bases, and the project had been well supported by the city council and Central Economic Development Agency.

There was capacity within the centre to take on uniform supply contracts for other customers in future.

By Janine Rankin –

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Australian Defence Apparel New Zealand opens multi-function logistics hub in Palmerston North

Australian Defence Apparel (ADA) subsidiary ADA New Zealand announced it has opened its multi-function logistics hub in Palmerston North, New Zealand. The 3,000 square metre facility will serve as a hub for design and development, data-driven wearable systems, logistics, and warehousing, catering to the needs of the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF).

ADA New Zealand secured a significant clothing contract in 2022, aiming to provide high-quality apparel services to over 12,000 NZDF personnel. This strategic move to Palmerston North was made possible through a collaborative partnership between ADA, Palmerston North City Council, and The Central Economic Development Agency (CEDA).

ADA CEO Chris Dixon said, “The strategic move to Palmerston North was a collaborative partnership with ADA, Palmerston North City Council, and The Central Economic Development Agency (CEDA) to create employment opportunities across the Manawatu region.”

“The grand opening of the new ADA Headquarters and Logistics Hub demonstrates a significant commitment in the partnership with NZDF by ADA NZ. This facility will provide a logistics hub and R&D facility enabling ADA to service the needs of soldiers, sailors, and aviators of the NZDF. The construction and ongoing operation of the facility has, and will, continue to provide an economic impact through employment, supply chain, and services opportunities in the Manawatu region and beyond. The NZDF is proud to see our partnership with ADA NZ bring a positive impact to the community, in which we live and work,” said Brigadier Rob Krushka, Chief Joint Defence Services.

Palmerston North was chosen as the location due to its strategic position as a central logistics hub in the Lower North Island, facilitating efficient national distribution. The city’s forward-looking, large-scale infrastructure program aligns with the goal of delivering supply chain efficiencies and proximity to a substantial portion of the NZDF’s personnel.

ADA NZ Program Director, Sarah Pender, emphasized the facility’s role in enhancing apparel management efficiency, stating, “This facility furthers ADA NZ’s ability to provide greater efficiencies in total apparel management for 12,000+ personnel within the NZDF. We anticipate that in the future, the site will be used as an advanced distribution hub across a multitude of clients.”

Tony A. P. McQuillan, Director – Defence Equipment Management Organisation – Defence Logistics Command New Zealand Defence Force, added, “The completion of the new ADA NZ headquarters and logistics facility in Palmerston North is a fantastic milestone for ADA NZ as the newest NZDF Strategic Partner. It enhances the industrial base of the Manawatu Region and provides state-of-the-art and resilient wearables supply, and design and development capability within the geographic centre of mass of the NZDF.”

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In a historic partnership between ADA NZ and the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF), a remarkable transformation in apparel systems for NZDF personnel is set in motion with the opening of the first refurbished store at Trentham Military Camp Clothing Store. This momentous event not only modernises the clothing management system but also elevates the operational readiness of NZDF.

The event, held on Tuesday 26th September 2023, was inaugurated by ADA NZ representatives, Program Director Sarah Pender, and Kate Maloney. Expressing gratitude to ADA NZ and NZDF for entrusting them with the task of transforming the clothing stores as part of the NZDF Wearables Supply and Managed Services contract, Sarah Pender emphasized the commitment to efficiency, precision, and excellence in clothing systems.

“Inaugurating this refurbished store is a testament to our unwavering commitment to better equip our Defence personnel and enhance their operational readiness, ultimately contributing to the safety and security of our nation,” stated Pender. Kate Maloney, who played a pivotal role in the store’s opening, added, “Today, we are not just unveiling a physical structure; we are symbolising our shared vision of a future where our Defence personnel have access to the very best in clothing management.”

ADA CEO, Chris Dixon expressed his pride and support for the project. “This is a monumental moment for ADA and the NZDF. We are committed to modernising our facilities and providing the best possible support to our Defence personnel and the teams who support them,” Dixon said.

John Bird, Clothing Coordinator of the Trentham Military Camp Clothing Store, shared his insights into the significance of the occasion. Bird remarked, “My passion for ensuring that our Defence personnel have the best clothing and gear to carry out their duties is what keeps me going. I find it immensely rewarding to support those who serve our country; every customer is important.” He said.

As part of the Trentham opening event, an exclusive first-look tour of the newly refurbished site was offered, providing attendees with a unique opportunity to witness the state-of-the-art facilities up close.
Tony A. P. McQuillan, Director, Defence Equipment Management Organisation of Defence Logistics Command of NZDF, expressed his excitement about the upgraded Trentham Clothing Store and ADA’s commitment to modernising facilities.

McQuillan stated, “The opening of the upgraded Trentham Clothing Store is an exciting milestone in the partnership between ADA and NZDF. It is a clear demonstration of ADA’s commitment to investing in modernising our facilities to enhance the user experience of our sailors, soldiers, and aviators.”

MAJ James ‘Jim’ Maguire, Officer Commanding Trentham Regional Support Centre, also shared his perspective on the event, highlighting the importance of adapting to the new generations of personnel needs and requirements.
Maguire said, “This shows that we’re prepared to adapt to the new generation of soldiers, sailors and aviators, who bring different skills and expectations to the job. Expectations of the future of new recruits, I believe, will include more support and a more welcoming environment to the job and for a supply store like ours.”

Brigadier Rob Krushka, Chief Joint Defence Services, commented on the partnership, saying, “This opening event marks a momentous occasion as we celebrate our partnership with ADA NZ. Together, we are committed to supporting our service men and women and fostering a thriving community.”

The opening of the refurbished Trentham Military Camp Clothing Store is just the beginning of ADA NZ’s efforts to enhance the clothing management experience for NZDF personnel. Further upgrades and improvements are anticipated across other Camps and Bases in the coming months, reaffirming the commitment to delivering excellence and efficiency.

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Industry praises troops as Legacy torch relay passes Bendigo

The Australian defence industry has paid tribute to defence personnel, frontline workers, and the efforts of Legacy Australia as the Legacy Centenary Torch Relay 2023 passes through Bendigo in Victoria.

The six-month Legacy Centenary Torch Relay travelled through Bendigo on Thursday, 21 September, with runners attending the Bendigo Legacy Club as one of the 45 Legacy Club locations on the journey before concluding in Melbourne on 13 October this year.

The relay aims to raise more than $10 million to support the families of Australian Defence Force men and women who lost their lives or health in conflict.

Australian Defence Apparel (ADA) chief executive officer Chris Dixon spoke at the conclusion of the Bendigo leg of the relay.

“We have clothed millions of personnel, and the needs of our frontline workers are at the heart of everything we do,” he said at the event.

“It has been humbling to work with Legacy, who are equally as dedicated to our national heroes and been at the forefront of caring for the families of those who have fallen.

“It is an extremely unique privilege but also seems natural that we have supplied uniforms for each of the 1,500 plus torch bearers participating in the Legacy Centenary Torch Relay.

“Just as we have done for those on the frontlines, we have designed and tailored these uniforms to ensure optimum comfort, style, and performance, as they have been supporting our torch bearers in the 55,000-kilometre journey from France to Australia.”

ADA, a corporate partner of Legacy Australia, has designed, manufactured and supplied the uniforms for over 1,500 torch bearers for the Legacy Centenary Torch Relay 2023. The company’s 5,775-square metre dedicated uniform manufacturing facility in Bendigo produces more than 600,000 garments per year and employs more than 120 textile specialists.

ADA head of design and product development manager Melinda Suares said it originally took around five months from initial design concepts to deliver the Torch Relay uniforms.

“It is a true honour to have personally worn a uniform that I designed alongside ADA CEO Chris Dixon to represent ADA as torch bearers for the Bendigo leg of the relay, at a place where Bendigo holds so much significance for ADA,” Suares said.

“The key element of the design was showcased through a sublimated print. The centenary torch logo was an essential part of this uniform design, incorporating the red and blue hues from the logo.

“The design is then complimented with intertwining strips that emerge upon the Legacy logo on the chest.

“The light green and blue stripes form two helping hands, which touch the end of the torch relay logo. This represents (the) unity and harmonious help both Legacy and Defence Health do to support veterans and their families with stability, guidance, and care.

“It was about capturing the true essence of Legacy and what the foundation was all about. Understanding the meaning behind the 100-year centenary torch relay was important in the initial design concept stage.”

Robert Doherty – Defence Connect

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Australian Defence Apparel and Nova Systems Announce Partnership to Support Defence Focused Programs

Australian Defence Apparel (ADA), Australia’s primary manufacturer of high-tech uniforms and equipment, and Nova Systems, a leading Australian-owned engineering services and technology solutions company, today announced a partnership to deliver high-tech innovative clothing systems solutions for uniform requirements.

ADA has established a proven track record of designing, manufacturing and managing apparel programs across the military, law enforcement, healthcare and numerous government and corporate industries.
The partnership between ADA and Nova Systems will allow for the implementation of comprehensive clothing programs to meet the unique demands of clients underpinned by data-driven insights and engineering management expertise.

“It is my pleasure to announce that ADA is continuing to engage with local industry partners to advance our services. Nova Systems is renowned for its advanced systems integration solutions, and our combined capabilities will ensure superior outcomes for clothing program management,” said Chris Dixon, Chief Executive Officer of ADA.

ADA is committed to innovation and modernisation, to ensure clients have access to high-tech apparel systems that are enhanced by seamless fitting solutions and processes.

ADA plans to apply systems engineering methods and processes aligning with policies, as well as meeting the needs of the Services Clothing Manual to deliver the full program scope with certainty, ensure robust engineering processes, and meet the challenges of technical data transparency.

The partnership and development of a Clothing Programs Engineering Support system will encompass research and material sourcing, establishing user requirements, design and development, patternmaking and grading, rapid prototyping, technical data, drawings and specifications.

Nova Systems is experienced in complex program delivery and is a trusted partner to the Australian Defence Force, supporting major Defence projects for the past two decades.

Nova Systems Chief Executive Officer Jim McDowell said: “Nova Systems brings truly sovereign, world-leading systems engineering, digital engineering, integrated logistics support and engineering management expertise to the ADA partnership, ultimately ensuring our Defence personnel are equipped with the best, cutting-edge clothing systems to protect our servicemen and women on the front-line.

“Our partnership provides a turn-key solution for all clothing requirements supporting everything from manufacturing, sourcing, engineering and logistics, and it’s for this reason, we believe we are a really strong team.”

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Aussie defence clothier has the arms suitably covered

The fashion industry is notorious for reducing designers to tears and ending careers for the mere “crime” of choosing the wrong colour or look.

Clothing, textiles and apparel veteran Chris Dixon’s customers potentially face far worse. They can get shot at, stabbed, assaulted, must run into burning buildings and face the prospect of entering a real war zone.

And all the time they must be sensibly dressed in clothing that is comfortable and functional.

He’s proudly flying the flag for nation’s clothing sector, against conventional wisdom that Australian textile manufacturers moved offshore decades ago.

As the chief executive of Australian Defence Apparel, Mr Dixon runs a business that is more than 100 years old and which has played an integral role in the creation of Australian Defence Force uniforms and apparel. Not surprisingly khaki green is always the right colour.

And while Australia’s clothing and textiles manufacturing has shrunk, Mr Dixon’s factory in the regional Victorian town of Bendigo has built up annual turnover to more than $170m.

It has orders, not only from Australia’s army, navy and air force but from local emergency services and police departments – and now offshore orders too.

“It’s the largest textile facility remaining in country Australia. I think in short we’ve just been supported by many of our clients that still see the value of offering capability – particularly the ADF – and we are still making all of their operational clothing requirements, the combat uniform in country, both the manufacturing side and the raw materials,” Mr Dixon told The Weekend Australian from the recent Land Forces Expo in Brisbane, where his company was showcasing its latest designs, combat and clothing technology.

Australian Defence Apparel recently was awarded the Queensland Police contract for ballistic vests and armour, and there are orders for uniforms from Canadian and New Zealand defence forces.

“We have secured the entire clothing contract to the New Zealand Defence Force and went live with that contract in February, and that will see us build a brand new facility in Palmerston North in New Zealand,” he said.

“So I went from a couple of staff last year to some 50 staff over there (New Zealand) this year in the creation of ADA New Zealand – and it’s been quite nice to be working with some local New Zealand manufacturers and we’re running a bit of the New Zealand Defence Force requirements through the Bendigo facility.

“And equally, some of those New Zealand suppliers are supplying back into Australia in sort of a swap deal which has been fantastic. Fantastic news for them and for us.”

The demand for ADA’s specialist clothing which must be capable of withstanding fire, mud and even bullets – is not limited to the defence forces.

The client base spans military, healthcare, law enforcement, government, and corporate industries. As many as 450,000 personnel are eligible for uniforms produced by ADA’s factories.

The ADA facility can produce 600,000 garments a year and is supported by in-house design teams.

The importance and resilience of having a local manufacturing base was underlined through the worst of the Covid-19 pandemic when local manufacturers – whether they produced jeans, skirts or army fatigues – faced stretched supply chains and uncertainties over shipments.

“Yes that was difficult – supply chain challenges and longer lead times and freight constrictions. But the (army) contract actually is the only one of its kind that requires everything to be procured, secured, manufactured (locally) right from the fabrics made in Wangaratta (Victoria) and we ship it across to Bendigo and manufacture there.

“So that part of it has allowed us to remain stable. And regarding those supply chain challenges, we’ve actually seen a nice resurgence to a local preference. Recently the CFA in Victoria introduced a volunteer uniform and similarly they have gone with a 100 per cent Australian-based solution using the same textile manufacturer in Wangaratta and having those goods manufactured in Bendigo.

“And I haven’t seen that kind of activity from a manufacturing standpoint for years and years, so it is nice. It is a romantic return.”

Mr Dixon said that control over manufacturing was highlighted during the pandemic and has helped win ADA the notice of local government agencies requiring uniforms.

ADA is now pivoting more towards law enforcement and first responders, such as police and fire.

“Certainly law enforcement and the first-responders sector – what we saw was an ability to leverage some of that defence heritage that we basically have known for 100 years. And it has really paid dividends,” Mr Dixon said.



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ADA supplies menstrual products for NZ Defence Force

Australian Defence Apparel New Zealand have celebrated a successful year working with NZ suppliers in providing menstruation products to the New Zealand Defence Force.

Soldiers in New Zealand were supplied period packs designed specifically to support field work and improve soldiers’ experience during their menstrual cycle while in the field.

ADA NZ which is a subsidiary of Australian Defence Apparel Australia, partnered with AWWA Period Care to produce sustainable period care products and donate profits to end period poverty in New Zealand.

ADA NZ research and development team program director Sarah Pender said the ADA NZ team sourced, supplied, evaluated and procured products to develop period packs for New Zealand Defence personnel.

“This is a positive change for soldiers who previously had no solution, as options were limited to single-use products or were difficult to dispose of while in combat,” Ms Pender said.

“We are proud to help create more inclusivity and to improve the mobility of personnel deployed on the field.

“This is another example of how ADA uses not only textiles and technology to protect our soldiers but is creative in addressing the range of needs for all who serve in the field.”

Made using eco-friendly and reusable products, the period packs include period briefs, reusable/washable pads, menstrual cups and wipes, and dry bags to protect and store the items in wet conditions.

ADA chief executive officer Chris Dixon said ADA supplies uniforms, ballistics and load carriage for military, police and healthcare organisations.

“It is projects such as this that evidence the diversity and evolution of ADA and reinforce our commitment to solving problems for our clients,” he said.

“We will continue to support local suppliers to promote sovereign and onshore capability and look forward to continuing these relationships,” Mr Dixon said.


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