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Richard Woolcott

Richard Woolcott, AC is a retired Australian diplomat, author and commentator.

He held positions as Australia's ambassador to Indonesia and The Philippines, as well as High Commissioner to Malaysia, Ghana and Singapore. He was the Australian Ambassador to the United Nations from 1982 to 1988, and served as the President of the United Nations Security Council for Australia's term in November 1985. Woolcott also served as Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), the most senior diplomatic posting in Australia, from 1988 to 1992. As DFAT Secretary, he was involved in the establishment of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum. On 4 June 2008, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced that Woolcott had been appointed as an envoy to conduct discussions to form a new Asian regional forum.

Since 1997, Richard Woolcott has been the Founding Director of the Asia Society AustralAsia Centre.

In 2003 Woolcott wrote a personal memoir entitled The Hot Seat: Reflections on Diplomacy from Stalin’s Death to the Bali Bombings, and he also wrote a book called Undiplomatic Activities in 2007.

For his services to diplomacy and international relations, he was made an Officer of the Order of Australia in 1985, and appointed a Companion of the Order in 1993.

Articles by Richard Woolcott (4)

  • Biden Sydney speech fails to account for a changing world order

    Vice President Biden's speech at the Paddington Town Hall on 20 July was very assertive and, in my view, it lacked appreciation for the way the world has changed in the last two decades. Biden said America had 'an unmatched ability to project our power to any corner of the world'. He gave an emphatic description of US power which reflected feelings of exceptionalism. Biden spoke of maintaining open sea lanes.
  • Where the new government should concentrate its efforts beyond our shores

    The Australian government and opposition have largely focused on domestic issues in the election campaign. This emphasis is understandable, but in the longer term the government elected on this weekend will need to address the greatly changed world of 2016. Both Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Shadow Foreign Minister Tanya Plibersek have addressed the Lowy Institute on foreign policy issues, and they have also debated each other at the National Press Club.
  • The Turnbull era: Eight ideas for fine-tuning Australian foreign policy

    In his recent Boyer Lectures, the Lowy Institute's Michael Fullilove notes that the old world had gone, and that the rise of China calls for a serious re-examination of Australian foreign policy. This is true. Michael also called for a more ambitious Australian foreign policy and stressed the need for big thinking and a 'larger Australia'. Australia must respond to the greatly changed world of this century.
  • Whitlam on the world stage: Courage, vision and wit

    Gough Whitlam with the author in Manila, 1973. Gough Whitlam had political courage and a vision for Australia. A forward-looking, pragmatic realist, he sought to reshape Australia's approach to the countries of North and Southeast Asia, the region in which we are forever situated. It was stimulating to be a senior official in the then Department of Foreign Affairs when Gough became prime minister on 2 December 1972 and the winds of change swept so forcefully through this country.