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Sir James Plimsoll Lecture | Frances Adamson


Frances Adamson will discuss the soon to be released Foreign Policy White Paper and explore its implications for Australia.

Start Date

7 Dec 2017 6:00 pm

End Date

7 Dec 2017 7:30 pm


Stanley Burbury Theatre, University Centre, Sandy Bay campus

RSVP / Contact

E.; T. 6226 2521

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Australian Diplomacy in a Contested World

presented by

Frances Adamson

Secretary, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Frances Adamson

Frances Adamson has led the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade as Secretary since 25 August 2016.

Prior to her appointment as Secretary, Ms Adamson was International Adviser to the Prime Minister the Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP from November 2015.

From 2011 to 2015, Ms Adamson was Ambassador to the People's Republic of China. She served in the Australian Consulate-General in Hong Kong in the late 1980s during the early years of China's reform and opening. From 2001 to 2005, she was seconded as Representative to the Australian Commerce and Industry Office in Taipei.

Ms Adamson has twice served in the Australian High Commission in London, as Deputy High Commissioner from 2005 to 2008 and as Political Counsellor from 1993 to 1997.

She was Chief of Staff to the Minister for Foreign Affairs and then the Minister for Defence from 2009 to 2010.

Ms Adamson is President of the Institute of Public Administration Australia ACT Division. She is a member of the Efic Board, the Advisory Board of the Australian National University's National Security College and the Asia Society Australia Advisory Council. Ms Adamson is a Special Adviser to the Male Champions of Change and a member of Chief Executive Women. She was awarded a Sir James Wolfensohn Public Service Scholarship in 2015.

Ms Adamson has a Bachelor of Economics from the University of Adelaide and was a recipient of a 2014 Distinguished Alumni Award. She joined the then Department of Foreign Affairs in 1985.

The annual Sir James Plimsoll Lecture is jointly presented by the University of Tasmania, the Australian Institute of International Affairs and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Australian Institute of International Affairs logo

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade logo

Sir James Plimsoll was one of the most distinguished diplomats in the history of Australia’s Department of External Affairs (later the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade). The previous Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, has labelled him ‘Australia’s greatest ambassador’.

After serving in the AIF in the Directorate of Research and Civil Affairs, Plimsoll was appointed to the Far Eastern Commission, tasked with overseeing the Allied Council for Japan during the occupation of that country. In 1948 he was appointed a First Secretary of the Department of External Affairs, and in 1950 was sent as the Australian representative to the United Nations Commission for the Unification and Rehabilitation of Korea (UNKURK), where he formed a close working relationship with Sygman Rhee, the South Korean President.

Plimsoll was appointed as Australia’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations in 1959, and became Australia’s High Commissioner to India and Ambassador to Nepal in 1962. He was chosen to be Head of the Department of External Affairs in 1965. In 1970, Plimsoll was appointed as Ambassador to the United States, and in 1974 he became Ambassador to the USSR. He was appointed as Ambassador to Belgium, Luxembourg, and the EEC in 1977 and in 1980 became High Commissioner to the United Kingdom. His final diplomatic post was as Ambassador to Japan in 1981 and 1982.

He later served as the highly popular and respected Governor of Tasmania from 1982 until his death on 8 May 1987 – only shortly after having his initial five-year term extended.


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