MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS
8 August 1997
Diplomatic Appointment: Ambassador, Permanent Representative to the United Nations, New York
I am pleased to announce the appointment of Ms Penny Wensley as Australian Ambassador to the United Nations, New York.
Ms Wensley is a senior career officer of the Department-of Foreign Affairs and Trade who joined the then Department of External Affairs in 1968. She has had overseas postings in Paris, Mexico City, Wellington, as Consul-General in Hong Kong 1986-8, Ambassador for the Environment 1992-6 and as Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the UN Geneva
1993-6. She has held a wide range of policy positions in the Department in Canberra, including as head of the International Organisations and Legal Division and, since January 1996, as head of the North Asia Division.
Ms Wensley has extensive multiateral experience. She has led Australian delegations to more than 50 major international meetings and conferences. She has also held a number of international positions, including as Vice Chairman of the UN Climate Change Convention Negotiations, 1993-6; Co-ordinator of the Western Group for Negotiation of the UN Conventions on Biodiversity and Desertification, (1994-6); Chairman of the Preparatory Process of the UN Conference for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States, (19934); Chairman of the International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI) Conference, (1995); Member of the World Health Organisation High Level Advisory Council on Health and the Environment since 1994 and Vice-Chairman of the UN Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) since 1995.
Ms Wensley' 5 extensive experience in bilateral, regional and multilateral diplomacy will equip her admirably in her new role as the United Nations undergoes important changes to its role in international peace and security, in economic. and social issues and humanitarian affairs and development.
Ms Wensley takes up her appointment at a time of critical challenge for the UN, with its members calling for major reforms to ensure that it is capable of addressing contemporary needs and becomes a more efficient and effective organisation. Reform of the UN is a high priority for Australia and is expected to be the dominant theme at the forthcoming 52nd session of the UN General Assembly.
I note that this is the first time since Australia joined the UN in 1945, that Australia has appointed a woman to this position (of the 185 member countries of the UN, only seven countries currently have women Ambassadors). Moreover, this is, I believe, the most senior position in our overseas representation to be taken up by a woman career diplomat.
Ms Wensley was born in Toowoomba in 1946 and holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree from the University of Queensland. In 1994, the University awarded her an Honorary Doctorate in recognition of her distinguished contributions to international affairs and also named her as the first woman Alumnus of the year.
Ms Wensley is married to Mr Stuart McCosker, and they have two children.
Ms Wensley will take up her appointment in early September, 1997. She succeeds Mr Richard Butler, AM, who represented Australia at the United Nations, New York from 1992 to June, 1996 when he left to take up a senior appointment within the United Nations.