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Media release

5 September 2008

Diplomatic Appointment - Ambassador to ASEAN

Ms Gillian Bird has been appointed Australia's first Ambassador to ASEAN. 

The appointment underlines the critical importance the Australian Government places on its relationship with ASEAN.  The appointment will enhance our ability to work closely with ASEAN to address key regional issues and promote regional prosperity and stability.

Australia's long history of cooperation with ASEAN has been characterised by strong and friendly relations.  Australia became ASEAN's first dialogue partner in 1974.  Today, Australia's relationship with ASEAN encompasses trade and investment, security, transnational issues, development cooperation, social policy and people-to-people links through education, tourism and cultural exchange.

Australia's two-way trade in goods and services with ASEAN totalled over $71 billion in 2007.  Australia, ASEAN and New Zealand recently concluded negotiations for a region-wide Free Trade Agreement, which will further strengthen our trading relationship and encourage increased investment flows.

Australia is an active partner of ASEAN through the ASEAN Regional Forum, the East Asia Summit, the ASEAN-Australia Post Ministerial Conference, the ASEAN Economic Ministers - Closer Economic Relations Consultations, the ASEAN-Australia Forum, and the ASEAN-Australia Development Cooperation Program Joint Planning Committee.

Ms Bird is a Deputy Secretary in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and is also Australia's Senior Official in the East Asia Summit.  In Addition to Australia's relations with South-East Asia, she has responsibility for Australia's participation in international organisations, including the United Nations; legal issues; consular services; public diplomacy and the Shanghai World Expo.

Ms Bird previously served as First Assistant Secretary, International Division, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.  Prior to this appointment, she was Head, Foreign and Trade Policy White Paper Task Force (Advancing the National Interest), within the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Ms Bird has served overseas in Harare, UN New York and Paris OECD.  She has also worked in the Office of the Minister for Trade Negotiations.  Ms Bird joined the Department of Foreign Affairs in 1980.

Ms Bird holds a BA (First Class Hons), University of Sydney and is a graduate of the French Ecole Nationale d'Administration.

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