The Hon. Alexander Downer, MP
The Hon. Alexander Downer, MP

Media release

Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Alexander Downer
Saturday, 02 September 2000

Diplomatic Appointment: High Commissioner to Nigeria

I have today announced the appointment of Mr Robert Christopher Whitty as Australia's High Commissioner to the Federal Republic of Nigeria, with non-resident accreditation to other West African nations.

Mr Whitty will replace Mr Matthew Neuhaus, who has been High Commissioner since October 1997.

Nigeria is the most populous nation in Africa and is highly influential in regional and international affairs. Australia's relations with Nigeria have been strengthened by the return of Nigeria to democratic rule and to the Commonwealth, following the election of President Obasanjo in 1999.

Mr Whitty's appointment comes at a time of growing Australian commercial engagement in West Africa, particularly in the mining industry. This provides mutually advantageous opportunities for both Australia and the countries of West Africa, in which Australian expertise and investment can contribute to longer term development in the region.

Mr Whitty is a career officer with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and was most recently Director, Consular Operations, in Canberra. From 1994-98 Mr Whitty was High Commissioner in the Caribbean, based in Bridgetown, Barbados, and from 1986-89 ConsulGeneral in Houston, covering the southern region of the United States.

Mr Whitty's other overseas postings have been as First Secretary, Rangoon (1975-77); First Secretary, Belgrade (1977-79); and Counsellor, Rome (1982-86). In Canberra, Mr Whitty has headed Sections concerned with Australia's political and trade relations with Europe, the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, and the Philippines, Thailand and Burma. He has also twice headed Sections responsible for the Department's dealings with the news media.

Before joining the Department, Mr Whitty was a journalist with "The Advertiser" newspaper in Adelaide and served in London and Rome with the then Department of Immigration. He is married with four adult children.

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