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

Media Release

Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Alexander Downer
03 October 2000

Diplomatic Appointment: Ambassador to Indonesia

I have today announced the appointment of Mr Richard Smith, AO as Australia's Ambassador to Indonesia.  Mr Smith will replace Mr John McCarthy, AO who has been Ambassador since February 1997.  He is expected to take up his appointment in January 2001.

Australia's relationship with Indonesia is one of our most important and remains a key focus of Australia's diplomatic efforts. Mr Smith's appointment comes at a time when Indonesia is experiencing a historic and welcome transformation to a more democratic future.  Indonesia faces many challenges as it recovers from its economic crisis, but also many opportunities.  Australia welcomes the prospect of a more forward looking and deeper relationship with a democratic Indonesia committed to economic reform.  Australia is strongly supportive of Indonesia's democratic and economic transition.  Our efforts to encourage the Indonesian authorities to take effective measures to resolve the problems on the West Timor border are a clear example of our active engagement with Indonesia on current issues.

Mr Smith is a senior career officer of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.  Born in Perth (1944) and educated at the University of Western Australia, he taught in Western Australian High Schools before joining the then Department of External Affairs in 1969.  Between then and 1989, he served in Australian posts in New Delhi, Tel Aviv, Manila and Honolulu.

From 1989 to 1992, Mr Smith was Head of the Pacific, Africa and Middle East Division, and in 1992 he was appointed a Deputy Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.  In this capacity he oversighted the then Asia Division and was the Senior Official for Australia at successive ASEAN Regional Forum meetings.  From March 1994 to the end of 1995 he served on secondment to the Department of Defence as Deputy Secretary. 

Mr Smith took up duty as Australian Ambassador to the People's Republic of China in February 1996 and served in this position until February 2000.  During this period, he was also accredited as non-resident Ambassador to Mongolia.

Mr Smith was named as an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in the 1998 Australia Day Honours List.  He is married, and he and his wife Janet have two adult sons.


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