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

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Media Release

Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Alexander Downer
28 August 2001 / FA130

Diplomatic Appointment: High Commissioner to India

I have today announced the appointment of Ms Penny Wensley AO as Australia's High Commissioner to the Republic of India.  Ms Wensley will succeed Mr Rob Laurie AM, who has been High Commissioner since October 1997.

Australia's relations with India have enjoyed considerable growth in breadth and substance in recent years. This growth is underpinned by an already-important commercial relationship which shows every sign of continued expansion.   The value of Australian merchandise exports to India will exceed A$2 billion in 2000-2001, but trade in services between the two countries, not reflected in these figures, is also growing rapidly.  India is an increasingly important source of students studying in Australia and a growing market for Australian tourism and environmental and health services. Linkages in the information communications and technology sector are also expanding rapidly.

Australia's development cooperation program with India focuses on raising living standards by boosting the capacity of government agencies to deliver basic services.  Total Australian grant aid to India for 2001-2002 is estimated at $20.5 million with $14.7 million disbursed through the bilateral program.  This year, the program aims to boost access to better-quality primary education, particularly for girls, improve the provision of safe water, sanitation and watershed protection and reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS in selected states.

The bilateral relationship is also marked by an increasing convergence of views and closer cooperation on regional and multilateral issues. Australia and India are partners in the ASEAN Regional Forum, we are working together to add substance to the agenda of the Indian Ocean Rim-Association for Regional Cooperation and we are now partners in a bilateral security dialogue. I regard further development of this important relationship to be a major priority.

Ms Wensley is a senior career officer of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and most recently was Australia's Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations, New York.  She has served as Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva (1993-96), Ambassador for the Environment (1992-96), Consul-General in Hong Kong (1986-88), Deputy High Commissioner in Wellington (1982-85), Deputy Head of Mission in Mexico City (1975-77) and Third, Second and First Secretary in Paris (1969-73).

In Canberra, Ms Wensley has held a range of policy positions including First Assistant Secretary, North Asia Division (1996-97); Principal Adviser and First Assistant Secretary, International Organisations and Legal Division (1992-93); and Assistant Secretary, East Asia Branch (1989-90).

Educated at the University of Queensland, Ms Wensley holds a First Class Honours degree in English Language and Literature and in French.  She was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in January 2001.  She is married to Dr Stuart McCosker and they have two daughters.

Media Inquiries: Matt Francis (Ministerial) 02 6277 7500, Julie McDonald (Departmental) 02 6261 2534

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