The Hon. Alexander Downer, MP


Media Release

FA33 / 13 March 2002

Diplomatic Appointment: High Commissioner to South Africa

I have today announced the appointment of Mr Ian Wilcock as Australian High Commissioner to the Republic of South Africa.  Mr Wilcock will replace Mr David Connolly, who has been High Commissioner since May 1998, and is expected to take up his appointment in mid-2002.

Australia has a long-standing relationship with South Africa, where we have been represented diplomatically in Pretoria since 1946.  We enjoy excellent and expanding political cooperation across a wide range of interests.  Bilateral commercial relationships also continue to develop, assisted by the successful Joint Ministerial Commission held in October 2000.  There have been a number of recent high-level visits between Australia and South Africa, including by Mr Nelson Mandela in 2000, Australian Minister for Trade  Mark Vaile in 2000 and Senator Minchin in July 2001.

South Africa is a growing market for Australia with exports of A$1.3 billion in 2000-01, and total two-way trade of A$2.2 billion in 2000-01.  Australian investment in South Africa has been relatively low but is expected to increase dramatically following the BHP-Billiton merger, the major investment in sandmining by Ticor Ltd and the success of the Australia-Sub Saharan Africa Mining Conference in Pretoria in July 2001.  According to the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB), South Africa is Australia's fifth largest source of foreign investment, with emphasis in the mining and retail sectors.

Since 1994, Australia has been assisting South Africa in the transition to democratic government. The aid relationship is strong and positive and includes a $16 million Capacity Building Program targeted at improving skills such as education, information technology and local government.

Mr Wilcock is a senior career officer with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and has served as Ambassador to Israel (1997-99), Minister in London (1993-96), Counsellor and Minister in Washington (1986-89), First Secretary in Manila (1978-81) and Third and Second Secretary in Tel Aviv (1973-75).

In Canberra, Mr Wilcock was First Assistant Secretary, Americas and Europe Division in 2001-2002.  He was First Assistant Secretary, Public Diplomacy and then Public Diplomacy, Consular and Passports Divisions in 2000-01 and Assistant Secretary, Americas Branch from 1990-93.

Mr Wilcock graduated (in arts and education) from Melbourne and Monash Universities.  He also attended the Joint Services Staff College in 1984.

Media inquiries: Julie McDonald (Departmental) 02 6261 1555


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