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

Media Release

FA18 - 5 March 2003

Diplomatic Appointment - High Commissioner to Malta 

I have today announced the appointment of Richard Palk, CSM, as Australia's High Commissioner to the Republic of Malta. He will replace Iain Dickie who has been High Commissioner since February 2000. Mr Palk is expected to take up his appointment in July 2003.

Australia and Malta share a warm and constructive relationship, underpinned by strong community ties. Some 180,000 Australians are of Maltese descent and the Maltese community has made an invaluable contribution to Australia's multicultural society. In recent years, these strong ties have been reinforced through an increasing number of high-level visits, including the visit to Australia last year by Maltese Prime Minister Fenech Adami and Deputy Prime Minister Gonzi.

Australia and Malta have also concluded a number of bilateral agreements, including a Working Holiday Maker Scheme which enables young people to experience each other's cultures.

Our traditional people-to-people links have provided a good foundation for cooperation on issues of international importance to Australia and for fostering our growing trade. Two-way trade last financial year stood at A$19 million with a healthy trade surplus for Australia of $10 million. Potential exists for expanding Australian exports to Malta in the areas of telecommunications, solar power and water supply.

Mr Palk joined the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in 1994 after a 17-year career as a Regular Army officer with the Australian Defence Force. As an ADF Lieutenant Colonel, he held senior Defence Public Affairs positions in Sydney and overseas. In 1992 and 1993, he was Chief of Military Public Information in the Headquarters of the United Nations Transitional Authority in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

In the Department in Canberra, he was Director, Projects and Marketing, in the International Public Affairs Branch in 1994-1995. In 2002 he was appointed Director, Cultural Relations Section, in the Images of Australia Branch.

He served in Bangkok from 1995-1999, initially as the Counsellor (Public Affairs) and later as Consul-General and Counsellor (Administrative). From 1999- 2002 he served in Kuala Lumpur as Consul-General and Counsellor (Administrative).

Born in Brisbane in 1950, Mr Palk holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Queensland and was awarded a Conspicuous Service Medal (CSM) in the 1994 Australia Day Honours for his service in Cambodia. He is married and he and his wife Helen have two adult daughters.

Media inquiries: Chris Kenny (Ministerial) +61 02 6277 7500 / Julie McDonald (Departmental) +61 02 6261 155