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

Media Release

FA101 - 5 July 2004

Diplomatic Appointment: Consul-General in Noumea

I have today announced the appointment of Jane Urquhart as Consul-General of Australia in Noumea, with accreditation covering New Caledonia, French Polynesia and Wallis and Futuna.

Ms Urquhart will replace Denise Fisher who has been Consul-General since October 2001.   Ms Urquhart is expected to take up her appointment in November 2004.

Bilateral ties between Australia and New Caledonia have broadened and strengthened in recent years, particularly after the 1998 Noumea Accord facilitated the development of New Caledonian relationships in the Pacific.   I last visited New Caledonia in December 1999 and the Minister for Trade Mr Vaile visited in March 2002 when he signed the Australia-New Caledonia Trade and Economic Relations Arrangement.   In September 2003, New Caledonia's President and member of the French National Assembly, Pierre Frogier, visited Australia as leader of a delegation of the French National Assembly's France-Australia Friendship Group.  

New Caledonia is a significant export market for Australia with exports last year totalling $209 million.   With plans for major developments in the mining and processing of   New Caledonia's world-class nickel deposits, opportunities for greater bilateral trade and investment over the next decade are strong.   Australia works closely with the French authorities and Armed Forces in New Caledonia in providing regional natural disaster relief and in military exercises, together with regional partners.   Strong links also exist through business, tourism and sport.   Many New Caledonians seek education in Australia, or benefit from scholarships administered through the Consulate-General in Noumea for New Caledonians and for young people in French Polynesia and Wallis and Futuna.   Australia's links with French Polynesia are also growing.

Australia welcomes the opportunities, created by New Caledonia's ongoing implementation of the Noumea Accord and by the new constitutional status granted by France to French Polynesia in February this year, for both entities to intensify their dealings with their Pacific neighbours.   New Caledonia participates as an observer in the Pacific Islands Forum.   Noumea hosts the headquarters of the Pacific Community, the oldest regional organisation which brings together 22 states and territories, provides technical assistance to all Pacific island countries, and contributes to sustainable economic development within the region.

Ms Urquhart is an experienced officer with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and is currently Director, West Europe Section.   She has also held the position of Director, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan Section (2001-02); Executive Officer, Pacific Bilateral Section (2000-01); and Executive Officer, PNG Section (1997-1998).  

Overseas, Ms Urquhart has served as Special Adviser to the Prime Minister of Solomon Islands (2002); Leader of the International Peace Monitoring Team in Solomon Islands (2001); Deputy High Commissioner in Honiara (1998-2000); and Second and later First Secretary in Damascus (1994-96).

Ms Urquhart has an Asian Studies degree in Mandarin (with Honours) and a Graduate Diploma in Foreign Affairs and Trade, both from the Australian National University.   She will be accompanied by her husband, Mr Donald Whinfield, and their two children.

Media inquiries: Media inquiries: Chris Kenny (Mr Downer's Office) 02 6277 7500, Julie McDonald (Departmental) 02 6261 1555

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