Australian Commonwealth Coat of Arms

22 January 2009

Diplomatic appointment - High Commissioner to Brunei

Mr Mark Sawers is to be Australia's new High Commissioner to Brunei Darussalam succeeding Dr Ruth Adler, who has been High Commissioner since February 2006. Mr Sawers is expected to take up his appointment in February 2009.

Since the establishment of our mission in Brunei Darussalam in 1983, Australia's bilateral relationship with Brunei has developed, with strong links in defence, trade, investment and education.

His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam visited Australia in February 2005 and again in 2007 to attend the APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting.  Strong people-to-people links date back to 1945 when Australian troops were involved in operations in Brunei during the final stages of World War II.  These links were given formal recognition through the completion in 2008 of a Memorial in Brunei to commemorate the 1945 landings of Australian troops. 

People-to-people connections are also reflected in Australia’s ranking as the second largest provider of education services to Bruneians studying overseas.  Over 700 Bruneian students study in Australia each year.

Defence cooperation continues to grow and includes training, joint exercises and annual bilateral talks.  Security cooperation is also a key feature of the relationship, and much of this is conducted under the umbrella of the 2005 MOU on Cooperation to Combat International Terrorism.  Australia and Brunei are also partners in APEC; the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF); the East Asia Summit; BIMP-EAGA (a sub-regional growth area involving Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia and Indonesia in which the Northern Territory is a development partner)and the Commonwealth.

Economic ties between Australia and Brunei have grown steadily in recent years.  Oil is Brunei’s largest export to Australia, totaling just over $1 billion in 2007-08. Australia’s main exports to Brunei consist of food and food products. Australia and Brunei are also currently working together to develop the Brunei halal brand which will aim to target niche food export markets.

As ASEAN coordinator, Brunei played a key and helpful role in the negotiation of the ASEAN, Australia and New Zealand Free Trade Agreement (AANZFTA) which will see commercial links between Australia and Brunei continue to expand.

Mr Sawers, an experienced officer with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, is currently Director, Counter-Terrorism Cooperation, in the Department’s Counter Terrorism Branch.

Prior to this he was on secondment to the Centre for Defence and Strategic Studies and Director, People Smuggling, Refugees and Immigration Section in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (2006-07). 

Overseas, Mr Sawers served as First Secretary and later Counsellor at the Australian permanent Mission to the United Nations in Geneva (2003-06).  Prior to joining the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, he served as Principal Migration Officer for the then Department of Immigration and Multicultural  Affairs in Beirut (1998-99) and in Belgrade (1995‑97).

Mr Sawers holds a Bachelor of Arts from Melbourne University, a Master of Public Administration from the University of Canberra and a Master of International Law from the Australian National University.  He is married and has two children.

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