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Media Release

8 June, 2009

Ambassador for People Smuggling Issues

Mr Peter Woolcott will be Australia's new Ambassador for People Smuggling Issues.

The appointment, to take effect this week, underlines the Government's strong commitment to regional cooperation to combat people smuggling, human trafficking and related transnational crime.

The Ambassador for People Smuggling Issues is responsible for high-level advocacy of Australia's interests in promoting effective and practical regional and international cooperation to combat these crimes, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region.

Mr Woolcott succeeds Mr Michael Potts, who has been Ambassador since January 2007.

The Government decided in this year's Budget to establish the Ambassador for People Smuggling Issues as a dedicated full time position.

This was done in recognition of the significant challenges that Australia is facing as a result of difficult conditions in source locations such as Afghanistan, the Afghanistan-Pakistan border area and Sri Lanka.

Mr Woolcott will help effect a coordinated, whole-of-government approach to Australia's engagement with the Bali Process on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime, which Australia co-chairs with Indonesia.

The Ambassador will work with countries in the region to utilise the Bali Process Ad Hoc Group mechanism to address regional people smuggling situations.

This was one of the positive outcomes of the recent Bali Process ministerial meeting in Bali on 14-15 April 2009, which I jointly chaired with Indonesian Foreign Minister, Dr Hassan Wirajuda.

Mr Woolcott will work closely with other governments, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Organization for Migration, to take forward practical Bali Process measures, including regional and international cooperation between key operational agencies.

Mr Woolcott is a senior officer with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and is currently First Assistant Secretary, South East Asia Division, a position he has held since July 2007. Mr Woolcott was Australian Ambassador, Rome (2004 - 2007) and he served as Chief of Staff to the Minister for Foreign Affairs from 2002 to 2004.

Overseas, Mr Woolcott has also served as Deputy Head of Mission in Indonesia (2001 - 2002), Consul-General and Representative to US Pacific Command in Honolulu (1998 - 2001) and Deputy Head of Mission in Manila (1994 - 1997). Mr Woolcott has also served in Australian diplomatic missions in Buenos Aires (1986 - 1988) and Kingston (1981 - 1983).

He has held several other positions in the Department including Assistant Secretary, South and South East Asia Division (January - May 1998), Director, India and Indian Ocean Section (1997), Director, Human Rights Section (1992 - 1994) and Director, Sea Law and Ocean Policy Group (1990 - 1991).

Mr Woolcott holds Bachelor of Law and Bachelor of Arts degrees from the Australian National University and a Master of Arts degree from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University. He practised as a barrister in Sydney for a number of years before joining the Department of Foreign Affairs in 1981. Mr Woolcott speaks Italian. He is married and has two sons and a daughter.

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