Australian Commonwealth Coat of Arms

Media Release

24 August, 2009

T.K. (Tom) Critchley AO CBE

I pay tribute to TK (Tom) Critchley as family, friends and former colleagues of T.K. (Tom) Critchley gather in Sydney today to celebrate his life.

Thomas Kingston Critchley (Tom), who died on 14 July 2009 in Sydney, was one of Australia's most distinguished diplomats.

Tom Critchley served with great distinction in the Australian Public Service from 1933 to 1981, and from 1946 in the Department of External Affairs (later the Department of Foreign Affairs).

He made a remarkable contribution to Australian diplomacy and particularly to the development of Australia’s relations with Southeast Asia, and in particular Indonesia, Malaysia and Papua New Guinea. On the United Nations Committee of Good Offices and later the United Nations Commission for Indonesia from 1947 to 1950 he played an important role in the historical events which saw Indonesia gain its independence from the Netherlands. This Australian support has been a crucial underpinning of the Australia-Indonesia relationship ever since.

In the 1950s Tom Critchley was active in developing the Colombo Plan of intergovernmental assistance to South and Southeast Asian countries and served with distinction in the Australian Commission in Singapore and on the Australian delegation to the United Nations Commission for the Unification and Rehabilitation of Korea. Later in the 1950s and 1960s, as Commissioner and later High Commissioner in Kuala Lumpur, he forged with Malaysian leaders a close bond which continues to give strength to the bilateral relationship.

Notable later in his career were his postings as Ambassador to Thailand from 1969 to 1974, as High Commissioner in Port Moresby during Papua New Guinea’s transition to independent statehood from 1974 to 1978 and his last overseas posting as Australia’s Ambassador to Indonesia from 1978 to 1981.

Tom Critchley possessed a remarkable capacity to win the trust and goodwill of leaders of neighbouring countries. Within the Department he is fondly remembered by present and former officers for his warm and charismatic personality.

He made a contribution to Australian diplomacy truly worthy of celebration today.

Media inquiries: Mr Smith's office 02 6277 7500 - Departmental Media Liaison 02 6261 1555