It is with deep sadness that I note that Australia’s High Commissioner to South Africa, Graeme Wilson, died on Tuesday after an unexpected illness. He was 60 years old. I extend my sincere condolences to Graeme’s wife, Lisa, and their children, Laura, Andrew and Matthew.

Graeme was a dedicated professional who worked for 31 years to advance Australia’s foreign, trade and development interests around the globe. Since early 2013, he was an outstanding advocate for Australia in South Africa.

As Australia’s Special Coordinator to the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) from 2009 to 2011, Graeme served with distinction. In previous overseas assignments, he served as Australia’s Ambassador in Mexico and Consul General to Noumea, and was posted to Paris and Vanuatu. Graeme also served as DFAT’s Chief of Protocol.

Graeme’s career was a diverse one, but I would like to pay particular tribute to his contribution in the Pacific where he served three times. His tenure as Australia’s Special Coordinator for RAMSI in the Solomon Islands helped lift Australia’s profile in the region and, in his words, helped make Solomon Islands “more secure, stronger economically and more confident”. Australia is a key partner for the Pacific and Graeme’s passion for, and stewardship of, relationships in that region was a highlight of his service.

Graeme was a dedicated and talented sportsman who played Australian Rules Football at the elite level – including senior games for South Melbourne Football Club (now the Sydney Swans).  He was also a passionate cricketer. Graeme’s firm belief that sport broke down cultural and other barriers led him to combine both his passions – sport and diplomacy – in creative initiatives in all his postings. Promoting the game with his trademark infectious enthusiasm, Graeme was a fine ambassador for Australian Rules Football.

It is terribly sad to have valued professionals like Graeme depart prematurely and at the height of their careers. Graeme’s impact on Australia’s national interests will continue to make a difference for many years to come.

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