Bruce Haigh

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Bruce Haigh
Born (1945-08-06) 6 August 1945 (age 74)
OccupationPublic servant, diplomat

Bruce Douglas Haigh (born 6 August 1945) is an Australian political commentator and former diplomat. Haigh joined the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs in 1972. He served in South Africa from 1976 to 1979 with the Australian Embassy (now High Commission), as well as Afghanistan, Indonesia, Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Sri Lanka.[1][2]

Working life[edit]

Before entering the foreign service, Haigh spent time working as a jackaroo in the north west of Western Australia.[3]

Haigh initiated Australian Embassy contact with members of the black South African resistance,[4] including the Black Consciousness Movement in 1976. Included amongst the friends he made at this time were Steve Biko (murdered by police whilst being held in detention in 1977) and Dr. Mamphela Ramphele (Vice Chancellor of the University of Cape Town and a Director of the World Bank). Haigh helped banned newspaper editor, Donald Woods, escape from South Africa. His role (played by Australian actor John Hargreaves) in this escape was portrayed in the film, Cry Freedom produced by Richard Attenborough. Bruce helped a number of other political activists escape from South Africa.[5][6]

Haigh worked in the Australian Embassy in Saudi Arabia from 1982 to 1984. From 1984 to 1986 he was Director of the Indonesia Section. During that time he travelled within the Indonesian archipelago. From 1986 to 1988, he was at the Australian Embassy, Islamabad, Pakistan and became a friend of Benazir Bhutto, the future Prime Minister. He travelled to Afghanistan, where he reported on the war and other aspects of the Soviet occupation. He also undertook the photographic recording of Soviet activities and installations. He established and ran the Australia-South Africa Training Program (ASATP) from 1990 to 1993. Seventy black South Africans came to Australia under the program for extended periods of work experience and training including well known South African artist, Bernadette Searle. In 1994, he was Deputy High Commissioner at the Australian High Commission, Colombo.

Haigh was instrumental in helping to set up the Ifa Lethu Foundation as an institution to locate, repatriate and curate South African works of art taken out of the country during the years of apartheid. In July 2005 his collection of black South African art was donated to the people of South Africa through Ifa Lethu.

Haigh grows olives and grapes at Mudgee, New South Wales.[7] He provides regular political analysis on international and domestic issues for radio and television, conferences and seminars. He writes opinion pieces for a number of newspapers and journals. He stood as an Independent candidate for the federal seat of Gwydir in 2001 and 2004, and Parkes in 2007. Haigh is a Member of the International Refugee Law Judges Association and a past President of the Australian Olive Association.


  1. ^ Edwards, Lorna (8 February 2003). "The man who won't shut up". The Newcastle Herald. p. 1011.
  2. ^ Barrowclough, Nikki (9 June 2001). "The man who saw too much". The Sydney Morning Herald. p. 45.
  3. ^ "Former diplomat Bruce Haigh". ABC Queensland. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 9 October 2007. Archived from the original on 10 December 2007.
  4. ^ "Steve Biko letters return to South Africa". PM. 4 February 2004. ABC Radio. Archived from the original on 1 August 2016. Transcript.
  5. ^ Moses, Alexa (6 April 2005). "Return to Africa for artwork that escaped apartheid". The Sydney Morning Herald. Fairfax Media. Archived from the original on 31 March 2016.
  6. ^ Daley, Paul (9 October 2007). "Enviro-Envoy". Bulletin with Newsweek. Haigh was a controversial diplomat who, while in South Africa, used his diplomatic immunity to help black activists flee repression. He famously helped the newspaper editor Donald Woods—a fierce critic of apartheid — escape from South Africa, an incident portrayed in the film Cry Freedom.
  7. ^ Ramsey, Alan (24 November 2004). "Seven weeks to assess advice and do nothing". The Sydney Morning Herald. Fairfax Media. Archived from the original on 20 September 2006.