Dennis Richardson (diplomat)

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Dennis Richardson

Dennis J Richardson (2).jpg
Secretary of the Department of Defence
In office
18 October 2012 (2012-10-18) – 12 May 2017 (2017-05-12)
Preceded byDuncan Lewis
Succeeded byGreg Moriarty
Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
In office
January 2010 – 18 October 2012
Preceded byMichael L'Estrange
Succeeded byPeter Varghese
Australian Ambassador to the United States
In office
Preceded byMichael Thawley
Succeeded byKim Beazley
10th Director-General of Security
In office
11 October 1996 – 27 May 2005
Prime MinisterJohn Howard
Preceded byDavid Sadleir
Succeeded byPaul O'Sullivan
Personal details
Dennis James Richardson

(1947-05-14) 14 May 1947 (age 72)
Kempsey, New South Wales
Spouse(s)Betty Richardson
Alma materUniversity of Sydney (BA [Hons])
public servant

Dennis James Richardson, AC (born 14 May 1947)[1] is a retired Australian public servant and diplomat. His last appointment was as Secretary of the Department of Defence (2012–17).

Background and career[edit]

Richardson attended the University of Sydney where he received a Bachelor of Arts with Honours (1965–68).[2] He started his Australian Public Service career in the Department of External Affairs in 1969.[3]

Between 1969 and 1986 Richardson had various positions in the Department of Foreign Affairs, including postings to Kenya, Papua New Guinea and Indonesia. In 1986 he was appointed Head of the Refugee and Humanitarian Branch in the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. In 1987, Richardson moved to the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, being appointed Head of the International Division in 1988. In 1990-91, Richardson was seconded to Prime Minister Bob Hawke's office where he served as Chief of Staff. In 1992, Richardson conducted a review of the Australian Intelligence Community Post Cold War. In 1993, Richardson was appointed Deputy Secretary of the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs. He was Director-General of the Australian Security Intelligence Organization from October 1996 to May 2005. Richardson was Australian Ambassador to the United States of America (2005–2010) and Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (2010–2012).[4] While Australian Ambassador to the US, he visited all 50 states; instead of flying to all the states—except for Hawaii—he and his wife drove. In just about every place, he says they were made welcome by the American people.[5]

In October 2012, Richardson was appointed Secretary of the Department of Defence. Richardson announced on 19 April 2017 that he would retire on 12 May 2017. Associate Secretary Brendan Sargeant was acting Secretary until the appointment of Greg Moriarty on 4 September 2017.[6][7]

Richardson was on the board of the US Studies Centre at Sydney University from 2010-2017. Following his retirement from the Public Service, he was appointed to the Board of Linfox Australia. In addition to Linfox, Richardson currently serves on the Boards of The National Capital Authority, Vault, The Australian Wildlife Conservancy, The Canberra Raiders NRL Club and is Chair of StarFlight Victoria. He is the Patron of the RSPCA in the ACT.

In mid 2018 Richardson was appointed by the Australian Government to conduct a Comprehensive Review of Australian Intelligence Legislation. He is due to report to the government at the end of 2019.


Richardson received the Centenary Medal in 2001. Richardson was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in 2003 for service to the community in a range of public policy areas including foreign policy, immigration and security,[8] and advanced to Companion of the Order of Australia in 2019 for his "eminent service to public administration" in the fields of national security, defence and foreign policy.[9] He was also awarded the Distinguished Service Order by the President of Singapore on 8 June 2017.[10]

Richardson received an Honorary Doctorate of Letters from the University of Sydney in November 2018 and an Honorary Doctorate of Laws from the Australian National University in December 2018.


Richardson is married to Betty, and has two children: Mark; and Natalie.[2]


  1. ^ "Mr Dennis J Richardson AO – Ambassador to United States of America". Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Retrieved 13 June 2008.
  2. ^ a b The Great APS Graduate Debate 2011 (PDF), 2 August 2011, p. 7, archived from the original (PDF) on 5 February 2014
  3. ^ Flitton, Daniel (16 January 2010). "Bureaucratic heavyweights from Class of '69". The Age. Fairfax Media. p. 3. Archived from the original on 31 January 2015.
  4. ^ Kerr, Christian (13 August 2008). "Dennis Richardson to DFAT as Rudd purges public service posts". The Australian.
  5. ^ "Aussie diplomat makes U.S. road trip". Washington Times. 1 July 2009.
  6. ^ Dennis Richardson AO, Department of Defence (Australia), accessed 2017-04-19
  7. ^ Defence Department secretary Dennis Richardson announces resignation, Henry Belot, ABC News Online, 2017-04-19
  8. ^ "RICHARDSON, Dennis James: Officer of the Order of Australia". It's an Honour. Commonwealth of Australia. 9 June 2003. Retrieved 28 October 2013.
  9. ^ "'Extraordinary' Australians honoured in annual Queen's Birthday ceremonies". Sydney Morning Herald. 9 June 2019. Retrieved 9 June 2019.
  10. ^ "Former Australian Secretary of Defence receives Singapore's highest military award". Chong Zi Liang. The Straits Times. 9 June 2017. Retrieved 14 November 2018.

External links[edit]

Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Michael Thawley
Australian Ambassador to the United States
Succeeded by
Kim Beazley
Government offices
Preceded by
David Sadleir
Director-General of Security
Succeeded by
Paul O'Sullivan
Preceded by
Michael L'Estrange
Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Succeeded by
Peter Varghese
Preceded by
Duncan Lewis
Secretary of the Department of Defence
Succeeded by
Greg Moriarty