Richard Woolcott

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Richard Woolcott
Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs
In office
Personal details
Born Richard Arthur Woolcott
(1927-06-11) 11 June 1927 (age 89)
Nationality Australia Australian
Spouse(s) Birgit
(m. 19??‑2008; her death)
Children Peter, Robert and Anna
Alma mater University of Melbourne
Occupation Public servant, diplomat and author

Richard Arthur "Dick" Woolcott, AC (born 11 June 1927) is a retired Australian public servant, diplomat, author and commentator.

Life and career[edit]

Woolcott was educated at Geelong Grammar School, Cranbrook School and the University of Melbourne, before becoming a member of the Australian Diplomatic Service.

Woolcott's first posting in the diplomatic service was as Third Secretary in the Australian Embassy Moscow between 1952 and 1954.[1] The posting was at the time of Joseph Stalin's death in March 1953.

Between 1967 and 1970, Woolcott was Australian High Commissioner to Ghana. In the role, he regularly visited Ouagadougou, Nouakchott, Dakar, Libreville, Monrovia, Abidjan, Lomé, Conakry and Bamako.[2] From 1975 to 1978 he was Australia's Ambassador to Indonesia, at the time of the Indonesian invasion of East Timor. Subsequently, Woolcott was appointed Australia's Ambassador to the Philippines (between 1978 and 1982).[3]

He was the Australian Ambassador to the United Nations from 1982 to 1988, and served as the President of the United Nations Security Council for Australia's term in November 1985. Woolcott also served as Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), the most senior diplomatic position in Australia, from 1988 to 1992.[4] As DFAT Secretary, he was involved in the establishment of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.[5] On 4 June 2008, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced that Woolcott had been appointed as an envoy to conduct discussions to form a new Asian regional forum.[5]

Since 1997, Richard Woolcott has been the Founding Director of the Asia Society AustralAsia Centre.

In 2003 Woolcott wrote a personal memoir entitled The Hot Seat: Reflections on Diplomacy from Stalin’s Death to the Bali Bombings,[6] and he also wrote a book called Undiplomatic Activities in 2007.[7]

Richard Woolcott is a supporter of the Australian Republican Movement, and gave the Inaugural National Republican Lecture in 2003.[8]

Woolcott's Danish-born wife of 56-years, Birgit, died from lung cancer in 2008.[9]

Awards and honours[edit]

For his services to diplomacy and international relations, he was made an Officer of the Order of Australia in 1985,[10] and appointed a Companion of the Order in 1993.[11] Woolcott's son, Peter, is also a diplomat and has served as the ambassador to Italy.[5]

In July 2008, Richard Woolcott was selected as one of the inaugural fellows of the Australian Institute of International Affairs to highlight his very high level of distinction in and distinguished contribution to Australia's international affairs.


  1. ^ Interview: Richard Woolcott AC Third Secretary,1952-54; Second, then First Secretary 1959-61; Australian Embassy Moscow, Australian Government, archived from the original on 11 February 2014 
  2. ^ "Back from Ouagadougou". The Canberra Times. 7 August 1969. p. 3. 
  3. ^ Woolcott, Richard (8 March 2003). "What Australia lost in Timor". Archived from the original on 12 April 2013. 
  4. ^ "Richard Woolcott and Mandyam Srinivasan". The Backyard. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 29 August 2007. Retrieved 17 December 2007. 
  5. ^ a b c Maley, Paul (5 June 2008). "Old warhorse Richard Woolcott back in harness to smooth regional ties". The Australian. 
  6. ^ HarperCollins (2008). The Hot Seat: Reflections on Diplomacy from Stalin’s Death to the Bali Bombings. Retrieved 5 June 2008.
  7. ^ Scribe Publications (2008). Undiplomatic Activities. Retrieved 5 June 2008.
  8. ^ Away with the Anachronism: A Republic will serve Australia's Domestic and International Interests at the Wayback Machine (archived 20 August 2006). Retrieved 31 July 2008.
  9. ^ Basorie, Warief Djajanto (29 December 2010). "Richard Woolcott: An exemplary envoy". The Jakarta Post. 
  10. ^ It's An Honour (2008). WOOLCOTT AO, Richard Arthur. Retrieved 5 June 2008.
  11. ^ It's An Honour (2008). WOOLCOTT AC, Richard Arthur. Retrieved 5 June 2008.

External links[edit]

Government offices
Preceded by
Stuart Harris
Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
1988 – 1992
Succeeded by
Peter Wilenski
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
John Ryan
Australian High Commissioner to Ghana
1967 – 1970
Succeeded by
John McMillan
Preceded by
Robert Furlonger
Australian Ambassador to Indonesia
1975 – 1978
Succeeded by
Tom Critchley
Preceded by
Gerry Nutter
Australian Ambassador to the Philippines
1978 – 1982
Succeeded by
Roy Fernandez