The Asian Century, driven by the unprecedented transfer of wealth and influence from the West to the East, offers opportunities to Indonesia and Australia to enhance their cooperation to their mutual advantage, if they take them. Richard Woolcott argues that the challenges ahead in the bilateral relationship – as well as the opportunities – will require a fundamental change in Australia’s national psyche, to focus more on Asia than on our traditional links with the United States, the United Kingdom and Europe.
Mr Richard Woolcott AC is the Founding Director of the Asia Society AustralAsia Centre and has been a member of the Australian American Leadership Dialogue since 1992. He is also a member of the International Council of the New York-based Asia Society. In June 2008 he was appointed the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy to develop an Asia Pacific Community concept. He was Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade from 1988 to 1992 and served as deputy to the High Commissioner in Malaysia, Commissioner in Singapore, High Commissioner to Ghana, Ambassador to the Philippines, Ambassador to Indonesia and Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations (1982-1988), where he also represented Australia on the Security Council (1985-1986). He was Chairman of the Australia Indonesia Institute from (1992-1998) and a member of the Advisory Panel for the first Government White Paper on Foreign and Trade Policy, published in 1997. Mr Woolcott was closely involved with the establishment of the Asia Pacific Regional Economic Cooperation forum (APEC). He has carried out Special Envoy roles for Prime Ministers Holt, Whitlam, Hawke, Howard and, most recently, Rudd. He was made an Officer in the Order of Australia in 1985 and a Companion in the Order in 1993. He was awarded the Bintang Mahaputra Utama by the Government of Indonesia in 2000 for his contribution to bilateral and regional relationships. He was awarded the 2008 Sir Edward ‘Weary’ Dunlop Asia Medal for his contribution to Australia’s relationships with Asian countries. In 2008 he was selected as one of the inaugural Fellows of the Australian Institute of International Affairs. He was awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Laws by the University of Melbourne in March 2012 and gave the 15th Annual Hawke Lecture in Adelaide in November 2012. Mr Woolcott has contributed articles to leading Australian and overseas newspapers and journals. He is the author of The Hot Seat: Reflections on Diplomacy from Stalin’s Death to the Bali Bombings, published in 2003 by Harper Collins and Undiplomatic Activities, published by Scribe in 2007.