Australia-China Council

Beyond the Cables: Australian Ambassadors to China 1972-2012 Oral History Project

The Australia-China Council at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and National Library of Australia have established a partnership to develop a unique project that tracks the history of 40 years of Australia-China diplomatic engagement through the eyes of Australian Ambassadors.

Australia's first Ambassador to China, Dr Stephen Fitzgerald, shaking hands with Premier Zhou Enlai
Ambassador Dr Stephen Fitzgerald 1973 – 1976 Dr Stephen Fitzgerald, seen here with Premier Zhou Enlai, was Australia's first Ambassador to the People's Republic of China.

The Project will produce extended interviews with Australia’s former and current Ambassadors to China. The interviews will be available to public through the National Library online catalogue. The interviews will serve as an important education, reference, communication and advocacy resource. This initiative is an important element of the program of activities and events to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of diplomatic relations with China.

Mr Hugh Dunn AO sitting at a round table next to Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser. He and the other four people visible have papers in front of them.
Ambassador Hugh Dunn AO 1980 – 1984 Mr Hugh Dunn AO is seen here next to Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser at the signing of a bilateral agreement. Courtesy: The University of Melbourne Archives

Since 1960, the National Library has recorded oral-history interviews with Australians who have distinguished themselves in many fields, including law, the media, politics and government, the armed forces, industry and commerce, education, science, and the arts.

Foreign minister Carr is sitting in the middle of Australia's Ambassador to China, Frances Adamson (on his left) and Chinese vice-Permier Li Keqiang (on his right).
Ambassador Frances Adamson 2011 – Present Foreign Minister Bob Carr with Chinese Vice-Premier Li Keqiang and Australia’s Ambassador to China Frances Adamson in Beijing on 15 May, 2012

We hope that the project will be an important and useful contribution to the public debate about the Australia-China relationship as well as a valuable public-diplomacy, research and education resource.

Project Catalogue at the National Library

Completed interviews (available online):

Hugh Dunn

Dennis Argall

Dr Allan Thomas