Hot spot for new posting
Andrea Faulkner is Australia's new Ambassador to Israel. Just three weeks into the post, the University of Adelaide graduate spoke to Lumen about her time in Adelaide, her diplomatic career and her new role.
Lumen: Were you South Australian born and bred?
Andrea Faulkner: Yes, I was born and grew up in Adelaide and went to Cabra College. Most of my family is still in Adelaide.
Lumen: You graduated with a Bachelor of Music (Performing Arts) in 1987 followed by a BA (Honours) in 1989 and a Graduate Diploma in Education in 1990. Was there a logical path to a diplomatic career or did it happen more by chance?
AF: It was probably a bit of both. My studies in French and Italian were useful. It is a long time ago now, but after several years at university I do remember being keen to try something completely different, in an international context. To be honest, I don't think I actually expected to be accepted into DFAT (Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade), but I've certainly always been glad that I was.
Lumen: You are a Music graduate; are you still involved with music?
AF: Not nearly as much as I would like to be, but I'm always pleased to come into contact with music and musicians. Israel has a very rich music scene and I'm looking forward to experiencing as much of it as possible.
Lumen: Did you enjoy your time at the University of Adelaide and are there any particular memories?
AF: The thing I remember the most is the high quality of the teaching at the University of Adelaide. I will always be grateful to those teachers who took the time to open our minds and to share their considerable intellectual experience and strengths with us. It was a lifelong gift.
Lumen: How has your career progressed with DFAT and what have been the highlights?
AF: I've been very fortunate to have a diverse and mobile career in DFAT. Over the years I've worked in Canberra and overseas on a wide range of bilateral and multilateral policy areas, including on strategic and arms control issues, the environment, regional security, trade advocacy, consular work, and most recently on enhanced engagement with Africa. I've had three great overseas postings - in Hanoi, Paris and Tel Aviv - and now I'm very lucky to be back in Israel.
Lumen: What are the benefits and attractions - and difficulties - of a diplomatic career?
AF: One of the most rewarding aspects of a job in DFAT is the breadth of the issues we deal with on a daily basis, both in Canberra and overseas. Another is a first-hand appreciation of the strategic and security complexities many countries face. In promoting Australian interests globally, we get to engage on key foreign and trade policy issues, and in doing so meet some incredibly interesting people. It's also a good feeling to be able to help Australians wherever they are in the world.
Naturally there are challenges to uprooting yourself every few years and starting over - it can be daunting. But we have a strong and supportive network and these days it's so much easier to keep in contact with family and friends.
Lumen: You've previously served overseas in Israel - that must be of benefit in this role?
AF: Tel Aviv was a terrific first posting. I was Third Secretary so I did a bit of everything, with a particular focus on foreign policy issues. I learned many things which are helping me now, not least of which how to really appreciate the diversity and energy of Israeli society, and the robustness of democracy and debate in Israel.
Lumen: What does the job of Ambassador to Israel involve?
AF: My role will be to represent Australian policies and interests and to broaden and deepen what is a longstanding, strong and important bilateral relationship. That will range from developing current cooperation, to identifying areas where we could do more together, to working towards global and regional security objectives, and to promoting Australian trade and economic interests.
Consular support for Australians will always be a priority. I will also promote the strong linkages between our two countries, including the substantial and significant contribution made by Australia's Jewish community. My challenge will be to find enough hours in the day to do the job well!
Lumen: You became Ambassador in March 2010. How have you settled into the role?
AF: I arrived in Tel Aviv on 4 March and started work that day. Beginning in a new position is always a very busy time. It's been great getting to meet and talk with as many people as possible, to get a feel on the ground for the diversity and depth of the relationship, and what more could be done. I've been really touched by the warmth of the welcome extended to me. But there's still a lot to do and learn, and I'll be working as hard as I can over the coming few months.
STORY ROBYN MILLS