24 May 2021

DFAT head leaving to be SA Governor

| Ian Bushnell
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Frances Adamson

Frances Adamson is a former Ambassador to China. Photo: DFAT.

One of Canberra’s most prominent senior public servants and China experts is leaving the public service to take up a vice-regal role in her native South Australia.

SA Premier Steven Marshall has announced that the Queen has approved the appointment of the Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs, Frances Adamson, as the next Governor of South Australia.

Ms Adamson has led DFAT since 2016, was previously International Adviser to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and is a former Ambassador to China.

The appointment of a replacement will be keenly noticed by diplomatic circles and China watchers as Australia continues to negotiate a difficult patch in its relationship with the emerging superpower.

Ms Adamson said she was deeply honoured to be appointed to such a significant role in the state she grew up in.

“I am greatly looking forward to returning home to serve the people of South Australia and contribute to the state’s international engagement through the promotion of trade, investment and people-to-people links,” Ms Adamson said.

Mr Marshall said Ms Adamson’s appointment represents a new era for the state where the wine industry and lobster industry are suffering at the hands of Chinese tariffs.

“She is a very proud South Australian with a plethora of experience in international affairs – vitally important to South Australia as we recover from the once-in-a-century COVID-19 pandemic.

“Her wealth of knowledge on the international stage will put South Australia in good stead as we continue to put South Australia on the global map,” Mr Marshall said.

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Ms Adamson was Ambassador to China from 2011 to 2015, and served in the Australian Consulate-General in Hong Kong in the late 1980s during the early years of China’s reform and opening. From 2001 to 2005, she was seconded as Representative to the Australian Commerce and Industry Office in Taipei.

She twice served in the Australian High Commission in London, as Deputy High Commissioner from 2005 to 2008 and as Political Counsellor from 1993 to 1997.

She was Chief of Staff to the Minister for Foreign Affairs and then the Minister for Defence from 2009 to 2010.

Ms Adamson is a member of the Export Finance Australia Board, the Advisory Board of the Australian National University’s National Security College, the Asia Society Australia Advisory Council and the National Foundation for Australia-China Relations.

She is a Special Adviser to the Male Champions of Change and a member of Chief Executive Women. She was awarded a Sir James Wolfensohn Public Service Scholarship in 2015 and was made a National Fellow of the Institute of Public Administration (IPAA) in September 2019 after completing her two-year term as President of IPAA ACT Division.

Ms Adamson has a Bachelor of Economics from the University of Adelaide and received a Distinguished Alumni Award in 2014. She was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of the University (honoris causa) in April 2021. She joined the then Department of Foreign Affairs in 1985 and is married with four children.

Ms Adamson will be sworn in as Governor of South Australia in October this year.

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