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Embassy of the United States, Canberra

The Embassy of the United States in Canberra is the embassy of the United States to Australia. It is one of the largest embassies in the Australian capital of Canberra, located in the centrally-located suburb of Yarralumla. It is situated close to The Lodge, the official Canberra residence of the Prime Minister of Australia, and is equally close to Parliament House, the centre of Australia's government. Built in the Georgian style of architecture, it was founded in 1942 and occupied by the end of the next year.[1]

Embassy of the United States, Canberra
Embassy of the United States.jpg
U.S. Embassy, Canberra
General information
Architectural styleGeorgian
LocationYarralumla, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory
Coordinates35°18′26″S 149°7′2″E / 35.30722°S 149.11722°E / -35.30722; 149.11722Coordinates: 35°18′26″S 149°7′2″E / 35.30722°S 149.11722°E / -35.30722; 149.11722
Current tenantsUnited States Ambassador to Australia, presently Arthur B. Culvahouse Jr.
Groundbreaking4 June 1942 (1942-06-04)
CompletedDecember 1943
Opened9 July 1946 (1946-07-09)
OwnerUnited States Department of State
Design and construction
ArchitectFrederick Larkin

The embassy has several functions, including communicating and collaborating with Australian media, issuing passports and visas, assisting US citizens living in Australia, and presenting forums with visiting American experts. The mission has also helped prepare food for needy Australians in co-operation with the Our Big Kitchen organisation of Sydney. The staff also organises and arranges for key figures and thinkers in Australia to visit the United States to share ideas with American counterparts.[2]

The office of the United States Ambassador to Australia is currently held by Arthur B. Culvahouse Jr., appointed with effect from March 13, 2019.[3]



Exterior and front lawn

Australia was recognised as a country by the United States and diplomatic relations were established between the US and Australia in 1940. The foundation stone for the current ambassador's Residence was laid on 4 June 1942, and the residence was occupied by Christmas 1943.[1] The site was advanced to embassy status on 9 July 1946. On 25 September, Robert Butler presented his credentials as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Australian Government, becoming the first ambassador to Australia.[4]

Architecture and constructionEdit

The embassy was designed in order to show off typically classical American architecture to Australians while still blending in with Canberra's atmosphere. The final design chosen is a Georgian style, examples of which could be seen in the 17th and 18th centuries in southern parts of the United States. The blueprints were inspired by buildings designed by Christopher Wren for the colonial town of Williamsburg, Virginia.[1] The architect was Frederick Larkin, working for the Department of State’s foreign building office. He was supervised by an Australian architect.[5]

This style of architecture was chosen as Williamsburg is seen as having been a center of liberty and freedom in the colonial times, as well as a concentration of communal, political and artistic action.[1]

The materials used for construction were mostly Australian-based. An exception of this occurred in 1959, when the Chancery’s expansion required bricks to match the existing style. The Canberra location that had previously kilned the bricks was no longer available, and as no other convenient location was available, bricks were transported from kilns located near Williamsburg in the United States.[1]

The main floors of the residence are either Australian wood or Australian white marble from southern New South Wales, with the exception of the entrance hall, which has the same Australian white marble in a checkered pattern with Belgian black marble. Additionally, sandstone paves the way to the solarium, and jarrah parquetry is utilised for the main floor, with tallowwood parquetry for the upper floor. Finally, linoleum on pine flooring is used for flooring service areas. Outside, the roof is Bangor slate, with entrance columns and other stone adornments made of Hawkesbury sandstone.[1]

Residence equipment mostly originates in the United States, as does the flag pole and furniture, creating what the embassy calls a "happy blending of Australian and American materials and craftsmanship."[1][5]

Security concernsEdit

11 September attacksEdit

Following the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and The Pentagon, road blocks were set up around the US Embassy in Canberra.[6] Additional officers were brought in to increase security at the mission in the morning hours, with all vehicles entering the premises checked and Australian police cars stationed at every gate. In addition, access to other embassies in the area was restricted.[7]

Following airstrikes in AfghanistanEdit

On 7 October 2001, the United States military began carrying out airstrikes against Taliban and al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. The following day, roads around the US Embassy in Canberra were closed off due to fears of retaliatory strikes or protests.[8]

Protests of 2003Edit

On 23 October 2003, a crowd about approximately 3,000 held demonstrations outside the nearby Parliament House. The protests centered on President George W. Bush, who arrived in Canberra earlier that day. As a planned rally, the protesters marched through streets that were closed off ahead of time. Due to an alleged militant presence in the crowd, temporary plastic barrier fencing was torn down outside the US Embassy, star pickets were thrown at guards, and minor fights between police and protesters erupted outside the mission. The crowds later moved on with few injuries sustained.[9]

Gate-crashing incident of 2013Edit

On 10 July 2013, Adrian Richardson from Queensland checked out of an adult mental health facility and drove slowly around the US Embassy at about 6:00 pm. Soon after, he switched off his headlights, revved his engine, and crashed his car into the US Embassy's gates, causing A$15,000 of damage.[10][11] Canberra's bomb unit responded to the attack, along with police, ambulance, fire, and rescue crews. Roads were also closed around the embassy.[12]

A mental health assessment was ordered by a court, and Richardson was charged with damaging the premises of an internationally protected person.[10] He gave multiple reasons for his actions, including being a journalist seeking a visa, and being the victim of a Chinese plot.[11] Richardson was placed on psychiatric order for three years after being diagnosed with a psychotic illness and pleading not guilty by mental impairment.[11]


The office of the United States Ambassador to Australia is currently held by Arthur B. Culvahouse Jr., appointed with effect from March 13, 2019.[3]

Traditionally, the post of Ambassador to Australia has been considered a patronage post, and as such, the majority of those holding the office have been friends, donors, business associates, or political allies to the president at the time, as opposed to career diplomats.[citation needed] The Australian Government welcomes this arrangement, as it often allows them to circumvent the State Department by utilising the ambassador's more direct link to the President.[citation needed]

List of US Ambassadors to AustraliaEdit

The following individuals have served as the US Ambassadors to Australia, or any precedent titles:

List of US Ambassadors to Australia
Ordinal Officeholder Image Term began Term ended Time in office Notes
US Ministers to Australia
1 Clarence E. Gauss   1940 1941
2 Nelson T. Johnson   1941 1945
US Ambassadors to Australia
3 Robert Butler 1946 1948 [13]
4 Myron M. Cowen 1948 1949
5 Pete Jarman   8 June 1949 (1949-06-08) 31 July 1953 (1953-07-31) 4 years, 53 days [14]
6 Amos J. Peaslee 1953 1956
7 Douglas M. Maffat 1956
8 William J. Sebald   14 March 1957 (1957-03-14) 31 October 1961 (1961-10-31) 4 years, 231 days [15]
9 William C. Battle   13 July 1962 (1962-07-13) 31 August 1964 (1964-08-31) 2 years, 49 days [16]
10 Ed Clark 1965 1967 [17]
11 William H. Crook 1968 1969
12 Marshall Green 1969 1973
13 Walter L. Rice 1973 1975
14 James W. Hargrove 1976 1977
15 Philip H. Alston 1977 1981 [18][19]
16 Robert D. Nesen 20 November 1981 (1981-11-20) 2 May 1985 (1985-05-02) 3 years, 163 days [20]
17 Laurence W. Lane 6 December 1985 (1985-12-06) 29 April 1989 (1989-04-29) 3 years, 144 days [21]
18 Melvin F. Sembler   10 October 1989 (1989-10-10) 28 February 1993 (1993-02-28) 3 years, 141 days [22]
19 Edward J. Perkins   24 November 1993 (1993-11-24) 19 July 1996 (1996-07-19) 2 years, 238 days
20 Genta H. Holmes 1997 2000 [23]
21 Edward (Skip) Gnehm   2000 2001
22 Thomas Schieffer   23 August 2001 (2001-08-23) 18 February 2005 (2005-02-18) 3 years, 179 days
23 Robert McCallum, Jr.   2006 2009
24 Jeff Bleich   26 November 2009 (2009-11-26) 12 September 2013 (2013-09-12) 3 years, 290 days [24][25]
25 John Berry   25 September 2013 (2013-09-25) October 2016 (2016-10) 3 years, 6 days
26 Arthur B. Culvahouse Jr.   13 March 2019 (2019-03-13) present 132 days [3]


The sections of the embassy include Public Affairs, Economic Affairs, Political Affairs, Commercial Affairs, and Agricultural Affairs, as well as Management, Office of Defense Cooperation, the Defense Attaché, and the Consular section. In addition, there are representatives of other US government agencies at the embassy, like the Department of Justice and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).[26]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Embassy Information | Canberra, Australia – Embassy of the United States". Archived from the original on 30 December 2005. Retrieved 16 February 2016.
  2. ^ "U.S. Embassy Canberra, Australia". Retrieved 16 February 2016.
  3. ^ a b c Evans, Steve (13 March 2019). "New US ambassador slips up on Canberra's great architect". Canberra Times. Retrieved 13 March 2019.
  4. ^ "Australia – Countries – Office of the Historian". Retrieved 16 February 2016.
  5. ^ a b The Ambassador's Residence of the Embassy of the United States of America, Canberra, Australia. 1961. National Archives of Australia. Australian Government. Web. 15 February 2016.
  6. ^ "Fed: Road Blocks Set Up Around US Embassy In Canberra". AAP General News. n.d.
  7. ^ Taylor, Rob; Pollard, Krystyna (n.d.). "Fed: Security Cordon Goes Up At US Embassy". AAP General News.
  8. ^ "Fed: Access Restricted To US Embassy In Canberra". AAP General News. n.d.
  9. ^ "3,000 protest Bush visit in Canberra". PM; ABC Local Radio. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 16 February 2016.
  10. ^ a b "Mental health assessment for US embassy crash driver". ABC News. Australia. Retrieved 16 February 2016.
  11. ^ a b c "US embassy crash driver found not guilty". ABC News. Australia. Retrieved 6 February 2016.
  12. ^ "Bomb squad sent to US Embassy after car crashes into gates". The Canberra Times. Retrieved 16 February 2016.
  13. ^ "Robert Butler (1897–1955)". U.S. Department of State, Office of the Historian. Retrieved 15 February 2016.
  14. ^
  15. ^ William Joseph Sebald at Office of the Historian, Bureau of Public Affairs, United States Department of State
  16. ^ Daily Progress obituary
  17. ^ Clark, Anne. Australian Adventure. University of Texas Press, 1969, p. 6.
  18. ^ "PHILIP HENRY ALSTON JR. (1911-1988)". U.S. Department of State, Office of the Historian.
  19. ^ "United States Ambassador to Australia - Nomination of Philip H. Alston, Jr". The American Presidency Project.
  20. ^ "Reagan's Nomination of Nesen as Ambassador to Australia". Retrieved 25 May 2010.
  21. ^ "L. W. Lane, Jr". Council of American Ambassadors web site. 2004. Archived from the original on 4 January 2007. Retrieved 25 May 2010.
  22. ^ "Australia bestows honor on Sembler". St. Petersburg Times. 14 May 2000. Retrieved 6 April 2012.
  23. ^ "Genta Hawkins Holmes". Office of the Historian, Bureau of Public Affairs, United States Department of State. Retrieved 19 April 2010.
  24. ^ Norington, Brad (12 September 2009). "Barack Obama's new man in Canberra: Jeff Bleich". The Australian.
  25. ^ [1]."
  26. ^ "Sections & Offices | Canberra, Australia – Embassy of the United States". Archived from the original on 6 March 2016. Retrieved 16 February 2016.

External linksEdit