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Peter Richard Woolcott AO (born 19 October 1953) is an Australian public servant, diplomat and the current Australian Public Service Commissioner.[1] He was previously the Chief of Staff to Prime Minister of Australia Malcolm Turnbull.[2] Woolcott has served as the Australia's High Commissioner to New Zealand, the Australian Ambassador for the Environment, the Australian Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva, the Australian Ambassador to Italy, the Deputy Head of Mission in Jakarta, and the Consul-General in Honolulu.[3]

Peter Woolcott

Peter Woolcott (1).jpg
Australian Public Service Commissioner
Assumed office
9 August 2018
Preceded byJohn Lloyd
Australia's High Commissioner to New Zealand
In office
28 January 2016 (2016-01-28) – 1 August 2017
Preceded byMichael Potts
Succeeded byAndrew Cumpston (acting)
Personal details
Born (1953-10-19) 19 October 1953 (age 65)
West Berlin, West Germany
Spouse(s)Tanya Hollows
ParentsBirgit and Richard Woolcott
Alma materAustralian National University
The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy
OccupationPublic servant and diplomat


Background and early lifeEdit

Woolcott was born in West Berlin in 1953,[4] the son of Richard Woolcott, a former Australian diplomat public servant.[5] He spent October 1953 to May 1954 in Moscow, while his father was Third Secretary at the Australian Embassy in the city.[6]

Peter Woolcott graduated with a Bachelor of Laws[7] and Bachelor of Arts from the Australian National University and a Master of Arts degree from The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.


After practising as a barrister in Sydney for a number of years, Woolcott joined the Department of Foreign Affairs in 1981. He served in Australian diplomatic missions in Jamaica (1981–83), Argentina (1987–88), the Philippines as Deputy Head of Mission (1994–97), Consul-General in Honolulu[8] and representative to United States Pacific Command (1998–2001), Deputy Head of Mission in Jakarta (2001–2002), Chief of Staff to the Minister for Foreign Affairs (2002–04), and Australian Ambassador to Italy (2004–07).[9][7]

In October 2008, Woolcott was one of several senior officials involved in Australia-US political-military talks. At the talks, Woolcott praised China's diplomatic efforts in south-east Asia, but said there were significant problems in the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam and Burma.[10]

Woolcott also sat on the Executive Board of the World Food Programme (2004–07). Between 2007 and 2009 he was first assistant secretary of the South East Asia division in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.[9] Woolcott was appointed as the People Smuggling envoy in 2009,[9] leaving the job after just eight months to take up a position as Australia's ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva in 2010.[11] In 2014 he was appointed as Australia's Ambassador for the Environment.[12]

Woolcott was a Director for the Sea Law and Ocean Policy Group (1990–91), the Human Rights Section (1992–94) and the India and Indian Ocean Section. Woolcott has also worked as the international adviser to Bond Corporation (1989–90) and as the Executive Manager International Bid Relations, Sydney Olympic Bid 2000 Bid (1991–92).

In April 2013, under the presidency of Woolcott, the Arms Trade Treaty was adopted by the UN general assembly in New York by an overwhelming majority. This internationally commemorated success will assist in establishing internationally agreed common standards for the national regulation of the conventional arms trade and reducing the flow of unregulated arms.[13] In 2015, Woolcott spearheaded Australia’s negotiating teams at climate talks in the United Nations. He emphasized the pertinent issues of climate change: “Left unchecked, it will magnify existing problems and increase pressure on resources including land, water, energy, food and fish stocks. It has the potential to erode development gains, undermine economic growth and compound human security challenges.”[14]

In 2017 Woolcott was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia for distinguished service to public administration in the field of international relations through senior diplomatic roles, and as a lead negotiator in the non-proliferation and arms control fields.[15]

Personal lifeEdit

Woolcott is married to Tanya Hollows (the daughter of Fred Hollows) and has three children, Charles, Nicholas and Isabella.


  1. ^ "Turnbull's chief of staff to be new Public Service Commissioner". The Conversation. The Conversation Media. 30 July 2018.
  2. ^ "Malcolm Turnbull appoints chief of staff Greg Moriarty as new Defence secretary". Guardian Australia. Guardian Media Group. 28 July 2017.
  3. ^ Bishop, Julie (28 January 2016). "High Commissioner to New Zealand" (Press release). Australia: Minister for Foreign Affairs.
  4. ^ Mr Peter Richard WOOLCOTT, Who's Who in Australia (2017), ConnectWeb.
  5. ^ "Diplomatic dynasty sent into the breach". The Sydney Morning Herald. Fairfax Media. 10 November 2009. Archived from the original on 5 November 2012.
  6. ^ Interview: Richard Woolcott AC Third Secretary,1952–54; Second, then First Secretary 1959–61; Australian Embassy Moscow, Australian Government, archived from the original on 11 February 2014
  7. ^ a b Bita, Natasha (27 April 2007). "Envoy in dark on Vanstone posting". The Australian.
  8. ^ "Appendix 7". DFAT Annual Report 97-98.
  9. ^ a b c "Peter Woolcott named people smuggling envoy". The Australian. 8 June 2009.
  10. ^ Dorling, Philip (15 December 2010). "Philippines a 'basket case' and Timor a 'burden'". The Sydney Morning Herald. Fairfax Media. Archived from the original on 20 December 2010.
  11. ^ "Australia's People Smuggling ambassador ships out". Australian Broadcasting Commission. 12 February 2010. Archived from the original on 3 March 2011.
  12. ^ "Australian Ambassadors and other representatives". Australian Government, Department of foreign Affairs and Trade.
  13. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 12 March 2015. Retrieved 9 April 2015.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  14. ^ Australia's lead public servant for global climate talks reveals hopes and fears for Paris, The Guardian, 19 November 2015
  15. ^ "Officer (AO) in the General Division of the Order of Australia" (PDF). Australia Day 2017 Honours List. Governor-General of Australia. 26 January 2017. Retrieved 27 January 2017.
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Colin McDonald
Australian Consul-General in Honolulu
Succeeded by
Paul Robilliard
Preceded by
Murray Cobban
Australian Ambassador to Italy
Succeeded by
Amanda Vanstone
Preceded by
Michael Potts
Australian Ambassador for People Smuggling Issues
Succeeded by
James Larsen
Preceded by
Caroline Millar
Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations Office in Geneva
Succeeded by
John Quinn
Preceded by
Justin Lee
as Ambassador for Climate Change
Australian Ambassador for the Environment
Succeeded by
Patrick Suckling
Preceded by
Michael Potts
Australian High Commissioner to New Zealand
Succeeded by
Andrew Cumpston (acting)
Preceded by
John Lloyd
Australian Public Service Commissioner