Australia's Foreign Minister Marise Payne has announced the appointment of Penny Williams as the country’s new ambassador to Indonesia, making her the first woman to assume the position.
The incoming envoy is a senior career officer with Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and recently rose up the ranks to become deputy secretary of the department.
Williams is fluent in Indonesian and had spent time in Indonesia as a high school exchange student in 1981-1982.
“She has previously served overseas as high commissioner to Malaysia and was Australia’s first ambassador for women and girls. Ms. Williams is Australia’s first female ambassador to Indonesia,” Payne said in a statement published on Wednesday.
Payne, who is also currently Australia’s minister for women, has worked with her Indonesian counterpart Retno Marsudi on various women’s issues, including empowering women’s participation in peace and security.
Williams is set to replace Gary Quinlan, who ended his three-year tenure as the head of Australia's mission in Jakarta on Wednesday. In the last year, he has had to face the challenging situation brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, which posed significant challenges in bilateral relations between the two countries.
“I thank outgoing Ambassador Gary Quinlan for his contributions to advancing Australia’s interests in Indonesia since 2018,” Payne said.
In an op-ed published in The Jakarta Post on Thursday, Quinlan said COVID-19 had been “a terrible disruption” but the two countries worked together to overcome it, including through assistance for personal protective equipment, ventilators and related medical equipment.
Australia also provided a loan of AU$1.5 billion (US$1 billion) for fiscal support.
“Economic recovery, including building momentum for our businesses through the new Indonesia-Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (IA-CEPA) which came into force during the pandemic, is very much a top priority,” he said.