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LYON, Malcolm Elliott OBE (1930-2007)

Malcolm E Lyon, 1982.

Malcolm E Lyon, 1982.

LYON, Malcolm Elliott OBE (1930-2007)


Malcolm Lyon, Australian diplomat, represented Australia in pre-independence New Guinea and apartheid era South Africa at critical times in the development of those countries and their relationship to Australia. Malcolm Lyon, the son of a British Colonial Judicial Service Officer, Malcolm Douglas Lyon and his wife, Helen was born in London on 18 September 1930. After living in Africa for nine years the family moved to Australia in 1939 where he began his schooling at Holdfast Bay School, Adelaide and at St Peter's College, Adelaide.

He was enrolled at Geelong College as a boarder from 1941 to 1943 and September 1945 to 1948. He played in the 1st Football XVIII and 1st Cricket XI in 1948 as well as captaining the Athletics Team. He was a cadet corps sergeant, a member of the Cricket, Music and PFA Committees and, in 1948, he became School Captain. In 1943, he won the Robert Gillespie Scripture Prize. Like many of his contemporaries at College, he was a performer in various dramatic productions including the Glee Club Gilbert and Sullivan Productions produced by George Logie Smith. In 1942, he performed in 'The Yeoman of the Guard', in 1946, 'HMS Pinafore', in 1947, 'The Pirates of Penzance', and, in 1948, he played a leading role, 'Long Tom' in the College production 'Merrie England'.

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Malcolm Lyon speaking at the Rotary Club during Youth Week, 1948.
From left to right: F W Stinton, D F Nielson, A A Rix,
N C Rundle (Gee Grammar Sch) P G Everist (at rear), M E Lyon,
and R Foster (Gee High Sch)



After leaving College he entered St Mark's College, studying at the University of Adelaide. He graduated BA with Honours before travelling overseas and spending a year at the Sorbonne in Paris. In 1954 he returned to Australia to join the Australian Diplomatic Service. He then worked in a variety of overseas postings including Bonn, Germany; New Delhi, India; Stockholm, Sweden; Wellington, New Zealand; and Singapore, before becoming Australia's senior representative in Papua New Guinea (PNG) in the run-up to PNG independence, and later serving as the Deputy Head of the Australian High Commission in PNG.

From 1981 to 1984 he served as ambassador to South Africa - a difficult period in Australia's relationship with South Africa because of the Apartheid policy. At the time of this appointment he was also concurrently High Commissioner to Lesotho and Swaziland. Malcolm also worked for considerable periods in Canberra usually with a focus on PNG and South-East Asia. He led the group that negotiated the border between Australia and PNG in 1978 and was subsequently awarded an OBE for public service on 16 June 1979. For two years, prior to his retirement due to ill-health in 1987, he headed the South East Asia and South Pacific Division.

Malcolm had first married Robin Carne in Canberra while still a diplomatic service cadet. Following her untimely death in South Africa he re-married to Diana Cole with whom he spent the remainder of his life. Diana Lyon, on behalf of the family, generously donated a collection of material relating to Malcolm Lyon to the College Archive in 2012, including photographs, autographed Glee Club Programs, Malcolm's school cap and blazer pocket and a particularly evocative 10 page letter written to his mother shortly after becoming School Captain. The Archival holdings are Internet viewable in the Archives Catalog which is accessible from the College Heritage Page.

OBE Investiture Ceremony, 1979.  Malcolm Lyon with the Governor General, Sir Zelman Cowan.

OBE Investiture Ceremony, 1979.
Malcolm Lyon with the Governor General, Sir Zelman Cowan.



Sources: Media Release; Minister for Foreign Affairs 18 Octtober 2007; Canberra Times 26 December 2007.
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