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McLEAN, Alistair Murray AO OAM

Murray McLean.

Murray McLean.

McLEAN, Alistair Murray OA OAM

Murray McLean, Australian Ambassador to Japan from 2004 to about 2011 has led an eventful career as a senior officer of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. He has been extensively involved in Asian issues on behalf of Australia for many years and has led a number of regional and international Delegations.

Murray, the son of Rev John Alistair Kenneth McLean was a boarder at the College from 1961 to 1965. He is also the nephew of Rev Ewan Charles McLean. He had previously attended Benalla State School and then Benalla High School. At College he was a talented all-rounder, in the 1st Tennis Teams of 1964-5, active in athletics and hockey, and a member of the Library (1962-1965), Music (1964-1965), Pegasus (1963-1965), PFA (1964-1965) and Tennis 1964-1965) Committees and a Cadet Corps sergeant. He was President of the Library Council and the PFA Committee in 1965 as well as an editor of Pegasus. He was also a member of the football Umpires’ Panel. In 1965 he was Head Prefect, also winning the Headmaster’s Prize, and the Ormond Prize that year. In 1963 he had won the E R Scott Prize for the best instrumentalist.

He entered Ormond College in 1966 graduating from the University of Melbourne BA (Hons). He then joined the Department of Foreign Affairs in 1970 and studied Chinese at the University of Hong Kong from 1971 to 1973. Murray is a fluent Mandarin speaker. There followed an extensive series of postings in China including two in Beijing between 1973 and 1976 and 1979 to 1983. He was posted as Political Counsellor to Washington from 1983 to 1986 and as Consul General in Shanghai from 1987 to 1992. He returned to Canberra as Head of the East Asia Branch for four years from 1992 to 1996 before becoming High Commissioner to Singapore where he served from 1997 to 2001. The Department of Foreign Affairs records that in 2001 Murray became ‘First Assistant Secretary (Head) of the North Asia Division with overall responsibility for Australia's relationships with Japan, China and the Koreas. During this period (2001-04) and later as Deputy Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (2004), he visited North Korea on a number of occasions as a special ministerial envoy.’ In 2004, he was appointed Australian Ambassador to Japan. He retired in 2012.

Murray was awarded the Order of Australia Medal (OAM) for his services to international relations in 1991. In the Australia Day Awards of 2013, his service was again recognised with the award of the Order of Australia (AO). The citation read ' For Service to the Australian and International communities through significant leadership and co-ordination roles following the tsunami and earthquakes that occurred in Japan on 11 March 2011 and to the promotion of Australia's diplomatic and trade relationships' .

Murray said that in his 42 years with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Japan earthquake was the hardest to deal with. 'Oh, there's no doubt about it,' he says, recalling the magnitude nine earthquake. 'It was a multifaceted crisis and stress levels were extremely high. We were working 24/7 for weeks on end with very little time for sleep.' He said that the Australian relief efforts, by both the government and everyday people, were well received in Japan.
'All credit to the Australians, who opened up their hearts and wallets at that time. There was a huge Australian process, and the sentiment (Japanese) people saw was genuine.'

Since handing over his role in July 2011, he now chairs the Australia-Japan Foundation, was a Vice-chancellor's professorial fellow at Monash University from 2012-2015 and is a non-resident fellow at the Lowry Institute for international policy. His interests include golf, tennis, classical music and Asian arts.

On 5 November 2014 he was honoured by the Japanese Government with the award of Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun in recognition of his ditinguished achievements in international relations over many years, particularly in Japan.

Alistair Murray McLean was inducted into the Old Geelong Collegians' Association (OGCA) Notables Gallery at Geelong College in 2011.

Sources: Pegasus, 1965; Ad Astra Dec 2007 p34; Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT); The Age (Melb) 26 Jan 2013; Ad Astra June 2013; DFAT Media Release 21 Nov 2014.
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