Sarah Leary appointed as First Nations Foreign Policy Fellow

The Perth USAsia Centre has appointed Sarah Leary as its First Nations Foreign Policy Fellow, thanks to a new initiative supported by the Government of Western Australia. 

The position, funded through Invest and Trade WA, will elevate indigenous knowledge and perspectives, and the important role Western Australia’s First Nations peoples have to play in Australia’s engagement in the Indo-Pacific. Ms Leary will deliver a suite of advocacy, research and partnership activities focused on WA’s contributions to Australia’s First Nations foreign policy agenda. 

A proud Palawa woman, originally from Tommeginne Country in North-West Tasmania, Ms Leary has 14 years’ experience working for the Australian Government at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Attorney-General’s Department. 

Her public sector experience spans strategic policy and trade and investment facilitation, to designing and implementing large-scale programs to improve private-sector development, gender equality and sports diplomacy outcomes across the Indo-Pacific. 

During her diplomatic career, she served in Solomon Islands, Cambodia and Vietnam, and deployments to the Australian Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York, and the Australian Embassy in Washington, DC. 

Welcoming Ms Leary to the team, Research Director Kate O’Shaughnessy said the Centre was committed to bringing together diverse and innovative thinkers. 

“We believe that’s the only way to tackle the thorny problems facing the Indo-Pacific,” Dr O’Shaughnessy said. 

“We’re particularly grateful for the support of the Western Australian Government through Invest and Trade WA in establishing a First Nations Foreign Policy program of work that will provide important perspectives on the complex dynamics of our region”. 

Ms Leary said: “First Nations peoples have been practicing trade and diplomacy – at land and sea – in Western Australia for generations. As a newly welcomed arrival on Whadjuk Noongar country, I am impressed by the warmth, resilience and connectedness of Western Australia’s First Nations people and their affinity with the Indo-Pacific. 

“I look forward to working closely with our partners to elevate our State’s perspectives in Australia’s First Nations foreign policy agenda”. 

Ms Leary holds a Bachelor of Arts majoring in International Relations from the University of Tasmania and is studying a Master’s in Diplomacy and International Strategy at the London School of Economics. She speaks Indonesian and is a former journalist with Fairfax Media. 

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