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Paul Madden

British Ambassador to Japan

Part of UK in Australia

28th August 2013

A week in an Aboriginal community

HE Paul Madden with Indigenous Rangers at Laura, QLD

Indigenous Australians have been on this continent for around 40,000 years. So it was a great privilege to spend 5 days in the Aboriginal community of Hopevale, in Cape York in the far north of Queensland.

My principal impression was the warmth of the people I met. Each evening a different family invited me to their home for dinner. This usually meant a barbecue with a large extended family; invariably someone strummed a guitar and we had a good singsong.

HE Paul Madden with Indigenous Rangers at Laura, QLD
HE Paul Madden with Indigenous Rangers at Laura, QLD

Of course there are many challenges. Some of them are the kind of things you can find in spots in inner cities around the world – unemployment, substance abuse, violence. But the scale and the nature are much more difficult in these remote rural communities far away in the bush.

I was hugely impressed with the commitment of the people I met, from local community leaders to public service professionals, to improve people’s lives and tackle the underlying problems.

Hopevale is particularly interesting as it is the focus of a number of pioneering initiatives, developed by the Cape York Institute under Noel Pearson, Australia’s leading indigenous thinker, who actually originally came from Hopevale. I learned about Welfare Reform delivered through the Family Responsibilities Commission and about Alcohol Management Programmes.

At the local primary school I did some reading with young children following the Direct Instruction programme, which is a return to the basics of the three Rs. I also visited a banana farm which has been set up recently to provide sustainable jobs for local people.

My 21 year old son, who had accompanied me on the trip, spent a day helping there, cutting down huge bunches of bananas and humping round their heavy weight. It looked pretty hard work. We also went out with a group of Indigenous Rangers, whose job is protecting and promoting their local heritage, and saw some spectacular rock art dating back tens of thousands of years.

It was another reminder of the sheer beauty of the Australian landscape. As the sun set over the stunning Elim Beach, site of the original Lutheran mission which gave rise to Hopevale, Eddie a local elder, taught us how to throw spears using a woomera spear-thrower. At 87 years old he effortlessly hit the target every time with a graceful motion. I struggled to hit a stationery cardboard box. Clearly, if I had to lead the traditional lifestyle I’d find it very hard to feed myself.

Aboriginal Australians, who make up around 2% of the population, are a vital part of Australian uniqueness. I felt genuinely privileged that they shared some time with me.

About Paul Madden

Paul Madden has been the British Ambassador to Japan from January 2017. He was Additional Director for Asia Pacific at the FCO in 2015.He was British High Commissioner to Australia…

Paul Madden has been the British Ambassador to Japan from January 2017.

He was Additional Director for Asia Pacific at the FCO in 2015.He was British High Commissioner to Australia until February 2015. Prior to this he was British High Commissioner in Singapore from 2007-2011.

A career diplomat, he was previously Managing Director at UK Trade and Investment (2004-2006), responsible for co-ordinating and
implementing international trade development strategies to support
companies across a wide range of business sectors.

As Assistant Director of Information at the Foreign and Commonwealth
Office (2003-2004) he was responsible for public diplomacy policy,
including managing the FCO funding of the BBC World Service, the British
Council and the Chevening Scholarships programme. He led the team
responsible for the award-winning UK pavilion at the Aichi Expo in Japan

He was Deputy High Commissioner in Singapore from 2000-2003 and has
also served in Washington (1996-2000) and Tokyo (1988-92). Between
1992-96 he worked on EU enlargement and Environmental issues at the FCO
in London.

Before joining FCO he worked at the Department of Trade and Industry
(1980-87) on a range of industrial sectors and trade policy, including
two years as a minister’s Private Secretary.

He has an MA in Economic Geography from Cambridge University, an MBA
from Durham University, studied Japanese at London University’s School
of Oriental and African Studies, and is a Fellow of the Royal
Geographical Society. His first book, Raffles: Lessons in Business
Leadership, was published in 2003.

Married to Sarah, with three children, he was born in 1959, in Devon.