Meredith Borthwick

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Dr Meredith Borthwick, diplomat and scholar

An outstanding scholar and accomplished diplomat, Meredith was born in Colombo in 1950 where her father was posted as a diplomat. Her childhood was spent in Ceylon, Singapore and Thailand, where she gained a native speaker's command of the language attending the Thai Education Department's model primary school, finishing high school at Canberra's Telopea Park High.

Meredith gained her BA and MA in Indian history from Melbourne University before completing her PhD at the ANU in Canberra. Her first book, Keshub Chunder Sen, a study of Indian social reform, was followed by The Changing Role of Women in Bengal 1849-1905 (Princeton UP, 1984), which brought her international recognition and still stands as landmark history of women in colonial India.
Meredith joined the Department of Foreign Affairs in 1980 and was posted to Bangkok where her excellent language skills, friendship networks and cultural knowledge made her a great asset. Her husband, John Hannoush, was serving as a diplomat in Laos.

Meredith later translated former Thai Prime Minister Kukrit Pramoj's novel Many Lives, published by Silkworm Books. Thai Princess HRH Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, who met Meredith on an official visit to Australia and continued a friendship, wrote the foreword. The Princess created an educational trust in Meredith's name for disadvantaged students.  

Meredith was a negotiator in the Uruguay Round when posted to the Geneva GATT Mission 1989 - 1992.

Following various assignments in DFAT and the Office of National Assessments, Meredith headed DFAT's East Asia Analytical Unit where she produced a number of influential reports, notably India's Economy at the Midnight Hour (1994), which brought the economic potential of India to an influential policy audience.

Meredith was promoted to the government' senior executive service in late 1994, one of few women to do so at the time. Her success did not lead her to dismiss the problems women face professionally and she remained intensely sympathetic to women's family and career challenges.

Family life was important to Meredith and her sons Theo and Dash - born in Canberra - were a great joy to her throughout her life.

Her short life was marked by extraordinary personal qualities and achievements. Esteemed by friends and colleagues alike, she was deeply missed on her death from breast cancer in 1995.

 

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