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Penumbra Press

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Spring 2009
6 X 9 inches, 420 pages


ISBN 978-1-897323-92-2
Hardcover
$34.95

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$17.47

Australia and the South Pacific

Letters Home, 1965-1972

Arthur & Sheila Menzies

During Arthur Menzies' posting to Australia as Canada's High Commissioner, between 1965 and 1972, he and his wife, Sheila, sent letters home to their son and daughter, who had stayed in Canada to complete their schooling, as well as to other family members. In doing so, they created a detailed and richly varied picture of life in the diplomatic world.

Australia was a relatively unknown quantity to both Arthur and Sheila, although Arthur had always felt at home in Asia and the Pacific, having been born in China, schooled there and in Japan, having worked for twenty-five years in the Department of External Affairs, where he had been posted to Japan, Malaysia, and Burma, and having dealt with Far Eastern concerns when at home in Ottawa.

The Menzies soon felt at home in Australia, quickly becoming familiar with their home base in Canberra, and in Sydney, Melbourne, and much of the rest of the vast continent. They also visited Fiji, where Arthur was appointed High Commissioner after its independence in 1970; Nauru, New Caledonia, New Hebrides, and Solomon Islands; and Papua New Guinea. As a result of Arthur's efforts, Canada made substantial contributions to their development as they moved toward independence.

Although Arthur was the designated official in the family, Sheila found that there was much that she could contribute to the work of representing her home country, not only as the organizer and hostess of a great many official events at the High Commission, but as a speaker, and as an active member of a number of Australian women's organizations.

Many of the letters tell of visits by officials from Canada, including past, present, and future prime ministers Pearson, Turner, Trudeau, and Chrétien, and of visits to Canberra by many eminent figures from other parts of the world: Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip, the Queen Mother, Prime Minister of India Mrs. Indira Ghandi, U.S. President Lyndon Johnson, British Prime Minister Harold Wilson, and New Zealand Prime Minister John Marshall.

But the central fascination of the letters are the behind-the-scenes glimpses of diplomatic life, with its countless meetings, briefings, ceremonies, lunches and dinners, speeches, and openings of exhibits and performances.

In recognition of Sheila Menzies' role as co-author of this memoir, Arthur Menzies dedicates this book to the spouses and partners of Foreign Service Officers. Their contribution is often undervalued.



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