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Australia and the South Pacific
Letters Home, 1965-1972
Arthur & Sheila Menzies
6 X 9 inches, 420 pages
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.
My Career in International Peace and Western Security
THE THREE External Affairs postings that Arthur Menzies describes in this book produce a satisfying narrative arc. Part One finds him in Ottawa between 1962 and 1965 as head of the Department's Defence Liaison (1)Division.
Part Two takes Mr. Menzies to Brussels, where, from 1972 to 1976, he was Canada's Permanent Representative to the North Atlantic Treaty
During Mr. Menzies' final posting, as Canada's first Ambassador for Arms Control and Disarmament, which he held from 1980 until his retirement in 1982, he was based in Ottawa, but his duties took him, most notably, to the United Nations Headquarters in New York, to explain Canada's policy on the quest for international peace and security.
This career in itself is fascinating to read about, but the life experiences that it offered Mr. Menzies and his wife, Sheila, are even more so. We are invited behind the scenes of the bureaucratic and diplomatic world, not to share in deep, dark secrets, but to meet a myriad of gifted people, to visit many of the world's most interesting cities and experience their museums, art galleries, and theatres, to attend feasts and celebrations - and finally, of course, to return again and again to the familiar house in Ottawa, where the warmth of family life is always waiting to greet them.
Canadian High Commissioner: Mr. Menzies, diplomatic career spanned 40 years and included postings in Cuba, Japan, Malaysia, Australia, China, and Brussels.