Career diplomat Melissa Hitchman will succeed John McCarthy as Australia’s Ambassador to the Holy See amid a raft of last-minute appointments made last week before the Federal Government entered caretaker mode ahead of the July election.
Formally established in 1973, Australia’s diplomatic relationship with the Holy See focuses on conflict prevention, peace-building, sustainable development and climate change, said Foreign Minister Julie Bishop.
“We also have a wide-ranging dialogue on human rights, political and religious freedom, global governance, and the prevention of people smuggling and human trafficking.” Ms Hitchman is an experienced officer with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and has served as deputy Chief of Protocol since 2013. She has previously served overseas as First Secretary at the Australian High Commission in London.
In Canberra, Ms Hitchman has served as director of Regional and National Security Section; director of Intelligence Review; and director of the International Commission on Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament Secretariat.
She was also an adviser in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.
Ms Hitchman holds a Master of National Security and a Bachelor of Economics (Hons) from the Australian National University.
Ms Bishop thanked Mr McCarthy for his three years service in helping to advance Australia’s interests with the Holy See.
The national director of Catholic Mission, Fr Brian Lucas, welcomed the appointment.
“As the pope’s own mission organisation, we are looking forward to working collaboratively with Ambassador Hitchman and the Australian Government to support the opportunities fostered through this relationship, and address issues of concern around the world,” he said.
“The commitment by the Australian Government to maintaining a strong ambassador to the Holy See is very encouraging. Each of the issues identified by the Government is at the very heart of the work of Catholic Mission in Australia and internationally.”
Ms Hitchman’s appointment was one of more than 50 appointments – including six diplomatic appointments – announced on 6 May.