Prior to her appointment in July 2008 as the 25th Governor of Queensland, Ms Penelope Wensley enjoyed a rich and distinguished career in diplomacy, playing a significant role in the promotion of Australia's international relations and the development of Australian foreign policy across a diverse range of issues affecting peace and security, economic and social development, human rights and humanitarian concerns, the environment and sustainable development.
Born in Toowoomba on 18 October, 1946. Ms Wensley was educated at Penrith High School in New South Wales, the Rosa Bassett Grammar School in London, and the University of Queensland, from which she graduated in 1967 with a Bachelor of Arts with First Class Honours. She joined the Australian Foreign Service in 1968 - the only woman selected in an intake of 19 - and served as an officer of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade until 2008, representing Australia in a wide range of positions overseas, in Europe, Asia, Africa, the Americas and the Pacific and at the United Nations. Achieving the rank of Head of Mission in 1986, Ms Wensley served successively as Consul-General in Hong Kong, Ambassador for the Environment, Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva, Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York, High Commissioner to India and Ambassador to Bhutan, Ambassador to France, Algeria, Morocco, Monaco and Mauritania. In every case, Ms Wensley was the first woman to be appointed to the position, representing Australia.
Within the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Australia, Ms Wensley also held a range of senior policy positions, notably as head of the East Asia Branch, as head of the International Organisations and Legal Division, as head of the North Asia Division and as head of the Europe Division.
Ms Wensley has achieved international recognition for her contribution to the United Nations. She played a key role in the negotiation of a number of major international Treaties, including the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the United Nations Convention to combat Drought and Desertification. She also chaired or co-chaired a number of major United Nations conferences and processes, including the First United Nations Special Session on HIV/Aids; the United Nations Conference on the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States; the United Nations Budget and Finance Committee and the International Coral Reef Initiative.
On 17 September, 1994, she was named The University of Queensland's first woman Alumnus of the Year for her achievements in the field of international relations, and was appointed an Honorary Fellow of The Women's College within the University. On 12 December the same year, she was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Philosophy by the University for her distinguished contributions to the Commonwealth of Australia. On 16 December, 2008, she was admitted to the honorary degree of Doctor of the University by Griffith University in recognition of her significant contributions to the international community, and her distinguished service to the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) and to the community was recognised by the conferral of a further honorary award of Doctor of the University by QUT on 27 July, 2011. On 12 March, 2013, James Cook University conferred on Ms Wensley the award of Honorary Doctor of the University in recognition of her long and exceptional contribution to the advancement of the University's reputation.
Ms Wensley was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in 2001 for her distinguished service to the development of Australia's international relations. On Australia Day 2011 she was appointed a Companion (AC) in the General Division of the Order of Australia "For eminent contribution to the people of Queensland, and to Australia's international relations through senior diplomatic representational roles and as a key contributor to initiatives of the United Nations".
Her life-time involvement with the promotion and protection of Australia's interests internationally, and her long and active engagement with the development of national and international responses to various global challenges, has created a deep commitment to the advancement of international understanding and cooperation, through enhanced communication, contact and exchanges between countries and cultures. Ms Wensley has a particular interest in: humanitarian and human rights issues, including the protection and advancement of the rights of women; in environmental and sustainable development matters; in health issues, including HIV/Aids; and in the promotion of Australian excellence in science, scientific research, agriculture and the Arts. Her keen interest in the creative arts includes a wish to help secure the advancement of Indigenous Australians through the promotion of Indigenous art and culture.
Ms Wensley is married to veterinarian Mr Stuart McCosker and they have two adult daughters, both lawyers.