Penelope Wensley

Penelope Anne Wensley, AC (born 18 October 1946)[1] is a former Australian public servant and diplomat who served as the 25th Governor of Queensland from 2008 to 2014. She was previously High Commissioner to India from 2001 to 2004 and Ambassador to France from 2005 to 2008.

Penelope Wensley

25th Governor of Queensland
In office
29 July 2008  29 July 2014
MonarchElizabeth II
PremierAnna Bligh
Campbell Newman
Preceded byQuentin Bryce
Succeeded byPaul de Jersey
Personal details
Born (1946-10-18) 18 October 1946
Toowoomba, Queensland
Spouse(s)Stuart McCosker
Alma materUniversity of Queensland
OccupationPublic servant, diplomat

Early life

Penelope Anne Wensley was born in Toowoomba, Queensland, to Neil Wensley and his wife Doris McCulloch.[2] She was educated at Penrith High School in New South Wales, the Rosa Bassett School in London (UK), and the University of Queensland, where she graduated with a first class Honours degree in English and French literature. She was a resident of the Women's College there.[3] Her brothers, Robert Wensley and Bill Wensley,[2] also attended the University of Queensland, as had her parents.[4]

Diplomatic career

Wensley joined the Australian Public Service in 1967, working in the Department of External Affairs in 1967. Wensley was posted to Paris (1969–1972), returned to work in Australia, and was then given a posting in Mexico (1975–1977). She and her husband, Stuart McCosker, a veterinary surgeon, had a daughter while posted in Mexico.[5]

Wensley's next diplomatic appointment was in Wellington, New Zealand (1982–1985). She was consul general in Hong Kong from 1986 to 1988. From 1991 to 1992, she was head of the International Organisations Division of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. In 1994, Wensley was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Philosophy by the University of Queensland. Wensley was Ambassador for the Environment from 1992 to 1996. She then became the first woman to be Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations in New York between 1997 and 2001.[6]

Wensley was then appointed as the first female Australian High Commissioner to India, a role she held until 2004.[5] When Australia established diplomatic relations with Bhutan in September 2002, Wensley, as High Commissioner in India, was appointed as Australia's first ambassador there from May 2003.[7] From 2005 to 2008, she was Australian Ambassador to France, and non-resident Ambassador to Algeria, Mauritania and Morocco.[8]

Governor of Queensland

On 6 July 2008, the Premier of Queensland, Anna Bligh, announced that Queen Elizabeth II had approved Wensley's appointment as the next Governor of Queensland, in succession to Quentin Bryce, who was relinquishing the office prior to being sworn in as Governor-General of Australia. Wensley was sworn in on 29 July 2008.[9] On 24 January 2013, Wensley's term was extended to July 2014.[10]


Since 2015, Wensley has served as chair of the Australian Institute of Marine Science Council.[11] She is also chair of the advisory committee for Reef 2050, an advisory body working with the Australian and Queensland governments on a plan to protect and improve the Great Barrier Reef.[12]


Wensley was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia in 2001,[13] a Dame of the Order of St John in 2008, a Grand Officer of the National Order of Merit by the French government in 2009,[14] and was advanced to Companion of the Order of Australia in 2011.[15]

In 2016, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade named one of its 16 meeting rooms in honour of Wensley, in recognition of her work as a pioneering female diplomat.[16]


  1. Penny Wensley of Australia Elected Chairman of Fifth Committee, United Nations, 14 September 1999.
  2. "Alumni Friends AGM Address – Dr Penelope Wensley". Alumni & Community. 2 June 2015. Retrieved 16 June 2017.
  3. The Women's College Valedictory Dinner Address, Penny Wensley, 21 October 2008
  4. "UQ remembers Dr Robert Wensley, QC". Alumni & Community. 1 June 2015. Retrieved 16 June 2017.
  5. Bhagat, Rasheeda: India – a roller coaster, The Hindu Business Line, 29 October 2004.
  6. Diplomatic Appointment: Ambassador, Permanent Representative to the United Nations, New York. Archived media release, Australian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 8 August 1997.
  7. Downer, Alexander (9 August 2004). "Diplomatic Appointment – High Commissioner to India" (Press release). Australian Government. Archived from the original on 12 February 2014.
  8. Speeches by HE Penelope Wensley AO, Australian Ambassador to France, March 2005 – March 2008, Australian Embassy in France.
  9. Penelope Wensley new Queensland governor, The Australian, 6 July 2008.
  10. "Premier confirms 12 month extension to Queensland Governor's term" (Press release). Premier of Queensland. 24 January 2013. Retrieved 15 April 2013.
  11. "Penelope Wensley". Australian Government Directory. 1 June 2017. Retrieved 19 January 2019.
  12. "Reef 2050 Plan". Department of the Environment and Energy. Retrieved 19 January 2019.
  13. WENSLEY, Penelope Anne, It's an Honour (Australian honours database), 26 January 2001.
  14. Office of the Governor – Annual Report 2009 – 2010. Brisbane, Queensland: The State of Queensland (Office of the Governor). 2010. p. 15. ISSN 1837-2775.
  15. "Wensley, Penelope Anne". Search Australian Honours. Australian Government. Retrieved 26 January 2011.
  16. Lewis, Rosie (11 January 2017). "DFAT renames meeting rooms after female diplomats". The Australian. News Corp. Retrieved 5 February 2017.
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Donald Horne
as Commissioner
Australian Consul-General in Hong Kong
Succeeded by
Geoff Bentley
Preceded by
Sir Ninian Stephen
Australian Ambassador for the Environment
Succeeded by
Howard Bamsey
Preceded by
Richard Butler
Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations
Succeeded by
John Dauth
Preceded by
Rob Laurie
Australian High Commissioner to India
Succeeded by
John McCarthy
Preceded by
Bill Fisher
Australian Ambassador to France
Succeeded by
David Ritchie
Government offices
Preceded by
Quentin Bryce
Governor of Queensland
Succeeded by
Paul de Jersey
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