A Day in the Life of Australia’s Ambassador to Afghanistan: Richard Feakes

A Day in the Life of Australia’s Ambassador to Afghanistan: Richard Feakes

 By Richard Feakes, Australia’s Ambassador to Afghanistan My day starts in the same way as any other Australian office worker — I reach for my suit, tie and shoes.  Only in Afghanistan, I have to add another layer — heavy body armour. All officers working in Australia’s Embassy in Afghanistan need to think about security all

 By Richard Feakes, Australia’s Ambassador to Afghanistan

My day starts in the same way as any other Australian office worker — I reach for my suit, tie and shoes.  Only in Afghanistan, I have to add another layer — heavy body armour.

All officers working in Australia’s Embassy in Afghanistan need to think about security all the time. In an environment like this, it is critical.  Every day, our staff live and work with possible threats, such as direct and indirect fire attacks, improvised explosive device attacks and kidnapping.

Ambassador Feakes wearing a bullet-proof vest standing with armed, uniformed soldiers and a helicopter flying overhead.

Ambassador Richard Feakes with Australian Defence Force personnel in Afghanistan.

My car to work is an up-armoured vehicle.  It takes me several hundred metres from the gated and guarded place that is my home to the Embassy, where I work.

Despite this security reality, I enjoy the drives in Afghanistan. It is a time to take a moment: to look out the window, beyond the concrete walls of the Semi Secure Zone, to watch locals going about their lives – selling nuts or pomegranates, drinking tea, slicing up mutton on hooks, and going to school.

I try to get out for meetings each day. That is quite an enterprise in Kabul given the security required to travel anywhere in Afghanistan. In my company are large, bearded security and close personal protection men who have swept the area for explosives.

I meet with local officials, who like all Afghans, are exceptionally gracious hosts.  There is tea (always), cakes, biscuits, kebabs (sometimes) and inevitably indirect conversation prefaced by flowery introductions. It’s quite a dynamic political environment, overlaid by traditional family, tribal and ethnic connections. The best way to understand the complexity of Afghanistan is to speak to as many people as possible.

Ambassador Feakes and President Ghani sitting in a meeting room.

Ambassador Richard Feakes meeting with the President of Afghanistan, Mohammad Ashraf Ghani.

Afghan society is slowly recovering from decades of conflict. Under the Taliban, the position of women in Afghanistan was among the worst in the world. Changing this situation is a long-term task, in which improving girls’ education, increasing economic opportunities and women’s representation are key.

There has been good progress over the last twelve years: over two million girls now attend school, compared to almost zero under the Taliban, 15% of university lecturers are female, and there are proportionally more women in parliament in Afghanistan (27% of seats). This is largely due to international assistance working in partnership with the Afghan Government. It makes me proud, to see Australia playing a part in helping Afghanistan through this critical transition.

Occasionally, I’ll climb into a Blackhawk for a quick and exhilarating ride to meet with Australia’s impressive military personnel at one or other location around Kabul. Maintaining a strong connection with Australia’s Defence Force is an important part of the job, and I get a fantastic view of the city and the stunning mountains surrounding it.

When I can, I face-time with my eight-year-old son, Alexander, and wife, Kate, in the middle of the day (lunchtime here, dinner there).  It keeps us connected for the eight weeks I’m away. Going to a hardship post like Kabul meant they could not come here with me. It’s not easy for them, I know. Especially for Kate, who has a very busy job in DFAT and does an extraordinary job juggling everything on the home front, so I can be here, making a difference.

My evening might be spent at an earnest working-dinner with EU counterparts, a reception at the Embassy for the media or something at the Palace.  It’s a large diplomatic community and, while my preference is always to see Afghans, staying networked is important.

Despite its challenges, and the absence from my family, Afghanistan is a fantastic place to work. It’s a place where you never know what the day will hold.

Richard Feakes is Australia’s current Ambassador to Afghanistan and a senior career officer of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. He was most recently Assistant Secretary in DFAT’s Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asia Branch. He has previously served overseas as Deputy Head of Mission in Baghdad, with an earlier posting to Port Moresby. In Canberra, Mr Feakes also worked in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet’s International Division. Mr Feakes holds a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) from the University of New South Wales, a Bachelor of Laws from the University of Sydney and a Masters of Arts (Foreign Affairs) from Monash University.

Please follow and like us:

RSS BIDD

  • Public Diplomacy: Toward a More “Diplomatic” World 17th Feb 2019
    tufts.edu, February 13, 2019; original article contains a video and photographs image from Alan K. Henrikson, the Lee E. Dirks Professor of Diplomatic History Emeritus and founding Director of Diplomatic Studies at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, was on hand at the American Center in Moscow at the U.S. Embassy, to […]
  • China tells world to ignore Mike Pence ‘lectures’ 17th Feb 2019
    Joel Gehrke, Washington Examiner, February 16, 2019 Yang Jiechi image from Wikipedia MUNICH — European leaders should disregard "lectures" from Vice President Mike Pence and other U.S. officials about Chinese encroachment into Europe, a top diplomat from the communist nation said Saturday. Pence — amplifying warnings by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo — told the […]
  • Heather Nauert Withdraws From Consideration For U.N. Ambassador 17th Feb 2019
    Emma Bowman, NPR, February 16; on Nauert, see below Image from entry, with caption: Department of State Spokesperson Heather Nauert withdrew herself from consideration for the nomination of U.S. ambassador to the U.N. on Saturday.State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert withdrew herself from consideration on Saturday for the nomination of U.S. ambassador to the United Nations."I […]
  • Blast from the Past: The Anti-Propaganda Tradition in the United States (2008) 15th Feb 2019
    Public Diplomacy Alumni Association Formerly USIA Alumni AssociationHome | Conduct of Public Diplomacy | Debate over Public Diplomacy | Public Diplomacy Newswire| Join/about PDAApublicdiplomacy.org; see also (1) (2)[JB note: Full text cannot be adequately formated on this blog] The post Blast from the Past: The Anti-Propaganda Tradition in the United States (2008) appeared first on […]
  • Public Diplomacy Small Grants Program: Supporting Projects in Malawi 15th Feb 2019
    www2.fundsforngos.org image (not from entry) from, with caption: U.S. Embassy Lilongwe Deadline OngoingThe Public Affairs Section (PAS) at the U.S. Embassy in Lilongwe, Malawi of the U.S. Department of State is pleased to announce that funding is available through its Public Diplomacy [JB emphasis] Small Grants Program.PAS awards a limited number of grants to individuals, […]

RSS Diplo Portal Belgrade

  • Представление программы бесплатного обучения в России 15th Feb 2019
    В Русском доме 13 февраля прошла презентация программы получения бесплатного высшего образования в вузах Российской Федерации. Потенциальные кандидаты смогли получить подробную информацию о условиях ежегодного конкурса на получение стипендий для бесплатного образования в России в рамках выделенных для граждан Сербии квот, который РЦНК проводит в январе-марте, а также информацию о том, как необходимо подавать документы, […]
  • Представљање програма бесплатног студирања у Русији 15th Feb 2019
    У Руском дому је 13. фебруара одржана презентација о програмима добијања бесплатног високог образовања на универзитетима Руске Федерације. Потенцијални кандидати су могли да добију детаљну информацију о условима годишњег конкурса за добијање стипендија за бесплатно образовање у Русији у оквиру квота, које су издвојене за српске држављане. Конкурс организује РЦНК од јануара до марта. Кандидати […]
  • Сербские старшеклассники в гостях у Русского Дома 15th Feb 2019
    13 февраля РЦНК Общество русско-сербско-белорусской дружбы из г.Смедерево организовало посещение РЦНК для группы старшеклассников и их преподавателей из г.Смедерево и г.Велика Плана. Для учеников это был первое знакомство с Русским Домом. Сотрудники РЦНК провели ознакомительную экскурсию и рассказали о истории создания и работе центра. В рамках визита сербские школьники смогли посетить открывшуюся в РЦНК выставку […]

Most Viewed Posts

  • Twitter Suspends Hamas Accounts (1,360)
    By ROBERT MACKEYLast Updated, Sunday, Jan. 19 | Several Twitter accounts used by the military wing of Hamas have been suspended by the social network in recent days, angering the Islamist militants and delighting Israel’s military. #Twitter has suspended the official account of #Hamas, a terrorist group that uses social media to threaten #Israel http://t.co/g1UxKc9fpf
  • Humanitarian Intervention: Advantages and Disadvantages in East Timor and Kosovo (391)
    Have There Been Occasions on Which the Advantages of Humanitarian Intervention Using Armed Force have Outweighed the Disadvantages? Humanitarian intervention can be defined as the attempts of a foreign state to prevent violations of human rights in another state, often through the use of armed force. The use of armed force to protect human rights,
  • Brain drain in Serbia today (389)
    How does the Serbian government cope with the problem of brain drain today? The latest OECD publication, SOPEMI 2014 shows that 39 thousand persons emigrated in 2012 from Serbia to OECD countries only. (At the beginning of the global economic and financial crisis, the emigration from Serbia to OECD countries amounted to 27,000 in 2008.)

How Belgrade based diplomats use Digital Diplomacy and Internet 2016

Diplo Portal Belgrade

Please follow and like us:
Scroll Up

Enjoy this blog? Please spread the word :)