Adjunct Professor Ian Kemish is a former senior Australian diplomat with interest and expertise in the history of Southeast Asia and the Pacific, and in Australia’s engagement with those regions. He originally graduated with Honours in modern Southeast Asian history from the University of Queensland. Ian’s Government career included service as High Commissioner to Papua New Guinea, Ambassador to Germany, Head of the Prime Minister’s International division and DFAT’s Southeast Asia Division. He was awarded membership of the Order of Australia for his role, as Chair of the Government’s International Emergency Task Force, in leading the response to the 2002 Bali bombings. Mr. Kemish moved to the private sector in 2013, supporting companies to improve their sustainability and community development outcomes in the Indo-Pacific. This included the adoption of new greenhouse gas emissions targets and biodiversity objectives by leading ASX companies. Ian received a UQ Alumni Excellence Award in 2014.

Research Interests

Modern history of Southeast Asia and the Pacific and Australia’s engagement with these regions - with a focus on Papua New Guinea, including the building of an oral history collection on the PNG Independence era.

The recent history of Australia's consular service and its adaptation to the imperatives of the early 21st century - growing traveller numbers, increased expectations, terrorism and health threats. Ian has a contract with UQ Press for a book which provides a personal account of the way the service evolved in the face of these challenges in the early years of the 21st century.

AT UQ Ian also serves as the Chair of the Vice Chancellor’s ChangeMakers Alumni Engagement Initiative. He personally supports a number of scholarships at the university, including as co-founder and ongoing supporter of an annual Berlin residency for UQ humanities graduate students to study in the German capital. He also chairs the partnership framework between UQ and Newcrest Mining Limited, which is a major partner in UQ’s COVID-19 vaccine development work.

Other Activities and Service

Mr. Kemish is an independent strategic adviser to a number of private and public sector clients. He is the regional representative for Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific for the World Bank’s Global Partnership for Education. He is a Director of the Australia-Indonesia Centre at Monash University, a Visiting Fellow at the Lowy Institute of International Affairs, and an Honorary Fellow at Deakin University. He is Chairman of the not-for-profit Kokoda Track Foundation, a director of 3rd Space, which provides services to the homeless in Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley, and a Business Champion of the Australian Government’s New Colombo Plan.

PNG History makers tell their story.