It should be noted that the Australian Ambassador in Washington represents Australia with the U.S. government on the Federal level. As the senior Australian government representative in U.S.A., he is responsible also for oversight and coordination, as necessary, of the Cs.G. in U.S.A. In practice, this is rarely required and the Cs.G dealt direct with the Department of Foreign Affairs in Canberra but kept the Ambassador informed of any important occurrence or development in his Consular district.

Activities which now (1977) stand out in my mind as highlights during my term as C.G. are:

* A visit, accompanied by Helen, to Grenada in the Caribbean to represent the Australian Government on the occasion of Grenada's independence.

* First official tour as C.G. This was to the Southern States including Georgia where I met Governor Jimmy Carter, the future President.

* The Americas Cup yacht races at Newport with Bond's yacht, the Southern Cross, as the challenger.

* Seeing the finals of the U.S. open tennis championship at Forest Hills.

* A visit to the Bahamas on leave.

* Visits to Long Island and New Jersey and Martha's Vineyard to stay with friends.

* A leave visit to Kingston in Canada.

* The paper repercussions in my office, in New York on the political and financial crisis in Australia in October/November 1975.

On personal and family affairs, I should record that shortly after arrival in New York I went to see a medical specialist Dr Leifer at the Presbyterian Columbia Medical Centre for a check. 1 had been referred to him by Dr W. Morrow in case I needed medical attention whilst there. Leifer detected that my left carotid artery was clogged and, unless the deposits of plaques there were removed, I could have a stroke. So an operation was quickly arranged -- a cartioid endartecomy -- and successfully carried out. 1 quickly recovered and felt physically much better than I had for several years now that I was again getting a full flow of blood to my brain! So it was indeed fortunate that I went to New York and had the best possible physician and surgeons to diagnose and deal with my medical problems. Dr Ralph Veenema, the urologist, also deserves special mention for his treatment and care of my problem, including the successful use of radio therapy.

In December 1973 John decided to leave San Francisco and give up Indian classical music and come to New York and try to get a job in the film or publishing worlds. He came and lived with us in New York. After some months he managed to find a lowly opening with a magazine. Since then he has worked his way up the ladder and is now art director of a magazine. It was good having him live with us and get to know him again.

Then early in 1974 Virginia, having completed three years in New Guinea, including two years as a high school teacher on Manus Island, decided to come to New York and pursue her studies in Russian Languages and Literature at Columbia University. Virginia is now a B.A. (A.N.U.), M.A. (Columbia), and has set her sights on obtaining a Ph.D.(Columbia). She also came to live with us at Beekman Place. So, with the exception of Robert, we now had the whole family with us in New York. However, at the end of 1974 Robert, Cathy and Cassandra visited us in New York for about a month so for at least a period the whole family were again living under the one roof. We were indeed fortunate in having the commodious apartment at Beekman Place plus domestic staff which made this family reunion both possible and enjoyable.

Early in September 1975 1 had been notified the name of my successor and told he was unlikely to arrive until early in 1976. So there would be a gap between my departure and the arrival of my successor. This was not unusual in Foreign Affairs postings and I saw no reason to delay my departure because McCloskey, the Deputy C.G. was quite capable of officiating as Acting C.G. On 29 September 1975 I was notified that there had been a change and my successor would be Peter Barbour, ex-head of A.S.I.O.!

Before I was appointed C.G. it had been agreed that the duration of my appointment would be until my 65th birthday -- 65 being the age for retirement of Commonwealth Public Servants. So in August, 1975 we commenced planning our return journey to Australia. We again decided to travel by sea from San Francisco to Sydney and with the assistance of our shipping friends in New York, managed to secure a very good cabin on the "Mariposa" sailing from San Francisco on 5 November 1975. October 1975 was, therefore, our last month in New York and it was a very busy one for us, from a domestic viewpoint, as well as of the office of C.G.

During this month there were successive financial crises in Australia as the Senate had not approved the Supply Bill passed by the House of Representatives, and so the necessary funds for the salaries and wages of government employees and for other inescapable expenses of administration were not available. In 1975 the C.G.'s office in New York I had to impose very drastic cuts in the use of telephones, postage, stationery, travel, etc. to the extent that the office was barely able to function at all, let alone carry out its proper function. When I finally departed from New York at the end of October it seemed very doubtful whether the wages of the staff would be paid in November!

Helen and I flew from New York to San Francisco to embark in the "Mariposa", departing San Francisco on 31 October 1975. During the voyage we would call at Los Angeles, Honolulu, Tahiti and Auckland, N.Z. on November 10th we were at sea between Honolulu and Tahiti when we heard over the ship's radio a news flash that the Whitlam government had been dismissed by the Governor-General! Due to bad radio reception, we did not get any further details until we went ashore at Papeete two (days?) later! It was very frustrating! However, I was very relieved to know that the staff in the C.G.'s office would receive their wages on the next pay day.

"Mariposa" is a much superior ship to "Arcadia" -- a smaller number of passengers all first class who did not overcrowd the facilities available. Food and service were excellent. We had a very pleasant voyage and enjoyed our brief visits to the various ports of call, particularly Auckland and the Bay of Islands which we had not previously visited. During the voyage we met and became friends with Dr Peter Waugh and his wife, Pat, who is also a doctor (radiologist). They have a practice at Parramatta. Pat Waugh turned out to be a sister of (Brig) Ron Evans whom we knew very well. Peter Waugh was very helpful in arranging a very quick medical check-up for me on the day we arrived in Sydney.

On arrival there on 25 November 1975 we were met by the local F.A. representative. Also the Customs and Immigration officials had obviously got the "word" from their colleagues in the C.G.s office. The net result, we were off the ship first and in a matter of minutes ushered into the car which was to take us to an overnight accommodation at the I.S.C. Also on hand to meet us were Aunty Margaret and Gwen Anderson. The next day we returned to Canberra by train where we were met by R. and C. with whom we stayed for a few days until our furniture and other belongings had been delivered to 11 Melbourne Avenue from storage. Our goods from New York also were delivered on time and in excellent condition which is more than I can say for those stored in Canberra -- some of the latter were badly damaged and they even lost two of our beds and a large pottery elephant which I had brought back from Saigon -- one of a pair. Regrettably, I had under-valued these items on the inventory and of course therefore did not receive the replacement value of the lost items! It was necessary for me to spend a week or so after return being debriefed by F.A. and other departments. There were also a few calls to make, including one on the Governor-General, who welcomed me as an old friend.

So ended my C.G. days and, in effect, my official working life.


During January 1976 we spent most of our time at our beach house at Batehaven. Much work was needed there to get the house repaired and repainted etc. -- this work dragged on through most of the year owing to difficulty in getting the various tradesmen onto the job.

Similarly, at 11 Melbourne Avenue, it was not until the end of 1976 that all the repairs and repainting were completed.

In July 1976 we drove to Alexander Heads on the "Sunshine" coast in Queensland to escape the worst of the Canberra winter. Although it was, of course, much warmer than Canberra, we found the weather disappointingly cool and wet. Apparently it is necessary to go much further north to get the really warm weather in June, July and August.


Again spent January at Batehaven. The Wattsfords from Canada spent a week with us. Also the Norris'. We also went down there at least once a month throughout the year for three to four days at a time. A pleasant change from Canberra. Also in winter, about 100 warmer.

Daughter Virginia visited us in July and August and we enjoyed having her very much. When the time for departure to U.S.A. arrived, we all drove down to Sydney and stayed at I.S.C. for a few days. We were very sad when we finally had to say goodbye at the airport.

This year made an effort to bring this journal-cum-diary up to date and at this point it is complete enough for its purpose although I have left space to enter additional information if necessary.

General Sir John Wilton Home Page