Allan Gyngell

Message from Andrew Shearer, Director-General of National Intelligence

The Office of National Intelligence is deeply saddened at the loss of Allan Gyngell AO, Director-General of the Office of National Assessments from 2009 to 2013 (ONI’s predecessor), who died on 3 May 2023 after a short illness.

A giant in the policy world, Allan combined a mild manner with a brilliant intellect, keen grasp of Australia’s national interest and life-long commitment to our country and its future. His deep thinking and policy experience guided ONA work, always surveying the horizon for emerging issues and ensuring the most robust foundations for policy. He fostered contestability through collaboration with partners and broadened the Office’s engagement within and outside government. All of this is foundational to ONI’s efforts today. Many who knew Allan from his time leading the Office will recall his forensic interrogation of analytical judgments. But Allan’s precision was tempered by gentleness and he was always civil, considerate, caring and supportive.

It is hard to do justice in words to the impact Allan made on Australian public life and foreign policy, as a public servant and as a person.

Before ONA, Allan was the founding Executive Director of the Lowy Institute - Australia’s first think tank dedicated to international relations - guiding it from its start as a handful of young analysts (including one or two from ONA), establishing it as a leading presence both in Australia and internationally. In a semi-retirement that was anything but, he took on the national presidency of the Australian Institute of International Affairs, as well as conducting numerous reviews for government, assuming academic appointments at the Crawford School at ANU, and making countless other contributions to the national conversation on foreign policy and national security. His book Making Australian Foreign Policy with Michael Wesley in 2003 became compulsory reading for students of foreign policy, as did his 2017 book Fear of Abandonment, about Australia’s place in the world since 1942. He was always eloquent and original in his writings, and thoughtful and considered in his speech.

Allan was senior adviser to Prime Minister Paul Keating between 1993 and 1996, served as a diplomat in Rangoon, Singapore and Washington, and held roles at DFAT and PM&C. He epitomised a generation of Australian public servants with an unstinting commitment to the nation, delivered with modesty, fairness and a healthy dose of self-effacing humour. He was not just frank and fearless, but wise, calm, intellectually curious and generous in spirit.

Allan was a tremendous mentor and sponsor to many at ONI who are indebted to his generous guidance and support in their own careers, including mine. Among the many things he taught us is that we are all here to make a difference, regardless of our role, and he will forever have our gratitude. He remained an invaluable friend to ONI (and many staff) and supporter of our mission. It is an understatement to say he will be sorely missed.

4 May 2023

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