Australia appoints its first Indigenous person as Consul-General

Australia first Indigenous Consul-General, Benson Saulo says he’s keen to share Australia’s Indigenous culture and connecting with First Nations businesses and leaders in the US as part of his trade and investment promotion duties.

Thirty-two-year old Saulo, a descendent of the Wemba Wemba and Gunditjmara Aboriginal nations of Western Victoria and the New Ireland Province of Papua New Guinea, will take up the position later this year in Houston, Texas.

Saulo is the first Indigenous person appointed to the Consul-General role anywhere in the world, although Australia has previously appointed Indigenous people as Ambassadors and Heads of Mission through Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs.

His role will be to strengthen the trade and investment relationship between Australia and the United States through business, cultural and diplomatic relationships.

“An area that I am particularly passionate about,” he told Islands Business, “is sharing our Indigenous culture to the world, and connecting with First Nations businesses and leaders in the US. There are a lot of opportunities for sharing and learning from other First Nation peoples across the world.”

Rising from a somewhat humble career start as a bank teller with the ANZ in the northern New South Wales town of Tamworth, Benson went on to become a business analyst in the Indigenous employment and training team at ANZ. In 2017, he joined Australian Unity, a national healthcare, financial services and independent and assisted living mutual organisation.

His role with Australian Unity followed an impressive list of accomplishments as a youth advocate and community leader. In 2011, he became the first Indigenous Australian to be appointed the Australian Youth Representative at the United Nations. He represented Australian youth at the 66th Session of the United Nations General Assembly and undertook a national engagement tour to connect with over 6,000 people in communities across the country.

Saulo applied for the position at the end of 2019.

“It was competitive process. However, Austrade has a strong commitment to developing a diverse and inclusive workforce that reflects the diversity of Australia.

“Part of this commitment is our Reconciliation Action Plan. My appointment to Consul-General was possible because of the leadership within Austrade over a number of years to become a more inclusive workplace.”

Saulo’s father and mother met at Bible College in Cootamundra in New South Wales and are now retired to his father’s home at Lafu Village on the West Coast of New Ireland.

He says his wife, Kate – a Doctor in Clinical and Forensic Psychology – and their six-month-old daughter are excited about going to Houston.

“Her name is Anaïs Ramo Saulo. The name Ramo is from my grandmother’s side on the West Coast of New Ireland. It is an old name that hasn’t been used for a few generations. My wife and I felt strongly that our daughter would carry the name of my father’s land. My middle name Igua is from Neikonomon on New Hanover, which is my grandfather’s land.

“My mum was a little hesitant of us going when she realised that our daughter may return with a Texan accent.”