At St Margaret’s 1968-1971
Virginia is an accomplished senior executive with a wealth of international trade and diplomatic experience. She is the former Chief Executive Officer of Trade and Investment Queensland, a statutory body in the Premier’s portfolio tasked with maximising the benefits to Queensland of international trade and investment. She has also served as Australia’s Ambassador to Spain, Andorra and Equatorial Guinea as well as Australia’s Ambassador to Chile, Peru, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela.
Describing herself as an ‘army brat’ with an itinerant childhood, by the time Virginia reached St Margaret’s in Year 9 she had attended five schools starting in England at the age of four. She said: “Four years at St Margaret’s was the longest I spent at any institute of learning. As well as providing me with the educational wherewithal and confidence to study anything, and a love of choral singing. It gave me the security of a hometown and the enduring support of a network of friends. My career took me to Canberra and overseas, but I always knew I would come home to Brisbane. And I have.”
After graduating from St Margaret’s, Virginia spent a gap year in Japan. She was awarded a Commonwealth Tertiary Scholarship in 1971 and completed a Bachelor of Arts with a double major in English and a sub-major in Japanese at The University of Queensland. She moved to Canberra and entered the Australian Public Service keen to learn how the government operates. She was awarded a Commonwealth Postgraduate Scholarship in 1990 and earned a Graduate Diploma in Public Law from Australian National University. She held positions in several agencies, but the turning point was a posting in 2000 from the Department of Agriculture to serve at the Embassy in Washington DC as Minister Counsellor Agriculture. She returned to Australia as a senior agriculture negotiator for the Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and transferred to DFAT. She worked on the China FTA and was Australia’s Chief Negotiator on the Australia-Chile Free Trade Agreement while concurrently she led the Market Development, Business Liaison and Regional Trade Policy Branch and was Deputy Chief Negotiator on FTA negotiations with the Gulf States.
Virginia studied Spanish in 2008 and 2009 and was rated at a professional level in both spoken and ‘received’ Spanish.