On 29 May 2019, AfREC convened a roundtable meeting with Ms Gita Kamath, Australian High Commissioner-designate to South Africa with non-resident accreditation to Angola, Botswana, eSwatini, Lesotho, Mozambique and Namibia, and Ms Kate Longhurst, Director of the DFAT WA State Office.
Ms Kamath is a senior career officer of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. She was appointed as Assistant Secretary of the Africa Branch in May 2017. Ms Kamath has held a range of positions in the Department including Assistant Secretary, Agriculture and Food Branch, Assistant Secretary, Domestic Legal Branch, Director, Arms Control Section, and Second Secretary and later First Secretary, Australian High Commission, Singapore. From 2010 to 2013, Ms Kamath was Australian Ambassador to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and Deputy Head of Mission at the Australian Embassy, Paris. She also served as non-resident Ambassador to Chad and the Central African Republic.
Prior to joining the Department as a Graduate Trainee in 1993, Ms Kamath worked as a corporate solicitor with the law firm Clayton Utz in Sydney. Ms Kamath holds a Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Laws degrees from the University of New South Wales, a Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice from the University of Technology, Sydney and a Master of Arts (Foreign Affairs and Trade) from the Australian National University. She is admitted to the Supreme Court of New South Wales as a legal practitioner.
Ms Kamath, in her capacity as Assistant Secretary, Africa Branch, attended the launch of AfREC at the Australia Africa Universities Network (AAUN) Annual Australia Forum at UWA in August 2018 and is well known for her good work in deepening Australia-Africa relations in this role.
The meeting, chaired by Pro Vice-Chancellor (International), Professor Erika Techera, served as an opportunity to update Ms Kamath and Ms Longhurst on the work of AfREC, including its strong links with South African institutions, researchers and students. These include with the University of Cape Town (UCT) and University of Pretoria (UP), who are both Australia Africa University Network (AAUN) members, while UCT is also a co-member with UWA of the Worldwide Universities Network (WUN) and from 2016-18 co-chaired with UWA the WUN Global Africa Group. In 2018, UWA signed an MoU with UP, which has subsequently launched the Future Africa campus. AfREC members also have strong links with other South African institutions, including the University of the Witwatersrand. Notably, South Africa has six university members of the Alliance of African Research Universities (ARUA).
AfREC members and the High Commissioner discussed opportunities for further research and education collaborations between UWA, Australia and South Africa, including through AAUN and other networks. Following the meeting with AfREC, Ms Kamath and Ms Longhurst met with the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR), a joint venture between UWA and Curtin University to support the Square Kilometer Array (SKA), itself a major international telescope engineering, research and development project co-hosted by Western Australia and South Africa.
AfREC would like to wish Ms Kamath all the best for her appointment in Pretoria and looks forward to deepening engagement during her term.