Dr Penelope (Penny) Wensley AC was awarded a Bachelor of Arts (1st Class Honours) degree by the University of Queensland, and has been recognised by her alma mater with the award of an Honorary Doctorate. She has also been awarded Honorary Doctorates by Griffith University, The Queensland University of Technology and James Cook University.
She joined the Australian Foreign Service in 1968 pursuing a highly distinguished career as a diplomat, representing Australia in a wide range of overseas posts and senior policy positions until 2008, when she was appointed Queensland’s twenty-fifth Governor.
Dr Wensley’s diplomatic career saw her serve as Consul‐General in Hong Kong, Ambassador for the Environment, Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva and in New York, High Commissioner to India and non-resident Ambassador to Bhutan, and Ambassador to France, accredited also as Ambassador to Algeria, Morocco, Monaco and Mauritania.
She has long-held interests in humanitarian, human rights and health issues; and a particular interest in natural resource management, environmental and sustainable development matters, and in Australia’s response to national and global challenges in these areas. She has committed strong effort to the promotion of Australian excellence in the arts and sciences, and in support of scientific research as the basis for good policy, with a particular interest in agriculture and marine science.
Dr Wensley has achieved international recognition for her contribution to the United Nations. She played a key role in the negotiation of major international treaties, including the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the United Nations Convention to Combat Drought and Desertification. She also chaired or co‐chaired a number of major United Nations conferences and processes, including the First United Nations Special Session on HIV/Aids; the United Nations Conference on the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States; the United Nations Budget and Finance Committee; and helped launch the International Coral Reef Initiative.
As State Governor, Dr Wensley was active in promoting environmental knowledge and awareness and in support of community groups and organisations involved with environmental management, conservation and protection, including as State Patron of Queensland Water and Land Carers and National Patron of Soil Science Australia.
Her career long involvement with the promotion and protection of Australia's interests internationally, and her active engagement with the development of national and international responses to various global environmental challenges, has contributed to the development of better frameworks for environmental understanding and cooperation.