The Embassy of the United States in Canberra is the embassy of the United States to Australia. It is one of the largest embassies in the Australian capital of Canberra, found in the centrally-located Yarralumla suburb. It is situated close to The Lodge, the Australian Prime Minister's official residence in Canberra, and is equally close to Parliament House, the center of Australia's government. Built in the Georgian style of architecture, it was founded in 1942 and occupied by the end of the next year. The mission has also been the focus of multiple security threats.
The embassy has several functions, including communicating and collaborating with Australian media, issuing passports and visas, assisting US citizens living in Australia, and presenting forums with visiting American experts. The mission has also helped prepare food for needy Australians in cooperation with the Our Big Kitchen organization of Sydney. The staff also organizes and arranges for key figures and thinkers in Australia to visit the United States to share ideas with American counterparts.
The ambassador of the United States to Australia, John Berry, took office on September 25, 2013. The Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM) is Thomas Dougherty as of July 2013.
Australia was recognized as a country by the United States and diplomatic relations were established between the US and Australia in 1940. The foundation stone for the current ambassador’s Residence was laid on June 4, 1942, and the residence was occupied by Christmas 1943. The site was advanced to embassy status on July 9, 1946. On September 25, Robert Butler presented his credentials as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Australian Government, becoming the first ambassador to Australia.
The embassy was designed in order to show off typically classical American architecture to Australians while still blending in with Canberra’s atmosphere. The final design chosen is a Georgian style, examples of which could be seen in the 17th and 18th centuries in southern parts of the United States. The blueprints were inspired by buildings designed by Christopher Wren for the colonial town of Williamsburg, Virginia. The architect was Frederick Larkin, working for the Department of State’s foreign building office. He was supervised by an Australian architect.
This style of architecture was chosen as Williamsburg is seen as having been a center of liberty and freedom in the colonial times, as well as a concentration of communal, political and artistic action.
The materials used for construction were mostly Australian-based. An exception of this occurred in 1959, when the Chancery’s expansion required bricks to match the existing style. The Canberra location that had previously kilned the bricks was no longer available, and as no other convenient location was available, bricks were transported from kilns located near Williamsburg in the United States.
The main floors of the residence are either Australian wood or Australian white marble from southern New South Wales, with the exception of the entrance hall, which has the same Australian white marble in a checkered pattern with Belgian black marble. Additionally, sandstone paves the way to the solarium, and jarrah parquetry is utilized for the main floor, with tallowwood parquetry for the upper floor. Finally, linoleum on pine flooring is used for flooring service areas. Outside, the roof is Bangor slate, with entrance columns and other stone adornments made of Hawkesbury sandstone.
Residence equipment mostly originates in the United States, as does the flag pole and furniture, creating what the embassy calls a "happy blending of Australian and American materials and craftsmanship."
Following the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and The Pentagon, road blocks were set up around the US Embassy in Canberra. Additional officers were brought in to increase security at the mission in the morning hours, with all vehicles entering the premises checked and Australian police cars stationed at every gate. In addition, access to other embassies in the area was restricted.
On October 7, 2001, the United States military began carrying out airstrikes against Taliban and al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. The following day, roads around the US Embassy in Canberra were closed off due to fears of retaliatory strikes or protests.
On October 23, 2003, a crowd about approximately 3,000 held demonstrations outside the nearby Parliament House. The protests centered on President George W. Bush, who arrived in Canberra earlier that day. As a planned rally, the protesters marched through streets that were closed off ahead of time. Due to an alleged militant presence in the crowd, temporary plastic barrier fencing was torn down outside the US Embassy, star pickets were thrown at guards, and minor fights between police and protesters erupted outside the mission. The crowds later moved on with few injuries sustained.
On July 10, 2013, Adrian Richardson from Queensland checked out of an adult mental health facility and drove slowly around the US Embassy at about 6:00 pm. Soon after, he switched off his headlights, revved his engine, and crashed his car into the US Embassy’s gates, causing $15,000 of damage. Canberra’s bomb unit responded to the attack, along with police, ambulance, fire, and rescue crews. Roads were also closed around the embassy.
A mental health assessment was ordered by a court, and Richardson was charged with damaging the premises of an internationally protected person. He gave multiple reasons for his actions, including being a journalist seeking a visa, and being the victim of a Chinese plot.
Richardson was placed on psychiatric order for 3 years after being diagnosed with a psychotic illness and pleading not guilty by mental impairment.
The current Ambassador to the Commonwealth of Australia is John Berry. He took office on September 25, 2013, becoming the 25th person to hold the post. He holds degrees from both the University of Maryland and Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. He is also the first US ambassador to serve a G20 country that openly identifies as gay.
Traditionally, the post of Ambassador to Australia has been considered a patronage post, and as such, the majority of those holding the office have been friends, donors, business associates, or political allies to the president at the time, as opposed to career diplomats. The Australian government welcomes this arrangement, as it often allows them to circumvent the State Department by utilizing the ambassador’s more direct link to the president.Clarence E. Gauss (1940–41)
Nelson T. Johnson (1941–45)
Robert Butler (1946–48)
Myron M. Cowen (1948–49)
Pete Jarman (1949–53)
Amos J. Peaslee (1953–56)
Douglas M. Maffat (1956)
William J. Sebald (1957–61)
William C. Battle (1962–64)
Ed Clark (1965–67)
William H. Crook (1968–73)
Walter L. Rice (1973–75)
Marshall Green (1969–73)
James W. Hargrove (1976–77)
Philip H. Alston (1977–81)
Robert D. Nesen (1981–85)
Laurence W. Lane (1985–89)
Melvin F. Sembler (1989–93)
Edward J. Perkins (1993–96)
Genta H. Holmes (1997-2000)
Edward W. Gnehm (2000–01)
Thomas Schieffer (2001–05)
Robert McCallum, Jr. (2006–09)
Jeff Bleich (2009–13)
The sections of the embassy include Public Affairs, Economic Affairs, Political Affairs, Commercial Affairs, and Agricultural Affairs, as well as Management, Office of Defense Cooperation, the Defense Attaché, and the Consular section. In addition, there are representatives of other US government agencies at the embassy, like the Department of Justice and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).