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Our History

The Australian Institute of International Affairs, New South Wales is Australia’s oldest think tank, established only four years after its parent organisation, The British Institute of International Affairs (now the Royal Institute of International Affairs, Chatham House). Archibald Hamilton Charteris, a distinguished member of the British Institute, founded a NSW branch in 1924 after coming to Australia to take up the position of Challis Chair of International Law and Jurisprudence at the University of Sydney. A. H. Charteris’s work combined his academic and research interests in IR with his practical experience in the British Admiralty and Intelligence during the First World War. Crucially for the Institute, he was also dedicated to bringing International Relations to the general public. His public lectures were well attended, and his witty talks on ABC radio made other broadcasters seem “laboriously well-informed, congenitally uninteresting, and cacophonous” by comparison (according W.S. Sheldon’s contribution to The Jubilee Book of the Law School of the University of Sydney 1890-1940, edited by Sir Thomas Bavin).

Archibald Hamilton Charteris went on to become the first president of the newly-formed Australian Institute of International Affairs, a federated body established in 1932 to incorporate the existing Victorian and New South Wales organisations. Today, the AIIA has grown to include seven branches across Australia. Like A. H. Charteris, early members of the AIIA NSW were the leading IR commentators and policy figures of the day, participating actively in International Affairs within governmental and other organisations at the highest level. During its history the AIIA has been honoured by the involvement of many distinguished figures including: Former Prime Minister Sir Robert Menzies, Former Chief Justices Sir Garfield Barwick, Sir John Latham and Sir Owen Dixon, Former Governor General Lord Casey, and distinguished Australians Sir Ian Clunies Ross, Sir Richard Boyer, Sir Russel Madigan and E.C. Dyason.

The world was a very different place when the AIIA NSW began its mission to bring international affairs to the Australian public. Since 1924, Australia has transformed from a colonial outpost of imperial Britain to a truly international actor, deeply engaged with nations and organisations from every continent.  The Institute’s enduring commitment to independent analysis of the most important international issues has meant that the AIIA has continued to develop at the forefront of Australia’s changing role in global affairs.

List of Presidents
1924Professor A.H. Charteris
1929Sir George Julius
1930Mr. (later Sir) A.C. Davidson
1932Professor A.H. Charteris
1933Mr. C.W.D. Conacher
1934Sir Thomas Bavin
1941Professor (later Sir) Ian Clunies Ross
1944Sir Alfred Davidson
1947Mr. (later Sir) Norman Cowper
1949Mr. D.A.S. Campbell
1950Mr. (later Sir) H.D. Black
1954Major-General the Reverend C.A. Osborne
1956Dr. (later Professor) J. Andrews
1958Mr. R.F. Holder
1959Miss H.E. Archdale
1961Dr. E. Bramsted
1963Mr. H.A. Manning
1966Professor T. Stapleton
1969Miss Aline Fenwick
1971Dr. A. Fabinyi
1973Mr. D.J. Russell
1975Dr. J.R. Angel
1979Miss Aline Fenwick OBE
1981Mr. E. Harcourt OBE
1983The Hon. Mr. Justice K. Enderby
1985Mr. K.M. Saxby
1988Professor Ivan Shearer, RFD
1990Mr. R.A.F. Blunden
1992Mr. H.D. Anderson, AO, OBE
1995Dr. Philippe Cussinet
1998Mr. John Melhuish
2000Mr. Geoffrey Miller, AO
2005Mr. Mack Williams
2008Mrs. Barbara Walsh
2011Mr. Colin Chapman
2014Mr. Richard Broinowski