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John Olsen
, 1993

by Robin Sellick

gelatin silver photograph (sheet: 60.6 cm x 50.6 cm, image: 49.0 cm x 38.1 cm)

John Olsen AO (b. 1945), diplomat and former politician, grew up in South Australia and began his public career as its youngest-ever mayor, assuming that office in Kadina in 1974. In 1976 he became the youngest-ever president of the South Australian Liberal Party. Having been elected member for Rocky River in 1979, he led the opposition in South Australia from 1982 to 1990, when he was appointed to the Federal Senate. In 1992 he returned to the South Australian parliament as the member for Kavel; four years later he became South Australian premier. During his premiership he encouraged investment in the economically beleaguered state and pressed for corporatisation and privatisation of government services; in particular, he is associated with water management and recycling initiatives that boosted production in the Barossa and elsewhere. He resigned from office in 2001 following an enquiry established to investigate a government contract. From 2002 to 2006 he was Australia’s consul-general in Los Angeles, in which capacity he initiated the enduringly successful Australia Week, a significant driver of American tourism, trade and investment in Australia. Subsequently, until 2009, he was consul-general in New York. Currently chair of the American Australian Association Ltd and a member of the board of the US Studies Centre at the University of New South Wales, in mid-2017 he became the president of the South Australian Liberal Party for the second time.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Purchased 2004
Accession number: 2004.180