Geoffrey Bentley

Inducted December 2015

Geoffrey Bentley was born in 1941, and moved to Cessnock in 1953, where he attended Cessnock High School for his last four years of school. In 1957, Geoffrey gained a Commonwealth Scholarship to study science at Sydney University and a teacher’s scholarship to study languages at Newcastle University. Geoffrey maintained a strong connection to Cessnock, returning regularly from Newcastle for football games and dances during his time at university.   

While at university, Geoffrey was the editor of a student newspaper, President of the Sports Union and President of the Students’ Association.  

Geoffrey has had an impressive career, serving Australia as a front-line diplomat. He was the first University of Newcastle graduate to make a career in Australian diplomatic services. In his year of recruitment, of the ten appointments made he was the sole recruit from NSW and from a public school.   His early career from 1963 was devoted to promoting Australia’s relationships with Asia, specifically in Malaysia, India, Cambodia and Singapore. From 1965 to 1966 Geoffrey was Private Secretary to Foreign Minister, Paul Hasluck.  

In 1979, he was appointed Deputy High Commissioner to New Zealand and played a significant role in forging the ANZ Closer Economic Relations Agreement—one of the most comprehensive bilateral free trade agreements in existence. Geoffrey later held a range of senior Australian Government positions, including Head of Strategic Policy, where he was responsible for the political dimension of the Australia-US defence and security relationship. 

In 1989, Geoffrey was appointed Australian Consul-General to Hong Kong and Macau.   In 1993, the Foreign Minister and Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Gareth Evans QC, appointed Geoffrey as his Chief of Staff—a key and influential policy role.  

Geoffrey’s international service career culminated in his appointment as Australia’s Ambassador to the Russian Federation from 1994 to 1998, with concurrent ambassadorships to Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan.  

In 2013, Geoffrey was invited to attend the Cessnock High School 75th anniversary celebrations, and was later a guest speaker at the annual presentation day assembly. The following year, Geoffrey was awarded the University of Newcastle 2014 Alumni Medal for Professional Excellence.   In his retirement, Geoffrey now resides in Melbourne.

Plaque location

202 Vincent Street, Cessnock (Cessnock Performing Arts Centre)