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Officer of Department of Foreign Affairs in air crash in Indo-China

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DATE 13 March 1975


The Prime Minister and Acting Foreign Minister, Mr Whitlam, said today that an officer of the Department of Foreign Affairs was believed to have been aboard the Air Vietnam aircraft which reportedly crashed last night en route from Vientiane

to Saigon.

The officer was Mr Graeme Lewis, a senior officer of the Department. Though there was as yet no confirmation, it seemed very probable that Mr Lewis had died in the crash.

Mr Lewis had just completed a term of service as Charge d 8Affaires of the Australian Embassy in Hanoi and was on his way back to Australia. The Acting Minister said that Mr Lewis was an experienced officer of the Australian Foreign Service which he had joined in 1952.

Mr Lewis had served in a wide range of posts including Karachi, Tokyo (twice), Stockholm, Paris and Vientiane as well as Hanoi. He was a widely experienced and well-liked officer who had a reputation for calmness in difficult situations.

He was an accomplished Japanese linguist and had a strong interest in Japan which he had pursued in three assignments in the country, two of which were postings with the Department. He had also served in Indo-China on two occasions in challenging


Mr Whitlam paid tribute to the officers of the Department who had been serving in Indo-China over the years. He was. conscious of the strains and demands upon these officers and their families who had lived and worked in difficult conditions often at considerable personal danger. Australia had been very well served by these men

and women.

The Acting Minister said he wished to let those who were working in the area at present know that their efforts on behalf of their country were deeply and widely appreciated in Australia. Mr Whitlam noted in particular the present circumstances of the

staff of the Embassy in Phnom Penh.

Mr Lewis was born in 1927. He was single. His family live in Hobart.