John Ryan (diplomat)

Barrie Dexter Director-General of the Australian Secret Intelligence Service Bondi, New South Wales

John Ryan

Director-General of the Australian Secret Intelligence Service
In office
5 October 1981 – 21 December 1983
Preceded byIan Kennison
Succeeded byJim Furner
Personal details
John Edmund Ryan

(1923-03-13)13 March 1923
Bondi, New South Wales, Australia
Died9 February 1987(1987-02-09) (aged 63)
Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia
Patricia Wall
(m. 1950)
Alma materUniversity of Melbourne
Military service
Branch/serviceAustralian Army
Years of service1942–1946
Unit2/7th Independent Company
2/12th Battalion
Battles/warsBattle of Balikpapan (1945)

John Edmund Ryan OBE (13 March 1923 – 9 February 1987) was an Australian diplomat and public servant.

Early life, education and military service

Ryan was born in Bondi, Sydney in 1923. He was educated in Canberra at St Christopher's School, and later attended St Patrick's College, Goulburn on a bursary. He enrolled at the University of Sydney in 1941, but only completed the first year of an arts degree before enlisting in the Second Australian Imperial Force on 9 January 1942. He served as a corporal with the 2/7th Independent Company in New Guinea until March 1943 when he was selected for officer training at the Royal Military College, Duntroon. Due to the war, he completed a shortened version of the training, during which he was injured in a transport accident.[1]

Diplomatic career

Ryan was discharged from the AIF in 1946, and later that year, joined the Department of External Affairs. He served as High Commissioner to Ghana (1965–67) and Ambassador to Laos (1968–69),[2] then Ambassador to Italy (1974–77)[3] and High Commissioner to Canada (1977–80).[1][4]

Public service

In 1980, Ryan returned to Canberra and became deputy secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs. In October 1981, he was appointed acting Director-General of the Australian Secret Intelligence Service. In late 1983, a bungled ASIS training exercise known as the Sheraton Hotel incident occurred, in which armed ASIS officers conducted a mock hostage rescue in a Melbourne hotel without the knowledge or permission of the hotel management or Victoria Police. Ryan resigned from ASIS in December 1983, and the incident was reviewed by the second Hope Royal Commission, which criticised Ryan and his role in the operation. He retired from the public service in May 1984.[1]

Ryan died of lymphoma on 9 February 1987 in Canberra.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d Fogarty, Mike (2012), "Ryan, John Edmund (1923–1987)", Australian Dictionary of Biography, Australian National University, archived from the original on 9 February 2016
  2. ^ "Envoy to Laos named". The Canberra Times. 6 January 1968. p. 7.
  3. ^ "Ambassador". The Canberra Times. 5 March 1974. p. 1.
  4. ^ "New envoys for Ottawa, Rome". The Canberra Times. 20 September 1977. p. 3.