Melissa Hitchman's picture

Melissa Hitchman


Master of National Security (ANU)

Bachelor of Economics (Hons) (ANU)

Contact details

Melissa Hitchman is a PhD candidate in the National Security College (NSC) of the Crawford School of Public Policy. She collaborates with the Global Institutes for Women’s Leadership at ANU and King’s College London. Her research interests include the intersection of gender with diplomacy, national security, civ-mil relations, and public policy. Her thesis, Women with a Mission: A study of Five Eyes’ diplomacy, seeks to benchmark Australia against its Five Eyes’ partners on women in diplomacy, in terms of representation and influence. She is interested in embedding gains to future-proof gender in Australian diplomacy through best practice.


Melissa’s Panel Chair/Principal Supervisor is Dr Elise Stephenson (Fellow NSC/Deputy Director GIWL) and her Associate Supervisors are Emeritus Professor Marian Sawer AO FASSA (College of Arts and Social Sciences ANU) and Professor Rosie Campbell (Director GIWL King’s College London).


Currently on leave from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Melissa also has experience in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, former Australian Customs Service and former Bureau of Industry Economics. She has served as Australia’s first resident female Ambassador to the Holy See, as well as in London and Dublin. She was awarded the Order of Pope Pius IX Grand Cross for furthering bilateral relations between Australia and the Holy See (2019) and was a member of teams which received Secretary’s Citations for contributions to Australia’s COVID-19 response (2021) and Ukraine Crisis (2023).

Highlights of her career include working on the election of Natasha Stott Despoja to the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) (2020); Independent Review of the Intelligence Community (IRIC), the first since the 2004 Flood Inquiry (2011); Secretariat for the International Commission for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament (ICCND), a joint initiative of the Australian and Japanese Governments under Chairs The Hon Gareth Evans AC KC and Yoriko Kawaguchi (2008-2010); EU Single Market series identifying trade and investment opportunities for Australian business (1990s); and the phased lifting of Commonwealth sanctions against South Africa (1990s).

Melissa’s research builds on her contribution to Australia’s multilateral engagement on gender at the Human Rights Council (including during Australia’s membership of the Council), UNGA, G20, EAS, APEC, MIKTA and the Commonwealth (2020-2022). It considers Australia’s implementation of the Women Peace and Security (WPS) agenda under UNSCR1325 through the second National Action Plan on WPS 2021-2031. Implementation included negotiation of a Framework for Civil-Society Engagement on WPS, management of multi-million dollar investments, and whole-of-government coordination which she had the privilege of leading (2020-2022). Melissa’s research also draws on her involvement in DFAT’s Women in Leadership strategy (2015-2020) and Women with a Mission publication (2006), creation of the International Women’s Day Women with a Mission address and subsequent lecture program at the National Press Club (1995), and role as Women’s Policy Officer (1995).


In 2023, Melissa moderated a Women in Diplomacy panel for ANU’s Asia Pacific Week Conference, mentored students and crafted scenarios for ANU’s National Security College/College of Law Australian Crisis Simulation Summit and chaired a roundtable drawing on 30 years of practitioners’ experience in job-sharing to support the development of a model for Federal Parliament. Reflecting her interests in national security and women’s leadership, Melissa has participated in national civ-mil exercises and is a trained Gender Adviser (GENAD) and former reservist with ANU Company, Sydney University Regiment. She has presented at the Australian Defence Force’s Peace Operations Training Centre at the Australian Defence College, RAAF Williamtown and HMAS Creswell. Melissa is a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors (GAICD).


In the (Diplomatic) Bag: Women Negotiating from Crisis to Complexity, Australian Political Studies Association Conference, University of Sydney, 29 November 2023

Leading and lagging: A record of women in Five Eyes’ diplomacy, Gender and Politics Workshop, ANU, 13 March 2024

Reflections: International Day of Women in Diplomacy, Embassies of France, the Netherlands and Spain, 24 June 2024

Building Connections: The Language of Diplomacy, (with Dr Elise Stephenson, Professor Susan Harris-Rimmer, Melissa Conley Tyler, Ambassador (ret) Jane M Hardy and Jack Hayes) International Studies Association Conference, virtual, 30 July - 2 August 2024 (forthcoming)

Women in Diplomacy podcast: in conversation with Professor Karen E Smith, London School of Economics, September 2024 (forthcoming)

Scholarships and fellowships

Australian Government Research Training Program Fee Offset and Stipend Scholarships

Mailing address

Crawford School of Public Policy
ANU College of Asia & the Pacific
J.G. Crawford Building No. 132
Lennox Crossing
The Australian National University
Canberra ACT 2601 Australia

Updated:  18 July 2024/Responsible Officer:  Crawford Engagement/Page Contact:  CAP Web Team