The Canberra-born trailblazer who is the King's next representative

Karen Barlow
Updated April 3 2024 - 6:06pm, first published 1:28pm

From sitting around boards, to hollering in the footy stands for her beloved Swans, to packing food hampers for families in need.

Sam Mostyn has shone in a busy, distinguished, pioneering career, but it is all about to condense into her being the representative of Britain's King Charles III in Australia. It is a role of high service and ceremony in a constitutional monarchy.

Watch: The King accepted the PM's recommendation to appoint Samantha Mostyn AO, a business leader and advocate, to the role as the 28th governor-general. She will also become the second woman to serve in the role.

The Prime Minister describes his Canberra-born vice-regal pick - with consultation with Buckingham Palace - as an "exceptional leader who represents the best of modern Australia". He also points to her "tireless advocacy.

She will, Anthony Albanese said, bring "valuable new insights and experience" as she replaces David Hurley as Australia's 28th governor-general.

The Prime Minister said Sam Mostyn was an 'exceptional leader'. Picture supplied.
The Prime Minister said Sam Mostyn was an 'exceptional leader'. Picture supplied.

Despite a high profile, influential background, it was telling that Ms Mostyn stated that she still needed to introduce herself to many Australians.

"I was born not far from here, at the old Canberra hospital and most of the formative experiences and influences that have shaped my life happen here," Ms Mostyn said in the Prime Minister's courtyard.

"I have always believed that we are all so much more interesting and complex than the stereotypes often drawn of us by those who have only limited understanding of our character and essence."

The daughter of an army officer who graduated from Duntroon, she grew up around the army supported by the "generosity, love, care and selflessness of our late mother".

In 1970 she was one of the kids in the crowd on Dunrossil Drive waiting to catch a glimpse of Queen Elizabeth II. Now she will live there on the lake.

"I will never underestimate or take for granted the expectations that come with high office and I'm ready to serve with integrity, compassion and respect," Ms Mostyn said.

"I can think of no greater purpose, Prime Minister, than to serve this country."

So who is to be the next governor-general? It is not a career lawyer nor general nor state governor.

Sam Mostyn will be Australia's 28th governor-general. Picture by Elesa Kurtz
Sam Mostyn will be Australia's 28th governor-general. Picture by Elesa Kurtz

Ms Mostyn is an arts law degree graduate from the Australian National University who, in her early career, worked as a researcher for the ACT Chief Magistrate and later as a solicitor for law firms Freehills, and Gilbert + Tobin.

She is a former Labor staffer, including as senior communications policy advisor to Paul Keating and also to Labor ministers Bob Collins and Michael Lee.

It is a political point Peter Dutton subtly made when he welcomed her appointment, saying she was "well known to many people within the government over a long period of time and we wish her very best in her appointment".

But Ms Mostyn said it goes both ways, pointing to having had the "privilege of advising governments of all persuasions across the country".

She has been wanted on boards across the country and will have to divest herself from various roles in preparation for being sworn into office in July.

She has been on boards such as Reconciliation Australia, the Australia Council for the Arts, the Sydney Theatre Company, Sydney Swans, Mirvac and Transurban.

She is known for climate action and sustainability advocacy. She is a member of the Climate Change Authority and was a recent chair of the Climate Council, a former chair of the women's climate action group 1 Million Women, and is a past commissioner of UN Global Business and Sustainable Development Commission.

She is a former National Mental Health commissioner and only recently took up the role of Beyond Blue chair and is the chair of the not-for-profit Australia's National Research Organisation for Women's Safety.

Ms Mostyn was a trailblazer in sport, particularly AFL. In 2005, she was the first woman to be appointed to the AFL Commission, was a key backer for the AFL Women's League, and helped establish the AFL's respect and responsibility policy, which commits the AFL and the 18 clubs to gender equality.

Ms Mostyn is also a former president of Chief Executive Women.

"CEW calls for diverse women leaders at all decision-making tables across Australia, and we welcome the appointment of a woman to this important role," CEW president Susan Lloyd-Hurwitz said in a statement.

She was appointed early in Labor's term as the chair of the Women's Economic Equality Taskforce to provide advice to the Treasurer and Finance Minister on budget ways to place women at the centre of the Australian economy.

Finance Minister Katy Gallagher said it was "an outstanding appointment for a great Australian".

The taskforce's advice is still being used, with the Albanese government recently announcing a move to pay super on commonwealth paid parental leave.

Ms Mostyn was appointed an Officer in the Order of Australia in 2021 for services to business and sustainability, to the community, and to women.

It is of note that she will be the second woman in the vice-regal role, following Dame Quentin Bryce who served as Australia's 25th governor-general from 2008 to 2014.

Mr Albanese said, "Ms Mostyn is a modern and optimistic leader for our modern and optimistic nation. Her leadership reflects our enduring Australian values of equality, fairness and a responsibility to build a better future for the next generation."

It is a legacy move for the Prime Minister who makes a point of his government having more than 50 per cent women, having appointed a record number of female members of cabinet and the ministry, and having made appointments such as Michele Bullock's rise to Reserve Bank governor.

Sam Mostyn will be sworn in on July 1 at a ceremony in Parliament House.

Karen Barlow

Karen Barlow

Chief Political Correspondent

Karen Barlow is ACM's Chief Political Correspondent. Working in the federal press gallery, she investigates and writes about federal politics and government. She has an interest in integrity, leadership and social equity. She has covered two Olympics and been to Antarctica twice. Contact her on