The Nye Hughes Room at the ANU Centre for European Studies was named in honour of the former EU Ambassador to Australia who was instrumental in the establishment of the Centre. It remains as a tribute to a distinguished diplomat and gracious person.
Aneurin (Nye) Rhys Hughes died on 28 March in Oslo and his funeral was held there on 10 April. Amidst the ongoing turmoil and restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic his family from the UK could not attend, neither could his many friends, and many people were unaware of the news of Nye’s death.
Nye was born in Swansea Wales in 1937. He was educated at Swansea Grammar School and Aberystwyth University where he studied philosophy and Celtic Studies. He joined the Foreign Office in 1966 and the European Civil Service in 1973. He was EU Ambassador to Norway and Iceland (1987-95) and to Australia and New Zealand (1995-2002). After his term as EU Ambassador to Australia, he returned to live in Oslo in retirement with his second wife, Lisbeth, but he regularly returned to Australia to spend time with his many friends in Canberra and elsewhere in the region.
As EU Ambassador to Australia he actively promoted the collaborative role of the EU in the wider world. The establishment of the Centre for European Studies at the ANU was just one important example that continues on as a tribute to his vision, foresight, and diplomatic skills.
Nye Hughes was a powerful orator and public speaker, His speeches, delivered across Australia and New Zealand, earned him respect and many admirers who enjoyed his oratory and humorous illustrations of the values of the EU relationship. His first address at the National Press Club in Canberra was distinctive and memorable when he began by bursting into song – in Welsh. He was a proud Welshman and European, and singing was one of Nye’s many passions along with his genuine interest in people and love of life. Wherever he went he was known for his passion, intelligence, compassion, his quick wit and humour, and for his irrepressible joie de vivre. Nye had an extensive group of friends in Canberra adding to the many in Wales, Norway and across Europe.
Nye’s connection with Australia endures through his authorship of a book about Australian Prime Minister Billy Hughes (no relative) published in 2011, his long-term Canberra friendships, and his connection with the ANU Centre for European Studies. Nye finally succumbed to pancreatic cancer, and he will be missed as a friend and colleague by many.
The Nye Hughes Room in the Centre for European Studies at the Australian National University is an important reminder of a special person whose spirit lives on, and to the enduring and important relationship between Europe and Australia that Nye fostered.
Dr Rita Parker, Jean Monnet Fellow, ANU Centre for European Studies