The early days of the Consulate of Finland in Sydney date back to 1917 - the year Finland declared its independence from the crumbling Russian Empire. It was then that J.O. Boijer, in charge of the Finnish Seamen´s Mission in Sydney, began to look after the interests of Finns in Australia as an unofficial Consul. Boijer continued as such until early 1919 when he passed his duties to his friend, businessman Kaarlo J. Nauklér. Nauklér was officially appointed Consul by the Finnish Government on 24 October 1919. His jurisdiction also included New Zealand, New Guinea and Oceania in general.
Besides working hard in his day job Nauklér was a sporting enthusiast winning Australian championships in both javelin and discus throwing in 1919 and 192i respectively, earning the nickname “The Champion Consul” from his consular colleagues. After Naucklér died unexpectedly in 1921 another businessman, Harold Tanner was appointed Consul in his stead. Tanner continued as Consul until 1935 when he returned to Finland.
In December 1941 Great Britain, then responsible for Australia´s foreign relations, broke off diplomatic relations and declared war on Finland under pressure from its ally the Soviet Union which Finland was fighting at the time in order to regain the territories it lost as a result of Soviet aggression in 1939-40 (the so-called Winter War). Paavo Simelius, who had been appointed Consul after Tanner, had to return posthaste to Finland as a consequence. Despite the fact that a state of war existed between Finland and Great Britain/Australia for a number of years, no shots were ever fired, and amicable relations were restored following the Paris Peace Treaty of 1947. The Finnish Consulate in Sydney was reopened in 1949, and Simelius was the natural choice to resume his old job, this time as Chargé d´affaires.
In 1958, during Toivo I. Kala´s term as Chargé d´affaires, Finland and Australia concluded a visa exemption agreement in order to facilitate movement between our two countries, in the first hand to ease immigration to Australia by many job-seeking Finns, and later tourism. Five years later, his successor Olavi Wanne began to lobby the Finnish Government to transfer Finnish diplomatic representation from Sydney to the capital, Canberra.
The approach to move to Canberra came from the then Australian Department of External Affairs. Legation Secretary Count Peter Von Der Pahlen came to Canberra in 1966 to seek rental properties for the legation with the residence being at 54 Endeavour Street and the Chancery nearby at 83 Endeavour Street in Red Hill. Both properties were new. The houses were leased by Mr Tony Eastaway, a well-known Canberra real estate figure. There were many missions arriving from Sydney in 1969/1970 and as Finland was one of the first it had an advantage to take the pick of the market. The views from Endeavour Street over Canberra were particularly pretty at that time.
The new Consulate in Canberra was upgraded to an Embassy, with Tuure Mentula as Finland´s first-ever Ambassador to Australia. The Consulate in Sydney continued in existence until 2012, handling consular work and trade contacts. As of 31 October 2012 all the consular service functions, whether visas, residence permits, passports or citizenship and notary services, have been exercised by the Embassy of Finland in Canberra. An Honorary Consulate was established in Sydney to complement the seven other Honorary Consulates Finland has in other parts of Australia (Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, Cairns, Hobart and Darwin).
In 1968, Australia leased a building site for a new Finnish Embassy in Yarralumla, Canberra. It took a decade for the Embassy to move to the new site, to a new building that housed both the Embassy and the Ambassador´s residence. Two decades on, the building had become crowded, and a new Embassy building was clearly required. An architectural competition was held in 1997 and the new sleek Embassy building at 12 Darwin Avenue, representing the best of contemporary Finnish architectural traditions, opened its doors in February 2002.
Finnish Ambassadors to Australia from 1968 onwards: