As well as developing good relations with the relevant Pakistan government departments, Michael, who was known by colleagues and counterparts as “MG”, became famous for his generous hospitality. He was always having people to stay, and his dinners and parties were exceptional. He also catered for many high commission events.
On returning to Canberra he switched to DFAT, and first was involved in the Pacific Seasonal Worker Scheme, and the Pacific division. He served as acting consul in New Caledonia. He also worked in the south and west Asian division.
He was posted to Afghanistan (2010-2012) where he had to live and work in both Kabul and Uruzgan under trying security circumstances which required him to live in shipping containers. As first secretary, he had to assist in opening the new Australian embassy and in the provincial reconstruction team in Tarin Kot. There were many hazards, including earthquakes and frequent explosions. His most unpleasant task was his role in the ramp ceremonies for Australian soldiers who had been killed.
With his expertise in Pakistan affairs he was then posted back to Pakistan as First Secretary (2012-2015). He became a legendary figure there respected, by Pakistan officials and fellow diplomats, and once again his hospitality excelled, and many memorable parties and dinners are reported.
From his first time in Pakistan, he continued his work for the St Joseph’s Hospice in Rawalpindi which had been under threat of closure. Michael helped raise funds and secured experts to help by serving on the committee. Committee meetings were held at Michael’s home usually becoming a dinner as well.
On return to Australia he was deputy head of protocol and then in 2017 he was appointed head of the Australia Group Secretariat. This was an international group of 42 nations plus the EU which was involved in controls on chemical production equipment and technology that might be misused for chemical weapon purposes and this was extended to prevent the proliferation of biological weapons. Michael organised regular meetings and seminars for this group.
His natural and honest manner meant he became a trusted figure by people in other embassies and government departments. He became a respected figure to the diplomatic community. Despite this involvement in life there his loyalty was to Australia.
When a few years later he returned to Pakistan to lead a seminar the Australian high commission was amazed at the doors Michael could open and the high regard in which he was held.
His funeral at St George’s Anglican Church, Melbourne, was packed with over 340 people, many coming from overseas and interstate to pay their respects to this popular diplomat whose life was cut so short.
While Michael was in hospital, friends collected reminiscences from those he had worked with. This is one from Joel McGregor, who writes:
“While in Afghanistan with MG, I quickly came to rely on his unflappable behaviour, constant support and ever-present good humour. Whether to find out how to book flights, clear a cable etc. MG was the ‘go-to person’.
“Once, returning from a hard rotation with a 72-hour stretch without sleep, I arrived back at the embassy a total mess. It was late, MG recognised my situation and spontaneously arranged a party on the embassy roof, providing drinks and lovely food.
“The event slowly restored me, and I even relaxed. Then there was a familiar crumpling noise and reverberations. We all paused in silence calculating how close was the explosion was it an attack were we safe?
“MG broke the silence, laughed pointed to his gin and tonic and said, ‘shaken but not stirred’.”
Michael Gregory never partnered and is survived by his parents, a sister (Elizabeth) and a brother (Christian).
Alan Gregory is Michael Gregory’s father.