Mara Moustafine is a writer and researcher whose career has encompassed diverse roles with an international focus. She has worked as a diplomat and intelligence analyst for the Australian government, a foreign affairs journalist, a business executive in Asia and as national director of a global human rights organisation.
Born in Harbin, China into a family with Jewish, Russian and Tatar roots, Mara grew up in Sydney, Australia where she emigrated with her family in 1959. Bilingual in Russian and English, she majored in government and literature, graduating with a BA (Hons) from Sydney University and later a MA in International Relations from the Australian National University.
Her first book, Secrets and Spies: The Harbin Files was published by Random House Australia in 2002. It tells the story of her family’s life over 50 turbulent years in China and her quest to uncover the fate of relatives who returned to the Soviet Union in the 1930s and were caught in Stalin’s purges. Secrets and Spies was awarded a NSW Premier’s Literary Award in 2003 and shortlisted in 2004 for the Kiriyama Prize and Australia’s National Biography Award. The Chinese edition of the book, translated by Li Yao -Harbin Dang’an - was published in 2008 by the Zhonghua Book
For most of the 1990s, Mara lived and worked in Asia - in Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos. During her posting as Counsellor in the Australian Embassy in Bangkok, Mara had key involvement in the Cambodian peace process. She then moved to head up the Cambodian operations of Australia’s major telecommunications company, Telstra and later became its regional head in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos.
Mara’s recent research interests have included the history of the Russian and Jewish communties in China and the Russians in Australia. She was senior research associate on the Making Multicultural Australia educational website project.
Mara is a Member of the Refugee and Migration Review Tribunals and an independent reviewer of asylum claims for the Independent Protection Assessment Office. She has held a number of Board and advisory appointments in the educational and cultural sectors and is currently on the Board of UWSCollege. She lives in Sydney with her husband Andrew Jakubowicz and Tibetan terrier Genghis.