Kevin was born in Nambour, Queensland and grew up on a farm nearby in Eumundi. After attending high school in Brisbane, Kevin went on to complete a Bachelor of Arts (Asian Studies) with first class honours at the Australian National University. It was here that his fascination with China began and he started learning Mandarin.
After university, Kevin joined the Department of Foreign Affairs, where he worked as a diplomat and received postings to Stockholm and Beijing. He returned to Australia to become Chief of Staff to Wayne Goss in the Queensland election campaign of 1989 and took on the role of Director-General of the Cabinet during Goss’ time as Premier. Kevin entered Parliament in 1998 after winning the seat of Griffith located in South-East Brisbane.
Kevin successfully led the Australian Labor Party to victory in the 2007 federal election after 11 years of in Opposition. While in office, Kevin’s government set into motion major reforms in domestic policy areas such as health, education, industrial relations, social security and infrastructure. He led Australia’s response to the Global Financial Crisis, reviewed by the IMF as the most effective stimulus strategy of all major economies. Australia was the only major developed economy not to go into recession. On 13 February 2008, Kevin delivered the National Apology to the Stolen Generations in Australia and committed to ‘closing the gap’ between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.
Kevin was also very active on the international stage where his considerable experience in foreign affairs assisted him to pursue numerous major policy achievements. These include making advances on climate change action, his role in the establishment of the G20 and diplomacy in moving towards an Asia-Pacific community through multilateral bodies such as the East Asia Summit, ASEAN and APEC.
Since leaving Australian politics in 2013, Kevin has continued to engage in international affairs. He has been appointed to many prominent roles such as a Visiting Scholar at Tsinghua University in Beijing, Distinguished Statesman at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and Distinguished Fellow at both Chatham House and the Paulson Institute at the University of Chicago. He is also a Senior Fellow at the Belfer Center at the Harvard Kennedy School.
Currently, Kevin serves as President of the Asia Society Policy Institute in New York, a “think-do tank” dedicated to second track diplomacy to assist governments and business on policy challenges within Asia, and between Asia, the US and the West. In 2015, he was appointed Chair of Sanitation and Water for All, a UNICEF-supported organisation working towards universal access to clean water and adequate sanitation. He is also Chair of the International Commission on Multilateralism and Chair of the Board of International Peace Institute's Board of Directors.