Penelope Wensley was born in Toowoomba and completed a Bachelor of Arts degree with First Class Honours at the University of Queensland in 1967.
In 1968, Dr Wensley joined the Australian Foreign service and pursued a highly distinguished career as a diplomat, representing Australia in a wide range of overseas posts and senior policy positions until 2008, when she became Queensland's twenty-fifth Governor.
Among her prestigious diplomatic appointments, she served as Australia's Ambassador to the United Nations for seven years, in both Geneva and New York, as Ambassador for the Environment, High Commissioner to India and Ambassador to France. She has been awarded honorary Doctorates by The University of Queensland, Griffith University and the Queensland University of Technology.
In 1994, The University of Queensland named her as the first woman Alumnus of the year. In 2001, Penelope was made an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO), for her distinguished contributions to Australia's international relations. On Australia Day 2011 she was appointed a Companion (AC) in the General Division of the Order of Australia 'for eminent contribution to the people of Queensland, and to Australia's international relations through senior diplomatic representational roles and as a key contributor to initiatives of the United Nations'.
Dr Penelope Wensley was awarded Honorary Fellow membership of the Environment Institute of Australia and New Zealand in 2014.