Bob Bowker retired from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in 2008 after a 37-year career working mostly on the Middle East. He was posted to Saudi Arabia from 1974 to 1976, and Syria from 1979 to 1981. He was Australian ambassador to Jordan (1989-1992). He was Director of External Relations and Public Information, and later Senior Adviser, Policy Research of UNRWA in 1997-1998, based in Gaza and Jerusalem. He was the Australian ambassador to Egypt (2005-2008) and non-resident Australian ambassador to Syria, Libya, Tunisia and Sudan.
He was DFAT scholar in residence at the Australian National University in 1994, working on questions relating to Middle East regional security; Visiting Reader at the Australian National University in 2004, teaching graduate courses on the origins of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and Persian Gulf security; Adjunct Professor from 2008 to 2016, teaching a graduate course on the politics of change in Egypt and the Arab Middle East, and an Honorary Visiting Fellow at the ANU Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies from 2017 to 2019. He is a frequent commentator in the media on the Middle East.