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February 2024 Newsletter

Dear Members and Friends,

Happy New Year! I hope you had a lovely festive break wherever you may have been.

And Happy Australia Day for last week! Louise and I were privileged to attend a reception hosted by our Corporate Partner, the Commonwealth Bank, at their Ludgate Hill offices, followed by a reception hosted by the High Commissioner at Australia House.

We have some wonderful records of past Australia Day Dinners going right back to 1949 in our Australia Club archives which are now undergoing restoration and digitisation. We plan to showcase them at an appropriate event this year and make them as widely available as possible after that. Below you will see a photo of the cover of the Australia Day Dinner booklet from the 1949 dinner at The Savoy and attended by 400 people (we have the full guest lists and seating plans for all of these dinners). These hugely popular events were hosted by the Australia Club/Britain-Australia Society from 1949 through to 2001 and then by the Australia Day Foundation, constantly evolving and showcasing modern Australian themes through the years and awarding some exceptional individuals.

I am possibly stretching my licence as the author of this newsletter but I have also added a photo of my father, mother and godfather at an Australia Day reception at Australia House in 1951 or 1952. My father is on the left next to my mother and my then future godfather. It’s a long time ago but maybe someone will recognise the others in this photo?

We are planning an array of exciting events this year! Louise and I had a preliminary meeting with our three new Board appointees (who we introduced to you in our December newsletter) prior to our first formal Board meeting later this month. Alastair Walton, Kate O'Neill and Andrew Grill all bring a wealth of experience and expertise to our Board and each has innovative and interesting ideas and perspectives to support the successful trajectory of our Society. For 2024 we have some great events already planned and a number of others in the works.

Highlights include our International Women's Day event on 7 March, 6-8pm, in the Exhibition Hall of Australia House. Held in conjunction with the Australian High Commission, this year's theme is “Empowered - Australian Women on the International Stage”. We have a panel of exceptional women, all of whom are key decision makers in their chosen fields - Deputy High Commissioner, Elisabeth Bowes (who, amongst other things, has held senior roles in trade and diplomacy and led the negotiations of the UK/Australia Free Trade Agreement), Elizabeth Vega OBE (founder and CEO of international technology company Informed Solutions) and Catherine West MP. Catherine was born and grew up in Australia, moved to the UK in 1998 and is now a Labour MP and Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs for Asia and the Pacific. Our panel will be moderated by Isabella Higgins, Europe Correspondent for the ABC News. The discussion will be followed by a drinks reception to enable the audience to meet with our panel members. Those of you who attended our inaugural IWD event last year know what a fabulous evening that was and I encourage all of you to get in early with your booking. A Save the Date has been sent and booking details will be released next week. Like so many of our popular events, we expect this one will also sell out quickly.

We are also thrilled to announce that past Prime Minister Julia Gillard AC has agreed to be our guest speaker for a major event in the Exhibition Hall on Wednesday 29 May, 6-8pm. Please save this date in your calendars for what will also be a very special evening. PM Gillard is a leader in so many areas and an exceptional speaker and this is an event not to be missed. More details will be released in the coming weeks.

Our hugely popular annual Summer Party will be held again in mid-June. Details to follow.

We also look forward to our very popular annual President's Reception with Lord Hague and our annual Carols service and will report more on these shortly. We are also looking forward to the ANZAC Day services and will inform you of those arrangements as soon as possible. We are discussing a new format for this year’s First Eight Lecture looking at the life and times of Australia’s sixth Prime Minister, Joseph Cook, and his legacy. Cook helped shape today’s Australian political scene and was, like other Australian Prime Ministers before him, appointed High Commissioner to the UK. We are also working on some new, unique events for this year and will report as soon as arrangements have been agreed.

As always, our Members get priority and preferential booking rates for all of our events and we value your support greatly. To become a Member of the B-AS please click here and please do tell all your friends to join us!

And we have a special offer for our B-AS Members this month. Leading wine expert and commentator, Matthew Jukes, author of the 100 Best Australian Wines Report, is leading a tasting of the best Australian wines at the Tate Modern on 2 March, 15.30-17.30pm. You will be guided through some exceptional sparkling, white, red and fortified wines. Matthew has donated two VIP tickets to this spectacular tasting to give away to one lucky B-AS Member. Please scroll down for entry details. Further tickets are available to buy on the Tate Modern website – to book, please click here. Matthew is hugely knowledgeable, a great raconteur and a wonderful friend to Australia. Jacqui and I have bought our tickets and are very much looking forward to attending so please join us.

Many of you will have heard Australian/British soprano, Samantha Clarke, an awardee of the Tait Memorial Trust and the Australian Music Foundation, at her performances for the Britain-Australia Society and other Australian organisations in London. Samantha, together with Australian bassoonist, Jane Gower, will be performing with The Mozartists, a UK period orchestra, very well known as exponents of the music of Mozart, on Thursday 2 May 2024 at Wigmore Hall. It would be great to see some other B-AS Members there with us for this performance. Tickets can be booked at

And for something completely different, I was contacted recently by representatives from the Dalemain World Marmalade Awards. This is apparently a huge annual event which this year will be held in the Lake District on 20 April. I was surprised to learn that there are many Australian marmalades amongst the 3,000 entries from around the world! There is even a sister festival held annually in Australia, the Dalemain Australian Marmalade Awards. A few days in the Lake District in April doesn’t sound too bad and I might even make it myself. You can learn more about this tasty event at

Finally, following up from my recent notification and tribute, I have been advised that Sir Christopher Benson’s Funeral is to take place at 2:30pm on 22 February 2024 at Salisbury Cathedral. The family specifically requests “no flowers and no black ties”. Unfortunately I won’t be in the UK and will not be able to attend personally but I expect the Britain-Australia Society will be well represented. The funeral will be live-streamed and if you want details for this, please contact Marina in our office next week.

Best wishes

Damian Walsh


Past Australia Days in London...

From L-R - my father, mother and friends.

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