Dear Members and Friends,
Let me start with the news that our High Commissioner, HE the Hon. George Brandis QC, has completed his four year term and now returned to Australia. We are very grateful for having had the High Commissioner's unwavering and generous support during his term. His Excellency has done much to further the Australian/UK relationship with major contributions to the cornerstone planks of that relationship - defence (AUKUS), trade (the new FTA) and culture (the "Season of Culture"). Amongst his many other achievements, the High Commissioner also initiated the Covid-19 vaccine swap at a critical time in the pandemic when Australia was short of supplies. His generosity and enthusiasm will be missed by all the key Australian groups in the UK and I am sure you all join with me in thanking His Excellency and wishing him well.
Last week, Jacqui and I had the great privilege to attend various events to mark ANZAC Day. It was certainly cold at 4.30am for the Dawn Service at the Australian and New Zealand war memorials at Hyde Park Corner but the chill was muted by the memory of those who died at Gallipoli and in other battles in the fight for our freedom. The commemorative laying of wreaths at the Cenotaph, led by the Duke of Cambridge, and the magnificent service at Westminster Abbey were incredibly moving. It was wonderful to see the great number of people at each of these events, including so many B-AS Members and friends. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge represented Her Majesty, the Queen at the Westminster Abbey service, highlighting the importance of ANZAC Day in each of Australia, NZ and the UK.
Across the UK, Britain-Australia Society Branch Members marked ANZAC Day in further poignant ways. Our Cambridgeshire Branch held a special service at the Commonwealth War Graves in Cambridge on23April. On 24 April, our B-AS West Country Branch held its very popular ANZAC Day lunch at The Infantry Officers' Mess at Warminster followed by a Service of Remembrance at the Church of St John the Evangelist, Sutton Veny. While in Norwich, Norfolk B-AS Members attended a beautiful service with its committee handing out fresh rosemary sprigs to all attendees to signify remembrance. And on ANZAC Day itself, B-AS Leicestershire Branch Members attended the ANZAC service at the Leicester Welford Road Cemetery with Branch Chairperson, Barry Wilford, laying a wreath on behalf of the B-AS. It has been so moving to hear from so many of our Members who attended these services up and down the country.
May sees a very exciting month with two key events. On 12 May we have the next episode in our very popular "First Eight" lecture series delivered by the Australian National University's Dr David Headon. The subject of this lecture is the life and times of Sir Edmund Barton, Australia's very first Prime Minister. On 26 May we have, of course, our fabulous black tie Gala Dinner at The Savoy in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the founding of the B-AS. As you know, our 50th anniversary was in 2021 and the planned celebrations were unavoidably delayed by the pandemic.
The "First Eight" lectures have been extremely popular for their fascinating insight into the personal and political lives of the founders of the Australian Federation. Sir Edmund Barton, "Australia's noblest son", was undoubtedly the key to the success of Federation. If you haven't already booked a place for this event on 12 May, 6.30pm - 8.30pm at the Royal Over-Seas League, I would encourage you to do this now. Sir Edmund's grandson will be attending. Dr Headon is the leading expert on Australia's early Prime Ministers and there will be the opportunity to meet him over drinks following the lecture. All guests will receive a complimentary copy of Dr Headon's newly launched manuscript on Sir Edmund Barton. Places are limited so do book now to avoid disappointment. BOOK HERE
Regardingour Gala Dinner, we are thrilled to report that Her Majesty, the Queen has written to all of us sending a special congratulatory message on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the B-AS. We will share the contents of this letter with you in due course.
And don't forget our Summer Party on 15 June.Booking details will be released shortly. Tickets always sell out very fast for this popular event so please keep an eye on your inboxes!
As many of you know, I am also the UK Chairman of the brilliant Australian Chamber Orchestra. On 16 June, the evening after our Summer Party, I am hosting a very special, private screening of one of the ACO's "StudioCast" films, together with a drinks reception, at the Soho Hotel in Mayfair. The StudioCasts are beautifully crafted films of the ACO performing outstanding works in their studio at the Sydney Opera House during lockdown. The screening and reception event is for our UK Patrons and Friends as a prelude to the ACO's October tour to London and Berlin. However I have TWO pairs of tickets for two lucky B-AS Members to attend, with a friend, as my guest. Entry details are below. A limited number of tickets to this exciting event will be available for general sale in the coming days. For further information, please email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We were absolutely inundated with entries for our April draw for two tickets to the sold out members' day at the RHS Chelsea Flower show. As I was in the office, Marina and Louise asked me to draw the lucky winner, taking the photo below. A big congratulations to B-AS Member Edward Hoddle. Thank you also to the many Members who entered.
We have another fabulous draw for Members this month! As part of the Queen's Platinum Jubilee celebrations, Her Majesty' Household Division is holding a large scale military and musical spectacular on Horse Guards Parade on 5, 6 and 7 July. The Royal Household has very generously given us two tickets for one lucky B-AS Member to attend the opening night on 5 July. Entry details are below. To become a Member of the B-AS and to support the work we do, please click here.
Finally, for all cricket enthusiasts, the Australia House Cricket Club is gearing up for a fabulous season and is looking to recruit new players and supporters. The Club is the official representative team of the Australian High Commission. Formed nearly 125 years ago, it counts several former Australian Test cricketers among its alumni - along with many others of course! If you have a connection with Australia and a keen interest in cricket - whether to play or simply to join in as a supporter - please email email@example.com.
Damian J. Walsh