Dear Members and Friends,
This month sees the Coronation of King Charles III at Westminster Abbey. Up and down the country, and around the world, people will be watching this momentous occasion and celebrating across the long weekend. We are especially proud of the roles played by our own Australian High Commission, Australian Defence Force and State Agents General here in London. Those teams have been busily preparing to host several Australian dignitaries including HE General the Hon. David Hurley AC DSC (Retd), Governor-General of Australia, Prime Minister Albanese and Australian State Governors, as well as making key contributions to the Coronation march and ceremony. I will be celebrating the event with friends and I am sure it will be a day to remember for all of us.
As you know, on 17 May we will be hosting our next big B-AS event, "Meet the High Commissioner", in the Exhibition Hall with HE the Hon. Stephen Smith. This event has now sold out but do email our office if you would like to join our waitlist.
We next have our very popular Summer Party on Wednesday 21 June 6-8pm in the glorious gardens of the Royal Over-Seas League, overlooking Green Park. We are thrilled to be partnering with a team from the Australian National University who are bringing a team of vibrant ANU students to town to embark on an ANZAC battle site study tour - London, Gallipoli, Western Front and Paris. ANU hopes to offer this experience in coming years to B-AS supporters. As in past years, our Summer Party sold out very quickly but there is a waitlist if you missed out on tickets and would still like to join. Again, please get in touch with our office.
April was a very busy month. On 12 April, our National Director Louise Mulley and I were thrilled to join a reception hosted by the High Commissioner to celebrate Australian Women in Sport. Many of the Australian Women’s football team, the Matildas, were there having beaten the England Lionesses 2-0 only the night before. It was exciting to hear from both the High Commissioner and the Deputy High Commissioner regarding Australia's future plans for promoting women in sport as well as the upcoming "Golden Decade of Sport" - with Australia hosting 10 major global sporting events over the next 10 years including the FIFA Women's World Cup this year (co-hosted with New Zealand).
On 17 April, I attended the Centre for Commonwealth Affairs launch reception in Westminster Hall followed by the Australia/UK Chamber of Commerce networking reception where Elisabeth Bowes, Deputy-High Commissioner and B-AS board member, presented a hugely well received update on the Australia-UK Free Trade Agreement. On the 18th, Dave Stewart, Queensland Agent General, hosted a reception in the Downer Room to launch the partnership between the Queensland Art Gallery and the V&A Museum.
On 20 April, I attended the 2023 Menzies Lecture at the Menzies Australia Institute’s School of Australian Studies at King’s College. Frank Bongiorno delivered a captivating lecture entitled “Australia – a New Political Geography” followed by a reception to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Institute, hosted by the Director, Agnieszka Sobocinska. In her relatively short time in her role, Agnieszka has become a regular at our events and someone you should meet. For more on the work of the Institute, see https://www.kcl.ac.uk/menzies.
25 April was of course ANZAC Day which saw me at the Dawn Service, jointly hosted by the Australian and New Zealand High Commissioners, at the Australian War Memorial where I laid a wreath on your behalf. That was followed by the 11am service at the Cenotaph. This annual tribute and commemoration to the men and women who sacrificed their lives defending our values is always one of the most moving days of my year, as I am sure it is for you.
London Legacy was formed in 1923, just after the first World War, with the simple aim of supporting the families of fallen soldiers and is now celebrating its centenary year. I was pleased to be invited to join leaders of the Legacy organisation from both Australia and the UK for the arrival of the Legacy Torch at the Australian War Memorial on Friday the 28th, followed by a reception at the Cavalry & Guards Club. The following evening, we hosted a table at the London Legacy Centenary Dinner at the Lansdowne Club and both Jacqui and I were there, together with Louise and her partner. This wonderful evening raised a significant sum for a very important cause.
The digitising of our archive materials is in its advanced stages and we are moving now to the paper conservation work which is a very delicate and time-consuming process. We will soon send the physical books and papers off to our print restorer. In the meantime, in this month's Snippets from the Archives, and in the context of the Coronation of the King, you will see below a photograph of the King when, as a much younger Prince Charles, he attended the Australia Club Australia Day dinner at the Dorchester on 27 January 1970, the year before the Australia Club reconstituted as the Britain-Australia Society. We look forward to reporting further about our plans for these exceptional archive materials once our print restoration takes place. Thanks must go again to CT Group which has been a key supporter of this important project.
As well as the events mentioned above, we have lots of exciting things planned for the rest of this year. We have the celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the opening of the Sydney Opera House on 13September. Our President’s Reception with Lord Hague will be held on 27 September in the Exhibition Hall. The next in our“First Eight” Lecture series addressing the life and contribution of Australia’s first Labor Prime Minister Chris Watson will be held on 2November. Our year will end with our very popular Christmas Carols at St Mary-le-Bow on 7 December. Please do make a note of these dates and we will send booking details in due course.
And we will soon be announcing a very special event scheduled for 3 July. Please do keep an eye on your inboxes for that!
Congratulations to our lucky Member who won our April draw for tickets to the sold-out members' day at the Chelsea Flower Show! For our May draw, marketing and musical impresario, Roger Neill (who many of you will remember was our fabulous moderator at our "Night with Dame Nellie Melba" last year), has published his new book "The Simonsens of St Kilda: A Family of Singers". Roger has very kindly offered to give away a signed copy to one lucky B-AS Member. Please scroll down for entry details...and to become a Member of the B-AS and support the work we do, please click here.
Damian J. Walsh