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May 2024 Newsletter

Dear Members and Friends,

ANZAC Day this year saw a return to our full suite of commemorative services. I was proud to lay a wreath on behalf of the Britain-Australia Society at the very early and very moving Dawn Service at Wellington Arch, just between the respective Australian and New Zealand war memorials. That was followed by the 11am service at the Cenotaph and the ANZAC commemorative service at Westminster Abbey attended by over 2,000 people. The Duke of Edinburgh represented the King at each of these events. And finally, in the evening, I had the honour of attending a reception at Australia House jointly hosted by the Australian and New Zealand High Commissioners.

On Sunday 28 April, I was very pleased to attend the ANZAC Day service in Norwich hosted by Richard Robins, Chair of our Norfolk Branch, and his fabulous committee. The hugely well attended service was held in the very cold but very beautiful St Peter Mancroft church and I was proud to lay a wreath there as well. See photos below. Unfortunately, I could not join our West Country Branch for its annual ANZAC Day lunch and Service of Remembrance at Sutton Veny.

While on the ANZAC theme, our full-house Defence event on 17 April was a huge success with a vibrant and thought-provoking discussion between Rear Admiral James Parkin CBE, Director Develop for the Royal Navy, and Brigadier Grant Mason DSC DSM ADC, the head of the Australian Defence Staff in the UK, expertly moderated by Sophia Gaston of Policy Exchange. As noted in the introductory remarks from HE the Hon. Stephen Smith, this event could not have been more timely with the concurrent release of the Australian National Defence Strategy. A huge thank you to the teams at Australian Defence and the High Commission in supporting this milestone event. The on-stage chemistry said everything there was to say about the depth of the relationship between the two forces.

To give personal context to the Australia/UK defence relationship, Rear Admiral Parkin related a fabulous story about his great grandfather avoiding a near bayonet stabbing at Gallipoli when his binoculars got in the way of the bayonet and surviving to go on and marry a girl from South Australia!

On May 29, we are hosting an evening with Julia Gillard. Ms Gillard will be “in conversation” with the AFR’s Hans van Leeuwen on "Life After Politics". You won’t be surprised to hear that this event has proved to be extremely popular and is now sold-out but if you would like to jump on the waiting list, please click here. Thanks again to High Commissioner Stephen Smith who will make the opening remarks and to our sponsors for the event, the Chief of Staff Association. Thanks also to additional support received from Law Squared, the fabulous Yalumba wines and the very best gin from MarGin.

We have also just launched our hugely popular Summer Party to be held at the Royal Over-Seas League in St James on Wednesday 12 June. This event is nearly sold out. Please act quickly to avoid disappointment. You can buy tickets here. For more information please scroll down.

We work closely with the Menzies Australia Institute at King’s College London where B-AS Board Member, Elizabeth Ames, is Chair. The Menzies Institute would like to invite all B-AS supporters to this year's Menzies Lecture on Friday 17 May 2024 which will be delivered by historian Professor Kate Fullagar on the history of Bennelong and Admiral Phillip. If you have any interest in the early history of modern Australia, I am sure you will find this fascinating. I have already booked my place and hope that many of you will be joining me. More information and booking details can be found here.

It's been such a fulfilling and engaging first half to our year and we have loved catching up with so many of our Members and friends. As well as preferential rates for our events, we also run our fabulous monthly prize draws. If you would like to become a Member of the B-AS and support the work we do, please click here. And this month's draw is no exception - we have TWO PAIRS of tickets to give away to TWO lucky B-AS Members to attend the Household Division's Military Musical Spectacular on the evening of 16 July with amazing music, pomp, ceremony and fireworks! Please scroll down for more details, including how to enter the draw.

But there is more! Australian icon Kathy Lette has very kindly offered us a signed copy of her latest book to give away to another lucky member. “The Revenge Club” has been reviewed as a “furiously funny and deliciously outrageous tale of rage and retribution”. Kathy will be at Waterstones, Trafalgar Square, London on Tuesday 7 May at 7:30pm in what will be a very funny conversation with the incredible British actress and comedian, Ronni Ancona, to celebrate the UK launch of this book. I know Kathy will be thrilled to see many Britain-Australia Society Members and friends there.

I am thrilled to report that the restoration of our fabulous Australia Club archives from our predecessor is nearly complete. We have had the physical volumes of original source materials restored as well as digitising their contents for future generations to search and enjoy. We plan to introduce these to you with a launch event and will give you more information on this later. A huge thank you to Lynton Crosby and CT Group for its support in getting this project off the ground.

In our February newsletter, I mentioned the Australian participation in the Dalemain Marmalade Awards in Cumbria. Deputy High Commissioner and B-AS Board member Elisabeth Bowes was one of this year's judges, particularly given the high number of Australian entrants. The winner this year was not Australian and well done to Stephen Snead of Tenbury Wells for taking home the top prize. The award winning marmalades are now available to buy at Fortnum & Mason. Please scroll down for some wonderful photos from our Deputy High Commissioner. Congratulations to all the Australian entrants.

A big congratulations also to the brilliant and still very active Australian artist June Mendoza AO OBE RP ROI HonSWA who celebrates her 100th birthday this month. Born into a musical family in Melbourne, June has lived in England for many years. She is a member of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters and has undertaken commissions of many well-known sitters including HM Queen Elizabeth II, Princess Anne, Diana, Princess of Wales, the Queen Mother, Dame Judi Dench, dozens of Chelsea Pensioners and the entire House of Commons as it was in 1986. Her Australian subjects include John Gorton. She has painted scores of musicians and is the Patron of, amongst other things, B-AS Charity Member, the Tait Memorial Trust. The National Portrait Gallery, London, has three of her portraits. A very happy 100th birthday to June!

I had the pleasure of attending a very pleasant drinks reception in the River Room at the House of Lords on the evening of 16 April. The event was hosted by Baroness Helen Liddell of Coatdyke as a “thank you” to supporters of the Britain-Australia Society Education Trust (BASET) and a recognition for some of the young British and Australian award winners. Many of you know that Helen was UK High Commissioner to Australia 2005-2009. She is a Vice-President of BASET and a great supporter of all the Australian interests in the UK. I recently sent an invitation to you to join me on my “Chairman’s Table” at the BASET 10th Anniversary Dinner on 26 June and I am pleased to say that was quickly filled. Tickets are still available for this fundraiser for this very worthy cause. To buy tickets, please contact BASET here.

There is always a lot going on behind the scenes and we have some great events on our planning table. You might also want to mark your diaries for the Royal Flying Doctor Service Gala Dinner that is being held on 14 November. The RFDS is one of Australia’s greatest charities and well worthy of our support. More on that soon.

Finally, I would like to share some very exciting news. Please may I introduce you to the newest member of our team - Kate Bifield. For many years, Kate has helped to produce the annual Australia Day extravaganza in Australia House. I am thrilled to announce that the B-AS will now be organising an exceptional black tie gala event in a brand-new London location to celebrate all that is amazing about Australia and all Australians. Please save the date of Saturday 25 January 2025! More details will be released in the coming weeks.

Best wishes

Damian Walsh



B-AS Chair, Damian Walsh, having laid the B-AS wreath in London.

Damian Walsh with Richard Robins, B-AS Norfolk Branch Chair, and members of the Norfolk Branch committee in Norwich.

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