Updated: Nov 1, 2022
Dear Members and Friends,
I am very pleased to report that Stephen Smith, former Minister for Foreign Affairs in the Rudd and Gillard governments, has been named as the next Australian High Commissioner to the UK. I understand he will be taking up the post early next year. In announcing the appointment, Foreign Affairs Minister, Penny Wong, noted the “eminence of Australia’s relationship with the United Kingdom”. We very much look forward to welcoming Stephen to London and supporting him in his role.
The last few weeks have caused us all, whether here, in Australia or around the world, to pause and reflect on the life of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. A truly remarkable and selfless person who dedicated her life to duty and serving others. I have spoken with many of our Members over the last couple of weeks hearing poignant stories as to how you chose to mark your respects to Her Majesty, from laying flowers, being part of the crowds which lined the routes eventually transporting Her Majesty to her final resting place and joining the long queues at Westminster Hall. Her Majesty always had a tremendous affection for the strong ties which bind Britain and Australia and the nations of the Commonwealth generally and she will forever be remembered in our hearts with the greatest affection. Our thoughts are of course with all members of Her Majesty's family and I have written to His Majesty King Charles III on behalf of the B-AS expressing our profound sorrow on the passing of this exceptional woman. A copy of this letter is reproduced for you below.
Our hugely popular annual President's Reception is being held on 5 October in the Exhibition Hall of Australia House. Lord Hague has agreed to lead a tribute to Her Majesty The Queen. This is an opportunity to celebrate how fortunate we are to have lived during her reign. As Foreign Secretary, Lord Hague travelled extensively with Her Majesty, including to Australia, and will share some of his wonderful experiences. Of course, since Lord Hague last spoke to us at our 50th Anniversary Gala Dinner in May, not only have we mourned the death of the Queen but we also have new Prime Ministers in Australia and in the UK and we continue to suffer the ongoing global tragedy of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Lord Hague’s insights into this broad mix of developments will be fascinating. Our Acting High Commissioner, Ms Lynette Wood, will also be speaking. Treasury Wine Estates has generously offered to sponsor the fabulous wines we will be serving and we are delighted that a number of their representatives will be joining us. The event is close to capacity but we have opened up a few additional places. Bookings will close promptly at noon on 4 October. Please click here to purchase tickets.
As mentioned above, the start of September saw the swearing in of a new British Prime Minister. On behalf of the B-AS, I wrote to the Rt Hon. Liz Truss to congratulate her on her appointment. A copy of this letter is also reproduced for you below. As you know, I had previously written to Prime Minister Albanese congratulating him on his appointment.
Our 51st Annual General Meeting was held on Monday 26 September. We were delighted some of you were able to join us and to stay on for a few drinks after the event. At that meeting I thanked our former Deputy High Commissioner, Ms Julie Heckscher, for her support for the B-AS. As many of you know, Julie sat on our B-AS Board as the ex-officio representative of the Australian High Commission. Julie finished her term with the High Commission on 23 September to take up an Ambassadorial role in Europe. Dr Christian Hurst has been appointed Acting Deputy High Commissioner having previously been Minister-Counsellor for Political & Trade Policy. I am sure many of you will enjoy meeting Christian who is attending our 5 October event.
Our final event for 2022 will be our very popular Christmas Carol Service on Wednesday 7 December at 4.30pm at the beautiful St Mary-le-Bow church, hosted by our Chaplain, the Rev. George Bush. Our Acting High Commissioner, Ms Lynette Wood, and some of our Agents-General will do the readings. We will also host our special festive drinks and mince pie reception after the service in the church which is free to all attendees. Booking will open soon so please keep an eye on your inboxes as spaces will be limited.
As mentioned last month, the dynamic and innovative Australian Chamber Orchestra, under the direction of “National Living Treasure” Richard Tognetti, will be in London for its annual residency at The Barbican with three very different performances on 27, 28and 29 October. I am delighted to announce that we have a special offer for our Members this month. We have two pairs of tickets to give away to TWO lucky B-AS Members - a pair of tickets for "Beethoven & Bridgetower" on 27 October or a pair of tickets to see "Indies & Idols" on 29 October. If you would like to enter our Members only draw, please click here. The winners will be notified on 12 October. Full details and ticket purchase options can also be found here. If you would like to become a Member of the B-AS and support the work we do, please click here.
The University of NSW recently joined us as a Corporate Member and UNSW has a very active alumni group in the UK. The UNSW alumni group is hosting a reception and networking event on Monday 24 October to mark the visit of new UNSW Alumni President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Attila Brungs. UNSW would like to reach out to as many UNSW alumni as possible to attend this wonderful event so please do share with your friends and colleagues. Please click here for further details.
And finally, Australia’s national women's soccer team, the Matildas, are in town! They will play South Africa at London’s Kingsmeadow Stadium on Saturday, 8 October 2022 at 12.30pm. Please join me in supporting the Matildas at this big match - the first ever international played at the home ground of Chelsea FC Women - the current Women's Super League champions. Tickets are available exclusively via Chelsea FC's website (only £3 for children/concessions and £10/12 for adults). The Matildas are sponsored by our B-AS Corporate Partner, the Commonwealth Bank.
I look forward to seeing many of you at our Tribute to Her Majesty on 5 October and also at our carols service in December.
Damian J. Walsh