Dear Members and Friends,
What a very busy and exciting time we had in September! And we’ve hit the ground running in October.
On 14 October, Australians will be asked to vote on an alteration to the Australian Constitution to establish an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander “Voice” to Parliament. On Tuesday this week, the Britain-Australia Society, in collaboration with the Menzies Australia Institute, hosted a discussion with a panel of experts on the constitutional background to the referendum. Expertly chaired by Dr Agnieszka Sobocinska, the Director of the Menzies Australia Institute, the panel was not advocating a particular yes/no perspective on the Referendum but sought to place the Voice in its historical and political context as Australians prepare to vote in the first referendum in more than 20 years. For a better understanding of the issues, it proved to be a wonderful, moving evening, exceeding my expectations and enjoyed by about 150 guests.
Voting is compulsory for Australians and Australia House is now open for voting until 6pm Friday 13 October. More details available on the Australian High Commission website.
Looking back to last month, on Wednesday 13 September, in conjunction with Investment NSW and the Institution of Engineers Australia (UK), we hosted a fabulous event in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Sydney Opera House. Held in the beautiful Brunel-designed Great Hall of the Institution of Civil Engineers in London with a key note speech from the worldwide Chair of Arup Group, Dr Alan Belfield, this was a fitting tribute to an exceptional collaboration between British and Australian engineers to create this internationally recognised, iconic symbol of Australia. Many thanks to event sponsor, Arup, and particularly Jerome Frost, Chair of Arup's UK, India, Middle East, and Africa (UKIMEA) businesses. Thanks also to Investment NSW and the team from the Sydney Opera House who helped us stage this event. Photos from the night can be seenhere.
Our AGM was held on Monday 25 September in the Australia Centre. It was great that a number of our Members were able to join us at the meeting and for some convivial drinks afterwards. Last year was a very productive year and 2023 has been equally full and exciting. As ever, thank you to all our Members and Corporate Members who show us such incredible support. We have some fabulous events planned for 2024!
On Wednesday 27 September we held our hugely popular annual President's Reception in the Exhibition Hall of Australia House. I moderated an entertaining and informative discussion between B-AS President, Lord Hague and Australian High Commissioner, Stephen Smith, addressing Contemporary Foreign Affairs impacting Australia and the UK. A broad ranging discussion highlighted the many levels of deep trust and cooperation between the UK and Australia as we together face the major security, economic, environmental and other critical issues. A big thank you to our event sponsor, Sia Partners, as well as MarGin who supplied the delicious cocktails served. Please click here to see photos of the evening.
Looking forward, on 2 November the team from the Australian Studies Institute of ANU will return to Australia House for the next lecture in the “First Eight” series in which we find out everything we don’t know about Australia's early Prime Ministers. This time, Professor Headon will discuss the fascinating life and times of Australia's first Labor Prime Minister, Chris Watson, born in Chile, grew up in New Zealand and arrived in Australia alone, out of work and an orphan aged only 19. High Commissioner Stephen Smith will make some opening remarks. When I was at school, we were taught nothing about the lead up to Federation, in which Watson was a key activist, or our early post Federation leaders. Please join with me at Australia House on 2 November to learn something of these early years and the contribution of Prime Minister Watson. Please book now to avoid disappointment. Scroll down for booking details.
And don't forget that on 7 December we will host our enormously popular Christmas Carols at St Mary-le-Bow. The reason we have historically held this at St Mary-le-Bow is because this beautiful little church is tucked in the Ward of the City of London in which Admiral Arthur Phillip was born – and because our Chaplain and host, the Rev George Bush is incredibly entertaining. Booking details will be released soon!
Speaking of Admiral Phillip, a reminder that our West Country Branch will again host the Admiral Arthur Phillip Commemoration Service and Lunch in Bath on Friday 13 October. Details were in the last newsletter – call or email the office if you still need the details. I will be heading out by train in the morning.
Many of you will have met B-AS photographer Annabel Moeller at our events. As well as capturing our special moments, Annabel is an accomplished news and current affairs photographer having worked for several media outlets in a dual British/Australian career spanning 30 years. We are thrilled to announce that Annabel has a stunning exhibition of her works at the Royal Albert Hall this month. "Friends to Frontiers" is a retrospective of her extraordinary body of work. Annabel very kindly invites all B-AS Supporters to a special Open Door Event in the Royal Albert Hall's Ground Floor Corridor on Sunday 8 October between 1.00pm and 5.00pm providing a chance to explore the exhibition and engage with its rich and emotional narrative. It is free to attend and Annabel will be on hand to chat with attendees. I will look forward to seeing many of you there.
And on Thursday 9 November the Royal Flying Doctor Service (Friends in the UK) are hosting an exhibition and fundraising event with Australian-born artist John Berrick at the McKay Williamson Gallery in West London. The Friends of the RFDS would like to extend an invitation to all B-AS Supporters to attend. Please click here to book tickets but please note that places are limited so early booking is advised.
B-AS Board Member, Trish Wadley, is an Australian-born, British-based theatre producer and is currently behind an exciting new production of Othello at Riverside Studios. Trish is offering all B-AS supporters a special £20 only ticket offer for any top price tickets to all performances from October 4-29 with the code TEAMO20 (note it is a Capital O for Othello after TEAM). Book here for your tickets.
Finally, we have an exciting last-minute prize draw for our B-AS Members this month. Australian playwright, Kath Haling, has offered us TWO tickets for one lucky B-AS Member to attend the fabulous press night opening of her new play "The Least We Could Do" at The Hope Theatre, Islington, on 12 October. Please scroll down for details - as well as how to enter! And to become a Member of the B-AS, and support the work we do, please click here.
Damian J. Walsh