Tuesday, 15 March 2022

It is Rod’s and my great pleasure to host this reception to mark the conclusion of the Australian portion of the very first UK/Australia Season, and to thank the many people and organisations who have made it happen.

It is almost 25 years since we both worked – for our respective diplomatic services on what was then called “New Images” a bilateral program of cultural events which introduced the “Cool Britannia” branding to Melbourne Fashion Week.

New Images sought to address the outdated stereotypical images we had of each other and which dominated at the time.

Now, our countries need each other as never before and are actively working to strengthen our bilateral partnership and, through AUKUS, our trilateral partnership with the United States.

The UK/Australia Season, launched in both countries in September last year, celebrates our contemporary diversity and has been embraced with an enthusiasm which bodes well for other areas of cooperation and collaboration.

It’s the largest ever cultural exchange between the two nations, and I’m especially proud of the significant role South Australian performances have made to the program, as part of the Adelaide Festival and Adelaide Fringe.

Across Australia, the six-month program has seen 150 events take place across multiple artforms.

To deliver such an ambitious program during a global pandemic, with its financial and logistical challenges, would have taken the extraordinary resilience and tenacity of everyone involved.

I commend the UK and Australian arts and higher education sector, the British Council and DFAT for their outstanding work, enabling face to face performances in every state and territory over the past six months, in addition to a strong digital presence.

Two thirds of the British companies who received grants from the British Council had not collaborated with Australia before, enabling local audiences to access unseen works and new experiences.

I thank the many organisations which have contributed funding to the UK/Australia Season, including national and state government, arts councils, and philanthropic patrons.

I thank the Season Directors and their teams, who have led the project through the challenges of the past three years.

These are Helen Salmon, Creative Director of the British program in Australia, and Director of British Council, who is with us this evening;

And Michael Napthali, Creative Director of the Australian program in the UK.

I pay tribute to High Commissioner George Brandis in London and High Commissioner Vicki Treadell in Canberra, whose exuberant support has been vital to the Season’s success.

As the Australian program of the UK/Australia Season comes to an end, I wish the UK program every success as it continues until the end of this year.

And if you would like to see a local performance, there are still two running this week: Sky Song, a performance by drone art specialists Celestial and First Nations artists, down in McLaren Vale; as well as Chineke! Chamber Ensemble at the Adelaide Town Hall.

Enjoy each other’s company and creativity.