(check against delivery)
Australia Day reception: 5 February 2020
Speech by Andrew Ford, Australian Consul-General in Kolkata
Chief Guest Shri Atri Bhattacharya IAS, Principal Secretary, Consumer Affairs Department, Government of West Bengal
Friends of Australia in Kolkata
Welcome to the first Australia Day reception hosted by the Australian Consulate-General in Kolkata following our opening in March 2019.
Today we acknowledge our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nation peoples, the first inhabitants of the Australian nation and the traditional custodians of our Australian lands, and pay respects to their elders, past, present and future.
Australia Day, 26 January, is a day to reflect on what it means to be Australian, to celebrate contemporary Australia and to acknowledge our history.
Australia Day reflects Australia’s rich 65,000 years of indigenous heritage, our European foundations and our modern multicultural character.
India is very much part of modern multicultural Australia.
We have traditionally been great rivals on the cricket field but these days one in 50 Australians (2%) were born in India.
Currently there are over 109,000 Indian students in Australia, the second largest international group after students from China.
Over 360,000 tourists visited Australia from India last year – our fastest growing group of foreign visitors to Australia.
Australia’s decision to open the Consulate-General in Kolkata last year was a recognition of the importance of India to Australia, particularly the east and north-east of India.
The decision was made in response to our Foreign Policy White Paper and our India Economic Strategy out to 2035 which places India at the forefront of our economic relations.
The Consulate is still relatively new but our presence in Kolkata has enabled us to build and develop Australia’s partnerships and exchanges, and to facilitate business and other opportunities.
This is shown by the people in the room today who come from universities, companies, business associations, media, NGOs, think tanks and cultural bodies, just to name some.
I want to particularly thank those of you who have helped us to establish our Consulate including the West Bengal Government, the Ministry of External Affairs and the British Deputy High Commission, with whom we are co-located.
Since we began operations we have hosted a visit to the city by the Australian Minister for Resources, mining and resources delegations, Australian writers and performers, as well as scientists, scholars and business.
Shortly we will move into our permanent office space at 1A Ho Chi Minh Sarani, where we have had our temporary office for the past year.
Our focus will remain on building commercial, economic and people to people links with the 13 states of east and north-east India which we cover.
We are keen to further enhance Australia’s profile as a natural partner in this region.
We will soon begin to provide consular services to Australians in this part of India but not visas which will continue to be processed out of our High Commission in New Delhi.
Ladies and Gentlemen
As many of you know, in the past few months Australia has faced widespread bushfires.
I want to thank those who have provided support and offered goodwill in response to the bushfires.
While there are still some bushfires burning, Australia is moving beyond emergency response to recovery and rebuilding.
We want you to know that Australia remains open for business and welcomes tourists to our beautiful country.
There are many regions within Australia that remain unaffected and will continue to offer tourists the incredible tourism experiences that our country is known for.
So please continue to enjoy your holidays in Australia and send your children to study there.
The T20 cricket ad you have just seen is a great example of what is on offer when you visit Australia.
We hope some of you will travel to Australia to enjoy the women’s T20 World Cup starting this month and the men’s T20 world cup in October.
Shortly we will be serving dinner.
The theme for tonight’s dinner is a mixture of Australian and Bengali food reflecting our rich and diverse cultures.
Please take the time to enjoy the food of both our cultures.
We are also serving you Australian wine tonight from the Margaret River region in Western Australia and McLaren Vale in South Australia.
They are a Vasse Felix Shiraz, a Vasse Felix Semillion Sauvignon Blanc and a Hardys Sir James Cuvee Brut sparkling.
You can’t yet purchase these wines here in Kolkata but we hope one day you will be able to.
Ladies and Gentlemen
Thank you for joining us tonight.
Christine and I are enjoying our time here in Kolkata and we have loved getting to know the food and culture of the city and particularly its people.
Thank you for welcoming us to this wonderful city.
Please enjoy your evening
Dhonnobad Apnader shobai ke aajke ekhane asshibaar jonno…….. [Thank you all for coming tonight]