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Australia remains open for business

1 February 2020

Welcoming guests to Australia Day Mrs Gita Kamath, High Commissioner of Australia to South Africa began by acknowledging the Aboriginal land on which Australia was founded, and paying respect to traditional elders past and present.

Photo: Mrs Gita Kamath, High Commissioner of Australia to South Africa welcoming guests

The purpose of Australia Day said Kamath “is about recognizing and celebrating the contribution that every Australian makes to our diverse and dynamic nation. From our first Australians - who are proud custodians of the world’s oldest continuous living culture - to those like my own family who have come from all corners of the globe and have the immense privilege of calling Australia home.”

Exhibited at Australia House were paintings from the Ifa Lethu collection, a small selection of the over 300 art works – paintings, drawings, sculptures, wood carvings, and prints, currently in the collection. Kamath shared with guests how the collection came to be saying that it is a remarkable tale of diplomacy, activism, courage and hope.

 Photo: Artworks from the Ifa Lethu  collection on exhibed at Australia House

“In the early 1970s, a young Australian diplomat called Di Johnstone came to South Africa on her first posting and showed great courage by taking a stand against apartheid. She defied the rules to host an exhibition attended by black artists and friends in her flat in Sunnyside. This led to her eviction, but that evening she made an exquisite promise that was to have far-reaching consequences. She said she would ensure this artwork, along with others that had been taken out of the country for safe-keeping, would one day return to a free South Africa. Today, The Ifa Lethu collection has travelled the world.  It is a national treasure, representing a significant part of South Africa’s cultural heritage. It is a powerful symbol of the creative spirit in this country and how it rose above the repressive laws of the time, and it speaks to the enduring bonds between Australia and South Africa.”  

The recent bushfires in Australia have been devastating and Kamath said that they have been unprecedented in scale, intensity and impact. Climate change is a contributing factor and she said that Australia is committed to the Paris Agreement and it will continue to evolve its climate policies to reduce emissions, increase resilience and adapt to climate impacts. Kamath thanked the international community for their support and the many offers of assistance and donations to support bushfire recovery and Australia’s iconic wildlife.

The message was clear that Australia was open for business, “keep buying Australian, keep visiting Australia, keep investing in Australia, keep studying in Australia.”




February/March 2020








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