An evening of music, featuring members of the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra, as well as an array of Australian cuisine, marked the second Australia Day in the country Wednesday at Sheraton Grand Doha Resort & Convention Hotel.
The celebration was described as a fitting occasion to honour Australia’s forefathers and its people, and highlight the strong ties between Qatar and Australia. It was attended by HE the Minister of Municipality and Environment Abdullah bin Abdulaziz bin Turki al-Subaie, the Ministry of Education and Higher Education undersecretary Dr Ibrahim bin Saleh al-Nuami, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' Chief of Protocol Ibrahim Yousuf Fakhroo, and the Diplomatic Corps dean ambassador Ali Ibrahim Ahmed, as well as other diplomats and guests.
“Australians come together and celebrate our nation on this occasion. We pay respect to the First Australians, who have lived in Australia for 60,000 years. Their culture is the world’s oldest continuous culture, a culture that is alive today,” ambassador Dr Axel Wabenhorst said.
“The first British settlers arrived on Australia Day, January 26, 1788. They braved hardship and built lives and families, and laid the foundations for modern Australia,” he noted. “We embrace all those who’ve come since. On Australia Day this year, over 16,000 people from all over the world gained Australian citizenship in ceremonies across the country.”
The envoy also highlighted Australia’s many achievements in various sectors that improved the lives of billions of people around the globe. These include innovations such as the black box flight recorder, Google Maps, Wi-Fi, the cochlear implant for the hearing-impaired, and the spray-on skin for burns victims, among others. Australia, he added, produced 14 individual Nobel laureates, eight of them in physiology or medicine.
Dr Wabenhorst also underlined Qatar’s remarkable resilience in the face of a blockade, maintaining its welcoming attitude towards all residents, including Australians. Qatar is home to about 3,100 Australians contributing to its development, he said. Many are working in diverse sectors, including engineering, construction, oil and gas, finance, aviation, education, health care, sports science and journalism.
While reiterating Australia’s support to Kuwait’s mediation in resolving the Gulf crisis, he stressed that the GCC dispute has separated families, prompting Qatari employees, students and hospital patients overseas to return to Qatar.
The envoy also underscored Qatar Airway’s (major sponsor for the celebration) significant role in the bilateral relations between the two countries saying the airline “connects Australia to the world.” It now has daily flights from Qatar to five Australian cities, after the addition of Canberra in February 2018.
He hopes that the airline’s expansion will entice more people from Qatar to discover Australia as a holiday destination, which is safe, stable and welcoming. “You will find outstanding shopping and restaurants, and unique indigenous culture, landscapes and wildlife.”
Dr Wabenhorst said there is scope to expand the areas of co-operation between Qatar and Australia in the future, especially in education.
“Australia's universities and research institutions are among the world's best and offer great opportunities for partnerships,” he noted. “They are already collaborating with Qatari academics and officials, including through the Qatar National Research Fund.”
The envoy added that Australia is the third most popular destination for foreign students in the world, and “I would love to see more Qatari students study in Australia.”