Helen Salmon, British Council Director Australia

Helen Salmon
Director, British Council Australia

The UK and Australia were recently described to me as ‘the two most distant but closest nations on earth’.

That is certainly my experience. Like so many before me, I went for a year abroad and came home 15 years later. Now wherever I live, I leave part of my life behind. My children are both Blackpool Pier and Bondi Beach, proud that they completely belong, and don’t quite belong, in each.

Over a million UK citizens have chosen to live in Australia, and in return the largest segment of Australian expats made their home in the UK. Our societies are intertwined through friends and family, language and humour. Through science and education, history and sport. In our institutions and our constitution.

This edition of Crossing Points is an opportunity to reflect on our shared history, and to explore who we are now as modern and diverse nations. It also looks to our future in a changing technological, environmental and geopolitical landscape.

We are at a pivotal point in our relationship. Australia’s twenty-eight years of continuous economic growth is attractive in the context of Brexit, and the UK will continue to be a key partner for investment and innovation. Australia is also an essential ally for the UK, an Asia-Pacific leader with strong ties to China as well as a trusted member of the Commonwealth, Five Eyes and G20.

Our bonds however run at a much deeper level. According to British Council research into values and perceptions, both young Australians and Britons rank equality and diversity as the number one value that the world should encourage. This is heartening, as we are two rich multicultural societies with a colonial history that still shapes our present, and we have much yet to hear and to understand about each other.

Our young people also agree on the most pressing issues for world action: poverty, extremism, terrorism, and climate change. The great challenges for the next generation will be global ones, and in order to face them international cooperation is essential.

The British Council creates the conditions for this collaboration. For nearly 75 years in Australia we have been connecting individuals and institutions in order to share knowledge and culture. We build a bedrock of mutual understanding, empathy and trust.

As a dual citizen I am conscious of the great mutual affection, the achievements, the untapped potential, and the complexities of our relationship. As we negotiate closer economic ties, I hope that we will also seize this moment to look more closely at who we really are, and who we want to be.