2020 has been a challenging year for all. However, thanks to the support of our community, our outstanding Board, and the dedication and resilience of our team, the American Australian Association (AAA) is still standing strong, having navigated through unprecedented circumstances to deliver a successful and productive year. We welcomed new team members and bid farewell to others, fostered productive dialogue between American & Australian business leaders and brought new scholars into the AAA family.
Our year started strong with the AAA Arts Awards in New York, where we were privileged to honor singer, songwriter and actor Kylie Minogue and novelist Peter Carey AO for their exemplary contributions to the arts, along with Rising Star actor, Jacob Elordi. Generous thanks to National Australia Bank who have presented the Arts Awards for three consecutive years, in partnership with the Pratt Foundation, News Corp and Bird in Hand. In response to the severe bushfires that affected communities and towns across Australia over the summer, this year’s Arts Awards, in concert with the G’Day USA Gala in Los Angeles, were dedicated to supporting relief efforts. The overwhelming support from these events, combined with a broader fundraising campaign, successfully raised over $2.4 million for Bushfire Relief.
In March, we welcomed Australia’s Ambassador to the U.S., the Hon. Arthur Sinodinos AO at a Business Roundtable in New York, hosted by News Corp. Business Council members and friends of the AAA heard from Ambassador Sinodinos on his dedication to the advancement of Australia. As the severity of coronavirus in New York became apparent, the AAA transitioned to a virtual platform in mid-March. Over the course of eight months, we brought twenty-four informative webinars to over 11,000 viewers. These programs provided resources and community engagement during the global pandemic, covering a range of topics including immigration, economic updates, critical minerals, business resilience, defence innovation, space, arts, healthy minds and more.
As both nations went into shutdown, the state of the economy was fresh on everyone’s mind. The AAA hosted a closed virtual meeting with Mick Mulvaney, Special Advisor to the President, and Michael Plumb, Chief Representative for New York at the Reserve Bank of Australia. Business Council members and invited guests were able to participate in an off the record discussion moderated by the Hon. Joe Hockey, Founding Partner & President of Bondi Partners.
For the first time, ANZAC Day ceremonies transitioned from community dawn services to individuals lighting candles at their front gates to pay respects. To celebrate ANZAC Day, the AAA created a commemorative video featuring heartfelt messages from Ambassador Sinodinos; Former Prime Minister, Julia Gillard AC; Former Governor General of Australia, Dame Quentin Bryce AD, CVO; New Zealand Ambassador H.E. Rosemary Banks; The Hon. Richard V. Spencer, 76th Secretary of the Navy; John Berry, President of the American Australian Association and AAA Greg Norman Veteran Scholar, Tess McGrath. This video was well-received, reaching nearly 9,000 viewers collectively.
Over the next four months, our Business Resilience Series featured conversations with several prominent Australians across a range of industries. Nick Stone, Founder & CEO of Bluestone Lane, spoke to the challenges his cafes, like most in the hospitality industry, had to navigate in the face of heightened restrictions and city-wide shutdowns. News Corp CEO Robert Thomson discussed the ever-changing field of news, information and entertainment in the new-media world, while Nick Collins, President of Telstra Americas, addressed the role of telecommunications during the pandemic and how the industry will support global economies in a post-COVID world. Finally, Aussie legend Greg Norman rounded out the series reflecting on his career as golfer-turned-CEO and offered insight into the impact of COVID-19 on sports.
In July, the AAA hosted its first virtual book club with Pulitzer Prize-winning Australian author Geraldine Brooks AO for a discussion on her bestselling novel, Year of Wonders. In conversation with program host Graham Bradley AM, Geraldine shed light on her thinking behind Year of Wonders’ controversial ending, her new book, Horse, and plans for Year of Wonders, the movie. The event featured an interactive chat for attendees to share their thoughts and ideas throughout the session.
Coupled with the pandemic, America faced a tumultuous lead up to the 2020 Presidential election. As Donald Trump and Joe Biden’s 2020 election campaigns ramped up in August, the AAA delivered the Insights on the US 2020 Presidential Election webinar. Following his remarkable viral interview with the President, National Political Reporter at Axios, Jonathan Swan was joined by the Hon. Joe Hockey to delve into the challenges and predictions facing the United States in the lead up to the election.
In September the AAA partnered with G’DAY USA to present the US – Australia Space Industry Xchange. The webinar focused on Australia’s participation with the US on the return to the Moon – and on to Mars. The program featured Dr. Megan Clark AC, Head of the Australian Space Agency; Dr. Larry Marshall, Chief Executive of CSIRO; and Lt. Gen. Larry James, JPL Deputy Director at NASA JPL. To conclude the program, moderator Colonel Pam Melroy, former Astronaut and Director Space Technology & Policy, Nova Systems, asked our panelists to envision what US-Australian collaboration in space will look like in 10 years.
In mid-October, the AAA hosted Sally Scales and Skye O’Meara of the APY Art Centre Collective for an extremely topical conversation on the power of Indigenous art in times of crisis, for healing and economic empowerment. In conversation with Margo Smith, Director of the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection, they discussed the recent cover of Vogue Australia, featuring APY artist and renowned ngangkari (traditional healer) Betty Muffler, international collaboration, supporting indigenous art ethically and keeping culture strong in the midst of a global pandemic.
Next up, the AAA presented Aussies Abroad: What you Need to Know in collaboration with America Josh. This webinar provided a platform for Australian expats to receive updated information about travel restrictions, immigration, tax and other implications of COVID-19. The expert panel consisted of Katrina Cooper, Embassy of Australia; Zjantelle Cammisa Markel, Cammisa Markel PLLC; John Engstrom, Liberty Travel, Jason Stoch, Uptrend Advisory and was marvellously moderated by Josh Pugh of America Josh.
On November 10, the AAA held our first Virtual Gala to celebrate and honor American and Australian business leaders who advance and strengthen the bilateral relationship, inspiring others to do the same through their visionary leadership and actions. This year we were extraordinarily grateful to our Honorees: Kathy Warden, Chairman, CEO & President, Northrop Grumman Corporation and Dr. Peter Farrell AM, Chairman & Founder, ResMed. They were joined by Gala Host, Jane Gazzo, AAA scholars and special guests Hugh Jackman and Keith Urban. Funds raised will support our Graduate Education Scholarship Fund, enabling continued investment into the future of talented American and Australian researchers and scholars. Gift Baskets filled with specially curated tastes of Australian produce were delivered to gala attendees to enjoy during the streaming of the event, enriching the experience with a taste from home.
In early December AAA partnered with G’Day USA, bringing together an expert panel for the US-Australia Dialogue on Defence Innovation. Our speakers offered expert perspectives on the current landscape and the future of quantum technology. Many thanks to Global NSW and Austrade for their support of this event.
Whilst we hope to return to in-person events as soon as possible, the AAA is building an exciting program for 2021 and is dedicated to supporting our community in the safest way possible. We look forward to connecting with you all online, and eventually in person next year. We wish you all a safe and healthy holiday season.