On 3 August 1918, Australia House opened in London. Australia House is the home of Australia in the UK.
This extraordinary building has been the location of the Australian High Commission for over one hundred years. It is the oldest continually-occupied diplomatic building in London and it was the first major public building of the new Commonwealth of Australia.
The day King George V opened Australia House, on 3rd August 1918, the Exhibition Hall, was filled with distinguished guests to mark the significance of the occasion. Taking pride of place among the leading citizens of the land were some 300 wounded Australian servicemen, specially invited by the High Commissioner, Andrew Fisher. In thanking the King, Fisher said:
“It is the earnest wish of the Commonwealth Government that Australia House may be a tangible sign to the people of the United Kingdom that their interests and those of their kinfolk in the great Commonwealth overseas are common alike in peace and in war.”
And so, over this past century, has it proved to be.
Australia House is an enduring symbol of that kinship.
And it is much more besides.
It is a statement of Australia’s confidence in its own future. It is an architectural jewel, London’s finest example of the belle époque style which flourished here briefly in that short span of time between the end of the Gothic revival and the blight of modernism. It is – has always been – a focus of the Australian community in London, for whom, over many generations, it has been a place to meet friends, to transact business, to catch up with news, to vote, to observe national occasions; often to celebrate, sometimes mourn.
Here, Australians have rejoiced in the success of our cricketers, our footballers, and our tennis players; toasted the virtuosity of our musicians, our singers and our artists; savoured the delights of our chefs and our vignerons; chuckled at the wit of our comedians. In this Exhibition Hall, we have enjoyed, and shared with the rest of London, the very best that Australia has to offer.
The destinies of our two nations may have diverged over these past hundred years, but our shared interests, our common values, the crimson threads of kinship that bind us, remain as strong as they have ever been. The United Kingdom can be absolutely certain: the bonds between our two peoples will remain as solid as Australia House itself – a monument to their permanence and their endurance.