State Visit to Australia, October 2017
Published: Tue 12th Dec, 2017 | 10:17
In October 2017, President Higgins undertook a State Visit to Australia, the first such visit by an Irish head of state since 1998.
During the State Visit, the President highlighted the many historic connections between Ireland and Australia, including the experiences of people fleeing famine, poverty and forced labour, but also highlighting the many contributions made by Irish people to Australian society, most notably in education, health care, infrastructure and politics.
The President said that “the migratory stories of the many Irish who have travelled to Australia across the decades and the centuries are myriad and complex. They are stories that have created a profound link between our two countries, and a friendship that stretches across the many thousands of miles that separate us.”
Today, over 90,000 Irish-born people live in Australia and 2 million Australians record their ancestry as Irish.
During the State Visit, the President thanked the Irish communities in Australia for “extending the hand of friendship” to the new waves of immigrants, saying the migratory history of the Irish people should “give us a certain consciousness” on the rights of migrants in today's world.
The President also highlighted the growing business and tourism links between the two countries, encouraging Australian entrepreneurs to see Ireland as a bridge to the European Union, and praising the work of organisations such as the IDA, Enterprise Ireland and Tourism Ireland.
As part of the State Visit, the President delivered addresses to some of the country's most prestigious universities. In Melbourne, the President reflected on the economic policies that influenced much of the early Irish immigration into Australia, and in Sydney, the President spoke of the importance of "acknowledging, questioning, sometimes revising, but always remembering, in an ever more inclusive way, the events of our collective past", in order to "begin to build a collective future.”
The President paid tribute to the friendship between Ireland and Australia, saying "Good friends can bridge gaps of time and space, and they understand each other, despite – or rather because of – their differences. And good friends bring out the best in each other."
This video presents a brief overview of the State Visit. For more information, see the Diary section of www.president.ie