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All good things come to an end, someone once said, and for me four wonderful years in Berlin and Germany will be coming to a close in late November, when I will be returning to Australia to take up a new role in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra.
But I look back with great satisfaction at the evolution of strong contacts between our two countries in recent times and recall with pleasure my involvement in a very broad range of initiatives and activities which have strengthened our relationship over the past years. This covers both the political and trade areas, but also includes specifically joint projects in science, research and education as well as a very diverse arts program showcasing Australian creative and productive talent in Germany.
Certainly a key development has been the conclusion of the Berlin-Canberra Declaration of Intent on a Strategic Partnership in January this year. It encapsulates the full spectrum of our mutual interests, taking our political and corporate dialogue to a new level. The first round of high-level discussions under the Strategic Partnership agenda took place between German and Australian foreign office representatives in Canberra in early October, and thoughts are already turning to extracting the maximum value from our high-level contacts with Germany during our G20 presidency in 2014.
Also this month, the series of activities celebrating the 200th birthday of Ludwig Leichhardt will culminate with festivities both in Australia and the region of this birth, in and around Cottbus, marking the strong legacy of endeavouring explorative interest in Australia on the part of people from Germany, and illustrating the potential we share in expanding and further developing linkages in science and innovation.
I will leave Germany with incredibly warm memories from the manifold contacts I have made, and this includes the many members of the Australian expat community from a surprisingly – well, at least initially to me – variety of backgrounds. ABIE stands out for bringing together a particular active group of this community. It has been a pleasure and professionally rewarding to be ABIE’s patron in Germany, and I have commended the role to my successor, Mr David Ritchie AO, who looks forward to continuing our very productive collaboration. I wish ABIE as an organisation and all its members the very best with your continuing engagement in our bilateral relationship.