By Simon Rowell
FOR Australians in London, times they are a changing. The number of Australians making their traditional rite of passage to the UK for a few years of work and European holidays is drying up. Recent Home Office figures suggest applications for the Youth Mobility Scheme (former working holiday scheme) have dropped from 7,000 in the first quarter of 2005 to 3,200 in 2013. It’s no wonder the Walkabout Shepherd’s Bush and Redback have shut down.
But at the same time, there is some evidence of Australian influence increasingly pervading over larger London life. Although at present, we can’t fall back on our traditional sporting dominance, we can turn to notable commercial and cultural successes. From the West to the East, Westfield dominates the London shopping landscape. And whilst there may have been a downfall of a few Aussie-themed pubs, Aussie coffee shops have led a coffee renaissance in London, even bringing the flat white into the supply chains of all the mega coffee shop groups.
What does this mean? Is this a sign of a prospering economy back home whose mining-driven growth prospects and strong Aussie dollar serve to retain Australian youth in search of adventure? Or is it a sign of a subtle but growing confidence in an Australian identity proud it can match it with the best abroad, including with the UK?
It is a good time to ask these questions. The recent federal election has brought the former head of the Australians for a Constitutional Monarchy to the Prime Ministership, and inevitably will raise the question of how a modern Australia should define itself and its relationship with the UK.
One Australian who has been thinking and writing about this question and is returning (albeit for a short time) to the UK is Geoff Gallop.
Geoff Gallop AC has been over to the UK more than a few times, including a stint at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar, before later becoming premier of Western Australia between 2001 and 2006. He has subsequently joined academia and is helping recharge ideas about Government at the University of Sydney and in the COAG Reform Council.
Following on from the successful Being Australia(n) event in London at the London School of Economics (LSE) in late June, the London Steering Committee of the Australian Republican Movement is proud to announce Geoff Gallop will be coming to continue the conversation about Australia’s identity on Thursday 7 November back at the LSE. Geoff is keen to discuss why he thinks Australia needs to face the future as a republic and engage with the unique perspective of Aussies abroad. All are welcome.
Join in this important conversation with Geoff Gallop on Thursday 7 November from 6.30pm to 8.00pm at the 32 Lincoln’s Inn Fields (Room 32L.LG.03) at the London School of Economics & Political Science, WC2A 3PH. Spaces are limited so if would like to come, please RSVP to Simon Rowell on firstname.lastname@example.org.