AUSTRALIA House is celebrating 100 years since King George V laid its foundation stone, initiating construction of the High Commission on the Strand in London.
The mission at Australia House is Australia’s oldest diplomatic seat and the longest continuously occupied foreign mission in London.
Australia’s High Commissioner to the UK, Mike Rann, said: “This stunning building has been the stalwart sentinel for the Aussie spirit here in the UK and is used everyday for the promotion of Australian business, tourism, sporting, arts, and defence interests.”
At the foundation King George V used a mallet to tap the stone into position, a block of Australian trachyte shipped over especially for the occasion. Shouts of “coo-ey” rang out as the grey-green stone was set in to place.
The Queen Consort and the royal couple’s only daughter Princess Mary attended the ceremonies on 24 July, 1913.
The “impressive ceremony” was witnessed by 1,700 guests including the first High Commissioner to the UK and former Australian Prime Minister, Sir George Reid.
Australia House was a symbol of Australia’s budding nationhood and represented political harmony between Australia and the UK, Sir Reid said.
The foundation stone contained a bronze box filled with plans of the building, a program of proceedings and an inventory of the members of the Australian Government.
The building was not officially opened until 3 August, 1918, as the First World War caused labour shortages, delaying construction.
Australia House cost around £1 million to build, including land costs of £379,756.
Famous Aussie visitors to the Commission include Dame Nellie Melba, Sir Don Bradman, Dame Joan Sutherland, Dame Edna, Kylie Minogue, and Hugh Jackman.