Canberra (Media Release from Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Sri Lanka, 26 June 2023); Australia Sri Lanka Parliamentary Friendship Group was relaunched in Canberra on 19 June 2023 at the Sri Lanka High Commission. This group which has been in existence earlier and had been dormant for the last 3-4 years was relaunched under the Chair of Member of Federal Parliament, Sri Lanka born Cassandra Fernando of the Labour Party and Vice Chair Senator James McGrath of the Liberal Party.
The important feature of the event was the attendance of Hon. Andrew Giles, Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs of Australia who spoke of Australia’s multicultural population and the Australian Government policy to address the needs of the expatriate communities to help especially new comers to integrate into the Australian society. In that context he stated that the Friendship Group could act as a catalyst to link the two countries and that as the Minister for Multicultural Affairs he is happy to support such initiatives.
The High Commissioner while welcoming the Minister and the Members of Parliament present at the event and also those who could not attend the function due to Parliament Proceedings, stated that the High Commission is keen to work closely with the federal Members of Parliament in order to strengthen ties between Sri Lanka and Australia including with the Sri Lanka-Australia Parliamentary Friendship Group already set up in the Sri Lanka Parliament and explore areas of cooperation for the benefit of the two countries. High Commissioner added that she is happy and proud to have two ladies with Sri Lankan connections for the first time in the Australia Federal Parliament, Cassandra Fernando and Dr. Michelle Ananda-Rajah of Sri Lankan decent.
In her address, the Chair, Cassandra Fernando referred to her close affinity to Sri Lanka and her desire to see close cooperation between her country of birth and Australia. She spoke of the need to create a greater understanding between the two countries and to promote bilateral relations. The Vice Chair, Senator McGrath of the Liberal Party in his remarks added that his party would also support any initiatives taken by the Friendship Group.
As the Honorary Consul for Sri Lanka in Queensland Mr. Anton Swan is completing his tenure of office having served over 30 years as Honorary Consul, the occasion provided an opportunity to bid farewell to him. The High Commissioner spoke of some of the highlights of his 50 years in Australia and the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) he has received from the Australian Government and the services he has rendered to Sri Lanka for over 30 years.
In appreciation and recognition of his services to Sri Lanka in an honorary capacity, Mr. Swan was presented with a plaque. Mr. Swan too spoke on his work and stated that he was happy to have served his motherland, Sri Lanka and the Sri Lankan Community.
During the event, a video clip sent by the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau (SLTPB) on Sri Lanka and especially on the tourist attractions was shown to the audience.
A Ceylon Tea stall was also set up to promote ‘Ceylon Green Tea’ given the increasing demand of Australians for sustainable, nutrient rich and a healthy drink. The Sri Lanka Tea Board sponsored ‘Ceylon Green Tea Stall, while ‘Dilmah’, a prominent Ceylon Tea exporter in the Australian marked provided gift tea (flavoured green tea) to the invitees. Ceylon tea promotion videos depicting ‘sustainable-grown’ variety of Ceylon tea for the world market were screened at the reception. The event was held alongside a live demonstration on ‘Ceylon Green Tea Tasting Session’ by the staff of the Mission.
A Sumptuous Sri Lankan Cuisine including hoppers catered by Sri Lankan chefs in Canberra was enjoyed by the participants.