This year, the Australian government reaffirmed the strength of US-Australian relations when it kicked off the 13th annual “G’Day USA” celebrations in the US. Started in 2004 as a public diplomacy and economic outreach program, the 2016 celebrations will span 17 events across 7 cities in the US. In addition to strengthening cultural bonds, the program is designed to promote Australia’s business interests by exposing American audiences to Australian culture, fashion, food, and wine. This year, the program focuses on showcasing Australia’s entrepreneurship, technological innovation, foreign policy relations, and water management and energy conservation.
Central to this was the annual G’Day USA Gala held in Los Angeles on the 28th of January, a professional networking event which showcased Australian entertainment, tourism, and food and wine, while also recognizing high-profile Australians embodying the spirit of US-Australian relations. This year, the Gala celebrated the work of Australian directors and screenwriters, Dr. George Miller (Mad Max) and Joel Edgerton (The Gift) with a Lifetime Achievement and an Excellence in Film award, respectively.
The program also showcases the rich local connections that exist between Australia and US states such as California where a US-Australian forum on Water Management and Drought at the Milken Institute will delve into sharing water conservation and management techniques amidst the Californian drought. For instance, a recently-opened seawater desalination plant in San Diego worked with partners in Perth to gain insight on best-practices. The 8th annual Australian American Chamber of Commerce Energy Conference will also be held in Houston, Texas in mid-February. Houston has a sister city relationship with Perth, one of 65 sister relationships shared between the countries.
The US is the largest source of foreign direct investment in Australia and has key stakes in the Australian energy and technology sectors, all key focuses of the G’Day USA events. US-Australian tourism is also strong, with total two-way tourism valued at almost $9.5 billion. This year, the occasion was marked with the launch of the new There’s Nothing Like Australia tourism campaign by Australian actor, Chris Hemsworth in New York, highlighting the Great Barrier Reef and the Australian coastline. With climbing demand in the tourism sector, both Qantas and American Airlines recently added new non-stop flights between the US and Australia.
G’Day USA events will continue throughout the year, with programs scheduled in Washington, DC and several cities in California.
Edward Chang is Research Intern at the East-West Center in Washington and a student at the University of Sydney.