Australian Embassy and Permanent Mission to the United Nations
Bosnia and Herzegovina, Hungary, Slovakia and Slovenia

Welcoming Remarks: Exile in Australia

Exile in Australia - Book presentation
Co-hosted by the Australian Embassy and the National Fund of the Republic of Austria for Victims of National Socialism

Welcoming Remarks
HE Australian Ambassador Dr Brendon Hammer

2 October 2018
Australian Embassy Vienna

First let me warmly welcome you all to the Australian Embassy.

In particular I would like to welcome my good friend Dr Reinhold Lopatka MP, President of the Austria-Australia Society and Chair of the newly formed Austria-Australia Parliamentary Friendship Group.

I also welcome all other members of the Austrian Parliament present this evening as well as Dr Hannah Lessing, Secretary-General of the National Fund; Dr Renate Meissner, Scientific Head of the National Fund; Ms Susanne Trauneck, Board Member of the Jewish Welcome Service, and all descendants of victims of National Socialism present this evening.

A very warm welcome.

Dear Guests
It is a true privilege to co-host today’s book presentation that we’re doing together with the National Fund of the Republic of Austria for Victims of National Socialism.

I note that publication of the book Exile in Australia falls within Austria’s Year of Remembrance 2018, which inter alia commemorates the “Anschluss” of Austria to Germany in 1938 and the ensuing extreme conditions faced, in particular, by the Jewish population here.

I feel it is an honour for us all that family members of persons evicted from their homes in Austria at that time, and who found refuge in Australia and elsewhere, are with us here today, and have agreed to share their thoughts with us.

I pay my respects to you all, to your families and to all of the victims of National Socialism.

I commend the National Fund for working to find ways to recognize the suffering and loss experienced eighty years ago. And I recognise that publication of the book Exile in Australia is part of that crucial effort.

We will hear in some detail about this book, and the life stories that it contains, later on this evening.

Ladies and gentlemen
Research shows that roughly 2,000 refugees from Austria arrived in Australia between 1938 and the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939.

Migration to Australia was not easy at that time with bureaucratic, financial and geographic hurdles to cross and – I am sorry to say – with only a quota of Jewish people eligible to enter Australia.

Then, with the outbreak of war, the Australian Government declared citizens of Austria & Germany to be “enemy aliens” irrespective of whether they were persecuted by the Nazi authorities or not. So, many Jewish migrants were interned in Australian camps.

It was only after the war ended that Jewish refugees began to become part of Australian society. Most settled in Melbourne or Sydney where they began to build new lives and homes “down under”.

And today, we know that many of those who fled Nazi Austria, went on to contribute greatly to Australia’s society across a wide range of fields in culture, science and medicine.

Let me mention a few outstanding examples:

  • Gertrud Bodenwieser, who brought European modern dance to Australia.
  • Architects Ernest Fooks and Harry Seidler, who built iconic buildings throughout Australia, and beyond.
  • Painter Louis Kahan, who won Australia’s most prestigious art award, the Archibald Prize.
  • Sculptor Karl Duldig and his wife Slawa, who invented one of the world’s first foldable umbrellas, and who contributed widely to Melbourne’s art scene, both through their artistic work and their teachings. Their granddaughter, Tania de Jong, and their nephew are here with us this evening.
  • And Sir Gustav Nossal, a distinguished research biologist, who made tremendous contributions to the fields of antibody formation and immunological tolerance.

Well, today Australia is a genuinely multicultural society. Australians can now appreciate that we have benefitted tremendously from the creative energy and dynamism that housing a diversity of peoples and cultures can bring.

And we can appreciate that we have been the lucky beneficiaries of those who arrived from Austria escaping National Socialism, but bringing with them new outlooks and new ideas they have helped shape Australia.

Well, in closing my remarks, let me say that I consider the publication of Exile in Australia, and today’s event, not only as a commemoration to those who have suffered enormous pain, death and injustice during one of the darkest periods of Western civilisation, but as an opportunity

  • to promote and advance healing;
  • to build bridges and promote tolerance;
  • to recognize the importance of exchange and fostering understanding;
  • to show respect and to cherish diversity;
  • to value the peace and freedom that we all now have within the world’s liberal democracies;
  • and to think carefully about the political choices we will all be asked to make as we take our democratic project forward.

Now, please enjoy the evening!

Thank you.