State Visit to Australia
Today, Their Majesties The King and Queen launched the first official visit of a Norwegian head of state to Australia. The King and Queen will visit Canberra and Sydney, before concluding their visit in Perth on Friday.
King Harald and Queen Sonja are accompanied by Minister of Foreign Affairs Børge Brende and Minister of Petroleum and Energy Tord Lien as well as a large delegation of representatives of Norwegian public administration and trade and industry.
The King and Queen arrived in the capital city of Canberra yesterday evening, where they received a warm welcome from Norwegians living in the city. The Kor i choir sang the piece “Last Spring” ("Våren") by Edvard Grieg for the King and Queen, who attended a dinner hosted by Norway’s Ambassador to Australia, Ms Unni Kløvstad later in the evening.
Australian War Memorial
The first stop on King Harald and Queen Sonja’s official programme today was the Australian War Memorial. The memorial combines a shrine to commemorate the Australians who died in war, a museum, and an archive of Australia’s war history. A moving, formal wreath-laying ceremony at the grave of the unknown soldier was carried out in the morning.
This year marks the centennial anniversary of the Battle of Gallipoli, where Australia lost some 8 700 soldiers. Altogether, some 61 522 Australian soldiers were killed in the First World War. Australia also fought on the Allied side in the Second World War, and the King and Queen honoured one of the fallen Australian soldiers especially today.
Warrant Officer George Gregory Allman
Warrant Officer Allman was a wireless operator/air gunner in the Royal Australian Air Force during the Second World War. As a member of No. 196 Squadron of the Royal Air Force (RAF), Allman participated in the Invasion of Normandy and the Battle of Arnhem. On 31 March 1945, he and his fellow crew members were assigned to fly a supply drop to Norwegian resistance fighters. Their aircraft was discovered, attacked and shot down. The crash site has never been found.
The names of Australia’s fallen soldiers are inscribed in bronze in the Roll of Honour. Today, the King and Queen each placed a paper poppy by the name of George Gregory Allman.
The official welcoming ceremony was held at Government House Canberra, where King Harald and Queen Sonja were formally received by the Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia, His Excellency General the Honourable Sir Peter Cosgrove AK MC (Retd), and Lady Cosgrove. The national anthems of Australia and Norway were played, and then the King inspected the honour guard.
After the ceremony, the King and Queen met with the Governor-General and Lady Cosgrove prior to attending an official luncheon in their honour. In his remarks during the luncheon, King Harald stressed the close ties between Norway and Australia, and expressed a wish to achieve even closer cooperation in research and the business sector. But first, the King paid homage to the Aboriginal Ngnunnawal people, who have lived in the Canberra region for more than 21 000 years:
“I would like to start by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we meet — the Ngnunnawal people — and paying my respects to their Elders past and present."
Following the official luncheon, there was time for a short kangaroo safari in the grounds surrounding Government House. The Governor-General and Lady Cosgrove drove King Harald and Queen Sonja in a golf buggy to a give them a glimpse of Australia’s unique wildlife.
Meetings and seminars
A number of meetings were held between various segments of the Norwegian and Australian delegations in the afternoon. The King and Queen met with Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Leader of the Opposition Bill Shorten, after which the King gave the closing remarks at the Australian-Norwegian Defence Industry Cooperation Seminar.
Australia is becoming an increasingly important partner in defence cooperation, both for NATO in general and for Norway in particular. Norway cooperated with Australian forces in Afghanistan, and Australia and Norway participate together in the F-35 jet fighter programme.
"Through our shared experiences, Australia and Norway have developed close defence cooperation, which includes defence technology, "the King said to seminar participants. "The Norwegian defence industry has expanded its international activities in recent years and Australia has become its second most important market. The high-tech defence industry uses cutting-edge science, which is also essential for many civilian purposes."
Norwegian companies are key suppliers to the combat system and simulator for Australia’s Hobart Class Air Warfare Destroyers and airborne warning and control system (AWACS), and a number of representatives of the Norwegian defence industry are found in the trade delegation on this State Visit.
This evening local time, the King and Queen were the guests of the Prime Minister at an official dinner at Parliament House. Afterwards they departed for Sydney, where they will spend the next days of their visit.
Facts about Australia
Largest cities: Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth
Total area: 7 692 024 km² (Norway: 385 186 km²)
Population (2013): approximately 23 million
Official language: Australian English
Form of government: Australia is a federal constitutional monarchy under a parliamentary democracy. It consists of six states and two territories and was formed in 1901.
Head of State (2015): Queen Elizabeth II, represented by Governor-General Peter John Cosgrove.
Norway and Australia enjoy excellent relations, and the two countries collaborate closely within the United Nations and the Antarctic Treaty System.
Trade with Australia is growing, dominated by Norwegian exports. There are some 2 000 Norwegian students in Australia, and an estimated 10 000 Norwegians live in the country.
Source: Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
- State visit to Australia: Luncheon in Government House (Speech)
- State visit to Australia: Defence Industry Seminar (Speech)
- Opened a seminar on the Antarctic (News article)
- Norwegian nature in art form (News article)
- State Visit concluded in Perth (News article)
- Australia 2015 (Photo album)
Congratulations are presented today from His Majesty King Harald to His Excellency Mr Egils Levits, President of the Republic of Latvia.
World Heritage at Vega
In 2004, UNESCO inscribed the Vega Archipelago on the World Heritage List. Today His Royal Highness The Crown Prince was in attendance to open the new Vega Archipelago World Heritage Centre – Norway’s first authorised centre of its kind.