Australia and Britain: The Future of the Anglosphere | Angus Gillan
Australia is the ‘new Jerusalem’. It is essentially Britain but with planned straight streets. Melbourne, as I always say, is London if you reduced the size and populace, cleaned it – like really cleaned it – added trams alongside trains, and had lush vineyards a short drive from town. It is a diverse, urban, sort of 21st century Anglo-Shangri-La.
Australia is also hot stuff. This is true both literally (though not ‘Melbs’ in winter) and in contemporary British politics. Scott Morrison, the Australian Prime Minister, was recently in Downing Street to complete the Anglo-Australian Tim Tam touting trade tour, they are a darn good biscuit, and young Tory social media is a wash with CANZAK kids clamouring for reunion with our Commonwealth companions.
In the summer following my undergraduate studies I was fortunate enough to work in Australia for a few months alongside some friends and a British-Australian team at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Despite a boggling time difference, those I met who remain in Aus are some of my closest friends. The time difference helps somewhat, each of us can get on with our day, working, studying, what have you, and chat or exchange updates in the morning/evening.
It is brilliant then to hear that our nations have announced the largest cultural exchange program in our history, with over 200 live and digital events spanning theatre, film, visual arts, dance, design, architecture, music, and literature. This builds upon the latest free trade deal which, regardless of the economic cases for and against, should at least, among policy makers, make us think more about the other nation in the halls of power.
From my time there I strongly believe the greatest action we could take, to cement this endeavour of cultural exchange and union, is institutionalising the exchange of peoples. Let us further programs that bring young Aussies to the UK, while simultaneously carting ours off to their great nation.
Currently there are some astounding opportunities. The University of Melbourne and The University of Birmingham have a global collaboration strategy. This includes a £2 million joint-PhD scholarship program and student internships with the Foreign Office in Melbourne. Similarly, Warwick and Monash University have the ‘Alliance,’ an equally prestigious joint-PhD program.
There is an allure to the land down under that is hard to place. For those lucky enough to have been, it is welcomingly familiar, but different enough to enforce the idea that you are away from home. The lack of language barrier helps, though the Antipodean twang means you must focus after the first few beers have been had.
Our educational institutions must offer extended study opportunities as Bachelor and Postgraduate level if we really want to cement the growth of ties between us. A handful of high-end academic connections from PhD activity builds research links, but it does not create a gamut of human connection; it does not take us to a critical mass of people discovering the allure of Aus.
Human connection is a powerful force. It tugs at our soul and gives us yearnings, love, pain, drive. To instil this in as many people across the UK and Australia joint educational programs should be furthered. The split across the hemispheres aligns our educational terms for exchanges. It is possible to go through most of your educational year in one of the nations and then transfer for a semester to the other without missing too many classes. Australian summer holidays are in January and so a British student could complete their summer term in May/June and travel out to start the 12 weeks of semester two that starts in July. You may decry the sacrifice of a summer, but while you will get future ones, when will you next fly to the other side of the world?
For postgrads, the challenge is harder, but option remains. A few joint Masters are now available at the likes of LSE and Cornell. An Australian addition would no doubt be an attractive addition to any study program … a second degree and surfing. The crux to both these is that your university needs institutional links to a university in the other nation.
When we connect, there is a trove of content to discover for both nations in the other. It is made all-the-more accessible and meaningful to our domestic audiences as we have similar stories to each other. Island nations with an Anglo-Saxon inheritance, having had successive migration as peoples come to the shores in search of a better life, we inhabit cosmopolitan urban centres supported by agricultural hinterlands. We live under a constitutional monarchy, run a parliamentary democracy, and promote liberty at home and abroad.
We get them and they get us. Having spent only three months in Australia I have, since that odyssean flight home, spent a moment each week in the last two and half years yearning to return or wishing I had stayed. The same goes for friends who did a term abroad there, or even short holidays; many now looking at the trade deal as their ticket back to paradise. When I commute, pandemic allowing, I walk by Australia House each day and a small part of thinks “alright mate” as I nod at the state of Phoebus Apollo on the roof.
Clearly, I wear rose tinted glasses. This is no bad thing. The affinity the experience of exchange grants us means we carry in our pockets the nation we were for a small-time immersed in. I have never been more welcomed by a city. On my first night in Melbourne, the fellow intern and I made out way to the famous Chapel Street to find a good bar. By 2am we were sat in one still, the bar was shut, but the bar staff and a handful patrons remained. They had kept the place open to welcome us ‘poms’ to the country, sat down to ask about life in the UK and gave us advice for the months ahead.
I fell in love in Australia and with Australia. I fell for the welcoming nature of the people whether in a professional or casual setting, a student bar or a diplomatic reception. I fell for the temperate climes, the excitement of traveling far from home, and with Aussie Football (I am told I made a strange choice backing the Demons, but I blame my colleague Charlie). I fell for it so much that even their inability to serve pints did not tarnish my affection (ok it tarnished it slightly).
All that can be done should be done to grow this love in the hearts of other youngsters, both here and there. For I would be much the lesser without Australia in my heart.