What are you most proud about/pleased about with your tenure in Sweden?
As a small embassy I am pleased with the way we have been able to engage across a breadth of issues and create a number of new connections in fresh areas. For example I’m very pleased that we initiated the annual Raoul Wallenberg address which has now been run twice and has created a number of important new connections for Australia. A second is creating connections with the Swedish Sami community where there are a number of parallels and learnings for the issues facing our own Indigenous Australians. And we’ve extended our reach into Latvia through partnering with SSE- Riga on the Peter Greste Baltic Media Freedom Awards. All this has extended our reach and networks across the region.
What is one key area where you believe there is opportunity for collaboration between Sweden and Australia?
Urbanisation is a global megatrend, including in Australia where the population is growing by 1m people every 3 years (that is a new Canberra every year). Essentially all of this growth is in urban areas. This poses several challenges and makes issues of urban design and urban sustainability particularly important. With the emergence of 5G and IOT there are a number of interesting business opportunities across mobility and infrastructure and particularly in the area of new services. Both Australia and Sweden are well positioned to work actively in this space.
What is your number one tip for a new Australian arriving to live in Sweden?
Buy an SL card day 1 – the public transport is great! 😊 But in more seriousness, be prepared to persevere to build meaningful relationships with Swedes. Swedes are friendly and welcoming to outsiders, but they have an existing structure to their lives and perhaps compared to Australians, are slower to truly open up. Friendships amongst Swedes often date from school and early in life and it takes a while for social networks to open up to ‘newcomers’. But be prepared to make that dinner invitation 2, 3 or 4 times where you feel there is a genuine connection and eventually you will be welcomed in. There is a richness and rhythm to Swedish life that is really rewarding and fun to experience. So be active and resilient and opportunities open up. I will leave my time in Sweden with some great friendships!
What will you take home as your favourite memory of your time in Sweden?
There are so many – one would have to be the Jokkmokk area of northern Sweden – the landscape in February and my interactions with local Indigenous community remind me so much of the Indigenous issues in Central Australia – despite the radically different temperatures! My primary connection has been to the Stockholm archipelago. This last summer I spent several days wandering through the archipelago with my 3 daughters. Travelling by ferry and camping at night. The archipelago is truly one of the natural jewels of the world!
What are you most looking forward to about returning to Australia?
Having a garden again – getting my hopefully green fingers to work! And old friends are precious – I can really look forward to sitting outdoors on a Friday night under a big starry Canberra sky with old friends, pizza and a cold beer!
Do you have any last words for the members of the ABCS?
I have been very impressed with the quality of the members, the platform and the dialogue that the ABCS has built up in a short period of time. I would certainly encourage any Australian moving to Sweden to work to make the ABCS an early port of call. I am sure the Embassy will remain supportive and engaged going forward. In some other countries I have seen such groups more focused on the social aspects, I really like your focus on substantive dialogue and business and I am sure if you continue that focus you will build an even larger, stronger professional group over time!
We thank both the Ambassador and the Embassy for their wonderful support of ABCS since its inception, and look forward to welcoming the incoming Australian Ambassador to Sweden, Mr Bernard Philip