Dubai: Although Australia Day was on Friday, January 26, the Australian Embassy in the capital is hosting a reception for invited guests on Wednesday evening in Abu Dhabi as part of the celebrations.
Australia Day is the official national day of Australia. Celebrated annually on January 26, it marks the anniversary of the 1788 arrival of the First Fleet of British ships at Port Jackson, New South Wales and the raising of the Flag of Great Britain at Sydney Cove by Governor Arthur Phillip.
About 25,000-strong Australians in the UAE constitute the ninth largest overseas Australian community in the world, a top Australian diplomat told Gulf News in an interview.
“I am very proud about this!” said Arthur Spyrou, the Australian Ambassador to the UAE. Given the total Australian population of over 23 million, he said, this is a big number.
The number of Australians in the UAE has been steadily rising in recent years. Two-thirds of the community live in Dubai and the rest of them are in Abu Dhabi and the Northern Emirates. They are professionals and business persons in construction, food and beverage, aviation and finance sectors, the envoy said.
There are two Australian schools in Sharjah and a new one is opening soon in Dubai.
“I am looking forward to open [Australian] schools and universities in Abu Dhabi. There is a need for such a big expatriate population,” Spyrou said.
Australia is a strategic partner of the UAE in food security and the UAE is an aviation-and logistic hub for Australia. “This synergy is exceptional,” he said.
Australia will work more closely with the UAE in water and agriculture sectors.
Two aquaculture projects using Australian technology are progressing in the UAE. “Aquaculture is very important [for food security] because fish stock in the sea is declining [rapidly],” he said.
An Australian company, RADACQUA, that has big-scale aquaculture operations in Australia, is collaborating with a UAE firm in the experimental projects. The details will be announced by both parties once the projects prove their commercial viability.
If successful, the commercially produced fish from desert can be supplied to the UAE market this year, he said.
Both nations are expected to sign an MoU [memorandum of understanding], probably this year, on food safety. “This is important because we export almost a billion [AUD] dollars [Dh2.97 billion] of food and agriculture products to the UAE.”
The UAE also re-exports Australian foods to other parts of this region. “We export to and through the UAE.”
Australia is the number one provider of sheep meat and number three in beef meat in the UAE. “We have a third of our carrot exports coming here.”
Australia finds the UAE as its strategic partner as an aviation and logistic hub, the envoy said.
“We have 133 weekly flights between Australia and the UAE.”
Australia and the UAE welcome open competition in aviation sector unlike many other countries that advocate for protectionism, Spyrou said.
Australia receives about 100,000 visitors annually from the Middle East and half of them are from the UAE. Around 350,000 Australian tourists arrive in the UAE every year.
The UAE is Australia’s distribution hub to Africa, Asia, the Middle East and even Eastern Europe. Half of Australia’s total trade and investments in the Middle East is with the UAE.
About 350 Australian companies are operating in the UAE. “This is more than we have in Indonesia, which is next to Australia with a market of 280 million people. [This shows] how invested we are in the concept of the UAE,” the ambassador said.
Two-way trade between Australia and the UAE was worth around $8 billion (Dh23.76 billion) in 2016.
Australia and the UAE also celebrate diversity of their people. About 26 per cent of Australians were born in a different country, according to the latest census data. “We are very much an emigrant country like the UAE,” Spyrou said.
25,000 Australians in UAE
23 million total population of Australia
133 weekly flights between UAE and Australia
$1 billion (AUD) worth of food-and agriculture products exports to UAE
$8 billion (Dh23.76 billion) worth of two-way trade between Australia and the UAE in 2016.
100,000 visitors to Australia annually from Middle East
50,000 visitors to Australia from the UAE annually
350,000 Australian tourists arrive in the UAE every year.