Melbourne turned on soft Irish weather for the annual Australian Ireland Fund Melbourne lunch which took place on Sunday 1 June at the stylish and elegant Zinc at Federation Square, which overlooks the Yarra River. Over 200 guests were greeted with a Champagne and Guinness reception.
The lunch started off with guests being treated to entertainment by The Heartstring Quartet a tour de force of traditional folk music combining two outstanding duos from Ireland and Britain. Legendary guitarist Arty McGlynn and virtuoso fiddler Nollaig Casey two of the most important names in Irish music who, between them, have played with every major Irish artist of the last thirty years. Máire Ní Chathasaigh, “the doyenne of Irish harpers” and Britain’s finest flatpicking guitarist Chris Newman formed the rest of the quartet.
Stephen Phillips our MC for the lunch introduced Executive Director of the Fund, Teresa Keating who officially welcomed guests including H.E. Noel White, Ambassador of Ireland to Australia, Prof. Patrick McGorry AO, Ted Johnson, local Director, Colin Egan, President and Barry Corr CEO of the IACC, past President of the Celtic Club Seamus Moloughney, Michelle Penfold Partnerships Director of the Australian Indigenous Education Foundation, Una McAlinden Director of the National Celtic Festival and our Young Leader Committee who are doing great work in Melbourne since the launch of the network late last year.
Also acknowledged was great Irish sporting hero, gold medallist, Sonia O’Sullivan, Ireland’s greatest female athlete who joined guests at the lunch — and her husband, Nic Bideau.
The Executive Director went on to thank guests for their support for the Global Promising Ireland campaign. She indicated that since we met a year ago important strides had been made in Ireland’s economic recovery, there was still a long way to go but the country was on the right path.
Teresa told guests she was proud of the contribution the Australian Ireland Fund – and its friends and supporters – has been making to the Promising Ireland campaign. Over the past four years, the Fund has donated $1 million to a number of projects including:
• Barnardos Loughlinstown $240,000 to assist 240 children and families
• Darndale Belcamp Integrated Childcare Services $80,000 to give 267 children a better start in life. Barnardos and Darndale are in two of the most disadvantaged areas in Dublin.
• Junior Achievement Entrepreneur Programme $80,000 to assist 685 students in Cavan, Monaghan & Sligo
• Suas Literacy Programme $90,000 to assist 1,475 students in Louth & Westmeath
• Integrated education Drumragh Integrated College in Omagh $76,000, Forge Integrated Primary School in Co. Antrim $60,000
• and here at home in Australia for Indigenous Scholarships $160,000 which has been doubled to $320,000 through our partnership with the Australian Indigenous Education Foundation.
All of these programs exist because of funding from the Australian Ireland Fund. None of them would have been able to continue without our support. The AIFs philanthropic investments – our supporters dollars – have been fixing broken people, families, and communities.
The Executive Director thanked all guests, including major sponsors, Qantas represented by Tim O’Callaghan, Director Paul O’Brien of Red Rock Leisure, Fergus Ryan and our Young Leader Committee, National Chair Brendan Sheehan, Melbourne Chair, Adrian Hanley, Sandra Booth, Noirin McKeon, Emmet Sheehan, Melissa Fisher and John Fallon. John and Ronan Rogers competed in the Melbourne Ironman Challenge recently and raised funds for the work of the Australian Ireland Fund. A big thank you to John and Ronan was recorded.
Kade Alexander who was originally from Bairnsdale and now attends Melbourne Grammar School as a student of the Australian indigenous Education Foundation Programme spoke next. He was supported on the day by Michelle Penfold Director AIEF and Nicholas Moore of BP, Kade’s mentor. Kade told how before he became involved with the AIEF he was not interested in school and certainly was not thinking of college. Today the school has made a big difference to his academic approach, and thanks to the support and encouragement and opportunity through the AIEF, college is in his sights and if he attends he will be the first person in his family to do so.
We then heard from H.E. Noel White, Ambassador of Ireland to Australia.
Ambassador White spoke of the important role played by The Ireland Funds over many years in support of peace and reconciliation throughout the island of Ireland.
He thanked The Australian Ireland Fund for the part that it has played and continues to play as part of the wider family of Ireland Funds.
He emphasised the importance of the work of the Australian Ireland Fund in helping to embed peace and reconciliation through support for sustainable community relations based on respect and tolerance.
The Ambassador situated the work of the AIF in the broader context of the relations between Ireland and Australia. He said that it gives expression to the deep ties between the two countries. These ties found expression in the role played by many Irish men and women when they fought with the Australian forces at Gallipoli and other theatres of the First World War, a contribution which would be appropriately acknowledged in the wider context of the centenary commemorations taking place in Australia later in 2014 and throughout 2015.
Next we heard from Prof. Patrick McGorry AO who spoke about his upbringing as someone who was born in Dublin and left at the age of 2 and spent most of his life in Australia. He is the Professor for Mental Health at the University of Melbourne and he is known for his development of early intervention services for Youth. In January 2010 he was named Australian of the Year for his services to Youth Mental health. In June 2010 he was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia. Prof. McGorry shared with guests his own personal story of his Irish heritage and having left at the age of 2, his journey of working out where he belonged and his identity.
Young leader events committee member Sandra Booth spoke about her involvement with the Young Leaders group in the last twelve months, really since this event last year and explained little did she know the impact and pleasure the network would have on her, not the least of which was improving her own professional network, attending the New York summit in January earlier this and having the opportunity to give back to Ireland and to people less fortunate than ourselves. Sandra is also looking forward to attending the Worldwide Ireland Funds conference in Belfast this month with Executive Director Teresa Keating and Director Prof. Iain Watson.
The Live auction was conducted by our wonderful supporter Gerald Delany and our MC for the day Stephen Phillips, who kept guests entertained! Thanks to our major sponsors: Qantas, Capital Investment Group, Charles Curran AC and Sydney Yachts, The Waterfront Restaurant, Paul O’Brien and Eureka 89, The Merrion Hotel, Ashford Castle , Waterford Crystal, Guinness and Glen Dimplex,
Guests then relaxed with dessert and Irish coffees and enjoyed the rest of the Afternoon.
The lunch finished off with entertainment by The Simpson Three band, comprised of siblings Declan, Clancy and Bec Simpson, who inherited a love of Irish music from their parents who played in similar bands. The Simpson Three are an up and coming young Melbourne Band and are playing at the National Celtic Festival this long weekend at Portarlington.