2nd June, 2013

Melbourne Gala Luncheon 2013

Melbourne turned on wonderful weather for the annual Australian Ireland Fund Melbourne lunch which took place on Sunday 2  June at the stylish and elegant Zinc at Federation Square, which overlooks the River Yarra.  Close to 200 guests were greeted with a Champagne and Guinness reception.

Stephen Phillips our MC for the lunch introduced Executive Director of the Fund, Teresa Keating. Teresa welcomed and thanked guests for responding so magnificently with their support for the activities of the Fund and the Annual Melbourne lunch in particular.     She told guests that as an Irish person who had lived more half her life in Australia she was proud and pleased to be able to give back, through the work of the Fund, to Ireland the country she came from and here in Australia the country had has been so good to her  and, indeed, many Irish.    She went on to say that all the projects the Fund supports, in both countries, are around education; education is the key in helping to break the cycle of poverty and disadvantage.  “Together we have made the lives of children and their families better.    However there is still much work to be done, please stay with us, together we can make a difference”, Teresa urged. 

The Australian Ireland Fund Chairman John O’Neill AO, then officially welcomed guests including H.E. Noel White, Ambassador of Ireland to Australia,  Frank McGuire MP, Deputy Head of Mission Nessa Delany,  Colin Egan, President of the Irish Australian Chamber of Commerce, Seamus Moloughney, President of The Celtic Club and Australian Ireland Fund Directors Ted Johnson, Kevin Luscombe AM, Richard O’Brien,  Ambassador Noel White and Executive Director Teresa Keating,   the chairman also welcomed new board member Paul O’Brien.

The Chairman then made a presentation of some Waterford Crystal to Kevin Luscombe AM, retiring Board member of the Fund.  The Chairman thanked Kevin for his enormous contribution to the Fund in Melbourne since our inception in 1987 and also thanked his wife Barbara and daughter Libby for their generosity and support also.

The Chairman went on to say It was a great honour for a proud Irish Australian like him to take over the mantle of leadership of the Australian Ireland Fund from Alan Joyce who, in the space of one short year, did so much to help us build a strategy and vision for the Fund over  the next few years.

The Fund has not  been slow to grasp that strategy and start to implement it, since the last gala here in Melbourne, driven ever onwards by our executive director, Teresa Keating, the Fund has held 11 events in the last 12 months – a phenomenal work-rate.

Some of those events were fundraisers – in Brisbane, Sydney and of course Melbourne. And some were support-network building in their focus, designed to thank our supporters and provide an update on our activities….and last but not least, some were Young Leader events.

Since the Fund launched the Young Leaders’ network at the end of 2009, it has gone from strength to strength. Our Young Leaders are quite simply the future of the Fund.   We expect even greater things from them.

The Chairman went on to explain we donated $320,000 to integrated education and community development projects in Ireland – both north and south of the border.   That we also continued our five year scholarship programme (started in 2010) for disadvantaged indigenous Australians, together with the Australian Indigenous Education Foundation and Andrew Penfold.  

As a result of the strategic review carried out by Alan Joyce and his team, and recent decisions the board made about  the shape of AIF’s future support, The Fund chose two areas of need to focus their social investment going forward – Integrated Education and Children and Families. Starting in 2013 with a total donation of $280,000, the Fund made significant contributions to ensure the continued viability of the following projects:

• Integrated Education in Northern Ireland
• Indigenous Education in Australia
• Darndale/Belcamp Integrated Childcare Services, Republic of Ireland
• Barnardos/Loughlinstown, Republic of Ireland

The two new flagship projects, Darndale and Barnardos Loughlinstown, are in some of Dublin’s most deprived suburbs.  Darndale works with children with development delays or disabilities, as well as children with emotional difficulties… children who live in a home and neighbour environment where they witness substance abuse, violence and other traumatic events on a daily basis.

A sobering statistic is that in one year 11 children attending the project lost a parent to overdoes or suicide.. and even more shockingly, one three year old witnessed his father’s shooting.

Barnardos focuses on helping families in crisis — facing the challenges thrown at them by intergeneration unemployment, poor housing, environmental decay, substance abuse, lack of recreational facilities and safe spaces for their children to play.

Loughlinstown has high levels of young lone parent families. And because of poor local infrastructure, there is a high level of isolation for parents and children.  Many of the parents are in debt to local money lenders and in some cases this has spiralled out of control.

Suffice to say both of these Dublin projects have had major funding cuts. Without the assistance of the Australian Ireland Fund and our generous supporters, neither NGO could maintain their current level of service and quality for another year.

The Chairman thanked major sponsors in particular, Qantas and Alan Joyce, Australian Radio Network and Ciaran Davis, Charles Curran AC and Capital Investment Group, Paul O’Brien and Eureka Level 89.  He also thanked our table captains, and those individuals and companies who have donated live and silent auction items.

We then heard from H.E. Noel White, Ambassador of Ireland to Australia. 

Ambassador While spoke of the invaluable role played by the Ireland Funds down through the 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 by building sustainable community relations based on respect and tolerance.   

He described the work of the AIF as a worthy and appropriate strand in the relations between Ireland and Australia, reflecting the deep ties between the two countries. 

Guests were then treated to   entertainment by Acclaimed international Celtic band, The Outside Track, who were celebrating picking up the ‘Group of the Year’ award at both the Live Ireland Music Awards and the TIR Irish Music Awards. Joining the band on their first visit to Australia was singer Aoife Scott – Born into the legendary Black Family – which includes her mother, Frances, and her aunt, Mary

The Live auction was conducted by our wonderful supporter Gerald Delany and our MC for the day Stephen Phillips, who kept guests entertained! Thank you to our major sponsors: Qantas, Capital Investment Group, Australian Radio Network, Eureka 89,
Guests then relaxed with dessert and Irish coffees and enjoyed the rest of the Afternoon.