connect 2018 • 98 AROUND THE WORLD AUSTRALIA October, 2017 When the opening Acknowledgement of Country ceremony is described by President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins as “the most moving he has experienced in his time in Australia”, and the night ends with a céilí, you know you’re at a great event. The Ireland Funds Australia, in its 30th year, had the privilege of hosting Uachtarán na hÉireann, Michael D. Higgins as part of his 2017 state visit to Australia. The event was a gathering of 100 of The Ireland Funds Australia’s supporters, sponsors, donors and friends in the beautiful surrounds of the newly-renovated Westpac Long Gallery at the Australian Museum. To celebrate 200 years of Westpac in Australia, the room had been filled with 200 of Australia’s most important treasures. Fittingly, one of these treasures is an enormous skeleton of a great Irish elk, acquired by the museum in 1886. The moving Acknowledgement of Country, a display of respect for the Traditional Owners of the land was provided by students Libby Cook-Black and Leon Wunungmurra. The Australian Indigenous Education Foundation, and The Ireland Funds Australia have been sup- porting indigenous scholarships through their partnership since 2008. Chairman of The Ireland Funds Australia Yvonne Le Bas, CFO of BT Financial Group, warmly welcomed guests, includ- ing the guest of honour, President Higgins, his wife Sabina. We were also lucky to be joined by former Chairmen of The IrelandFundsAustraliaincludingPeterCosgrove,HT&E;Charles Curran AC, Capital Investment Group and Alan Joyce AC, Qantas. President Higgins spoke at length of the connections between Ireland and Australia, and particularly of the similari- ties and importance of the preservation and proliferation of our cultures to the Irish and indigenous Australian people. He spoke of the contribution made by The Ireland Funds Australia to causes in Ireland over 30 years, saying the organization is “a powerful force for good” particularly its support of education, literacy and cultural development. He specifically mentioned integrated education, and recognized the generous donations of the late Lady Mary Fairfax in that regard, represented on the night by her daughter Anna Cleary. Fantastic entertainment was provided by a wonderful friend of the Funds Ciaran Gribbin, accompanied by his talented band Clare O’Meara on fiddle and Garry Steele on accordion. President Higgins’ State Visit to Australia 1 4 2 5 3 6 1 President Michael D. Higgins 2 Sabina Higgins, President Higgins, Leon Wunungmurra 3 Yvonne Le Bas 4 Noel White, President Higgins, Kieran McLoughlin 5 Alan Joyce AC 6 Jane Cosgrove, Teresa Keating, David Smith 7 Richard O’Brien, Claudia Stahl, Charles Curran AC 8 Tom Magnier, Sabina Higgins, President Higgins, Sophie Magnier 9 Paul & Marie O’Brien 10 Peter &Toni Ryan with family, Sabina & President Higgins 11 Anna Cleary, Yvonne Le Bas 12 James Momsen, Sabina Higgins, President Higgins, Lee Thomas 13 Kieran McLoughlin, Amber Cleary, Yvonne Le Bas, Derek Cleary 14 Niamh & Len Hremiako, Kevin & Jamie Higgins Photos: Matt Teague