The Gala Dinner 2015

The UK Australian community gathered on 24 January to celebrate Australia Day and the Outback 'School of the Air'. With Shannon Bennett at the pass and Tina Arena on the stage our guests at Australia House were in for yet another spectacular evening.

The Theme

Australia's Outback 'School of the Air'

The year we celebrated a truly great Australian success story. For nearly 70 years Australia’s School of the Air, the ‘largest school in the world’, has provided a universal education over the airwaves to children living in the most remote regions of Australia. This programme in Australia has been an inspiration for similar projects elsewhere in the world.

The Chef

One of Australia’s most exciting chefs and restaurateurs, Shannon Bennett of Melbourne's Vue de Monde, created a fantastic menu that included Blackmore Wagyu beef from Victoria. The exceptionally fine wines that accompanied Shannon's menu were selected by Penfolds Chief Winemaker, Peter Gago, 2014 Australian Winemaker of the Year.

The Entertainment

Thanks go to Qantas for brining Tina Area over from Australia to Australia House in London to delight our guests with a set that included iconic songs ‘You Set Fire to My Life’, ‘Sorrento Moon’ and ‘Chains’. Recently voted by her peers ‘the Greatest Australian Female Vocalist of all time’, Tina Arena one of Australia's highest selling female artists.

The Award Winners

Kylie Minogue

Australian of the Year in the UK

An international music icon and inspiration to millions worldwide, Kylie Minogue’s legacy goes beyond music. This award is given in recognition not only of a dazzling performing career which spans almost three decades, but also her charity work and promoting breast cancer and women’s health awareness.

Melbourne born, Minogue first achieved fame in the Australian TV soap ‘Neighbours’. Winning her first ARIA Award for hit single ‘Locomotion’ brought her to London where she became the first female solo artist to exceed sales of 2 million in the UK. Since then Minogue has completed several world tours, sold over 70 million records, won 16 ARIA awards and performed at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Concert, the BBC Proms in the Park, the Sydney Mardi Gras and finally at the 02 Arena, performing for Sport Relief ‘Especially for You’ with Jason Donovan. Having fought her own battle with breast cancer in 2005, Minogue continues to raise awareness of the disease and in 2011 the Anglia Ruskin University awarded her with an honorary degree in recognition of that work. In 2008 Kylie Minogue was awarded an OBE for ‘services to music’ and was appointed by the French Government as a Chevalier of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, one of France's highest cultural honours.

Howard Jacobson

Honorary Australian of the Year in the UK

The title of Honorary Australian was given to award-winning writer and broadcaster, Howard Jacobson, in recognition of his prolific literary career and life-long passion for Australia which has so influenced his work.

Born in Manchester and a graduate of Cambridge University, Jacobson first sailed to Australia in 1965 to teach at the University of Sydney’s English Department, taking over from Germaine Greer. He returned to the UK three years later to teach at Cambridge. His novels include Coming From Behind, Peeping Tom, Redback, The Very Model of a Man, No More Mister Nice Guy, The Mighty Waltzer, Who’s Sorry Now, The Making of Henry, Kalooki Nights, The Act of Love and in 2010 won the Man Booker prize for The Finkler Question. He has written five non-fiction books including the wildly funny In The Land of Oz on what he calls "the adventure of his life" travelling around Australia. Last year Jacobson wrote and presented a 2-part series Brilliant Creatures/Rebels of Oz for the BBC and ABC. The series celebrates Australia’s Brilliant Creatures: Germaine, Clive, Barry and Bob, the four titans who left Australia in the late 1950s and 60s and became icons – and indeed iconoclasts – in the ‘cultural heartland’ of the West.

Evie Wyld

Young Australian Achiever of the year in the UK

Gifted young Australian-English author Evie Wyld was given the title of Young Australian Achiever of the Year in the UK in recognition of the success of her award-winning first two novels.

Born in 1980 and brought up in London, Wyld frequently visited her grandparents’ sugar cane farm in New South Wales and it is these landscapes of her childhood and her Australian identity that she claims shape her work. Her terrifically self-assured debut novel, After the Fire, A Still Small Voice won the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize and a Betty Trask Award. She was also shortlisted for the Orange Prize for New Writers, the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. Wyld’s second critically acclaimed novel All the Birds Singing, released in 2013, won the Encore Award for the second-best novel and was included in Granta’s list of Best of Young British Novelists. Last year she was awarded Australia’s most important book prize, the Miles Franklin Literary Award. When not writing Evie Wyld runs Review, a small independent bookshop in Peckham Rye and she frequently returns to Australia to visit her family.