LETTER: Australian gift

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The Independent Online
From Mr Neal Blewett

Sir: Like many other splendid London buildings, Australia House is a gift from far-sighted ancestors to our generation, which might not be inclined to be so extravagant in taste and spending (Comedy; James Rampton, 7 July).

But Australia House, the oldest foreign mission building in London, works hard for its living. In an average week, the High Commission issues 6,500 visas, handles one telephone call every five seconds, plays host to dozens of business people, deals with thousands of public enquiries, presents at least one or two public concerts or lectures, and carries out a range of diplomatic and defence-related activities.

Our monthly Literary Links evenings are held to present a variety of talented Australian writers and poets to new British audiences, and for the next three months, from the end of July, the splendid Edwardian Exhibition Hall will be the setting for a display of Australian tapestries. The importance of these activities has persuaded the Australian government to agree to a pounds 6.4m refurbishment of the building. This will modernise office space, allow us to open the building for even more public events, and bring together our state offices into one Australia centre.

Yours faithfully,

Neal Blewett

High Commissioner

Australia High Commission

London, WC2

7 July

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