The Britain–Australia Society was established in 1971 as a friendship society to promote historic links between the United Kingdom and Australia. It has headquarters in the Australia Centre within Australia House in London and branches throughout the United Kingdom.
Britons and Australians share a rich heritage of family ties, history, culture, language, sport and business. In 1971 Sir Robert Menzies and Sir Alec Douglas-Home, former Prime Ministers of Australia and the United Kingdom, re-founded the pre-existing Australia Club to form two sister societies based in the United Kingdom and Australia in order to recognise the value of a continuing cultural exchange between the two countries. Despite being founded by two former politicians, the societies are apolitical and non-commercial.
The aims of the Britain–Australia Society are to:
- strengthen existing friendship between the United Kingdom and Australia
- promote educational exchanges
- arrange social events for members
- provide a point of contact for Australians visiting the United Kingdom
- maintain links with Australia
The society provides a comfortable and welcoming forum in which talented youth of both nations are introduced to influential diplomatic and commercial circles to contribute to their personal and professional development.
Branches are maintained in Cambridgeshire, Norfolk, Leicestershire, Lincoln, Portsmouth and the West Country. Regional functions are held by these branches in addition to centrally-organised activities.
Annual events usually include a Summer Reception, a Garden Party at the residence of His Excellency the High Commissioner and an after-hours visit to the Tower of London.
Other events have included tutored wine tastings, theatre evenings, cocktail parties, and presentations from noted diplomats and experts.
A number of ticket ballots and auctions take place for, e.g., tickets to the Wimbledon Championships and flights to Australia.
The Society grants an occasional Britain-Australia Society Award to a person who has demonstrated a long-term contribution to relations between the United Kingdom and Australia. Past recipients have been Barry Humphries, Lord Hague, Kylie Minogue and David Attenborough.
The Patron of the Society is HRH The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh KG KT OM GCVO GBE ONZ QSO AK GCL CC CMM
The President is The Rt Hon The Lord Carrington KG GCMG CH MC PC
The Chairman is Peter Benson AM
The Vice-Chairman is Damian Walsh
- HE Alexander Downer AC, The High Commissioner for Australia – Ex Officio
- Sir Christopher Benson DL
- The Rt Hon The Earl of Buckinghamshire
- Sir Roger Carrick KCMG LVO FRGS
- Mr Rohan Courtney OBE
- The Rt Hon The Lord Goodlad KCMG, PC
- Mr Brian Harris
- The Viscount Slim OBE DL
- Mr Michael Whalley
- Mr George Vestey DL
- The Rt Hon The Baroness Liddell of Coatdyke PC
- Sylvia Countess of Limerick
- June Mendoza AO OBE
- Mr Barry Tuckwell AC OBE
Board of Management
- Mr Peter Benson AM – Chairman
- Mr Damian Walsh – Deputy Chairman
- Mr Matt Anderson PSM – Deputy High Commissioner (ex-officio)
- Mr John Atkins – Agent General for Western Australia (ex-officio)
- Mr James Mraz - Deputy Agent-General for South Australia (ex-officio)
- Ms Julianne Davis
- Mr Dale Eaton FRGS – National Director
- Mr Hari Iyer - Company Secretary
- Mr Keith Newton – Chairman West Country Branch
- Mr Neil Redcliffe
- Mr Peter Sargent
- Mr Edwin Wong
The Honorary Chaplain of the Society is The Revd George Bush, Rector of St Mary le Bow church.
As a non-commercial society, administration and events are funded by membership subscriptions, management fees and corporate sponsors, including Australian Government agencies and businesses and organisations with an Australian interest in the United Kingdom or a British interest in Australia.
- Four Charitable Trusts are maintained by the society:
- The Britain–Australia Society Educational Trust provides sponsorship for young people of both countries, particularly for skills exchange.
- The Northcote Trust funds graduate scholarships to Australia.
- The Sir Robert Menzies Memorial Trust funds scholarships from Australia to Britain.
- The Friends of the University of Sydney UK Trust engages UK Alumni of the University.
- The Cook Society was founded in 1969 on the initiative of Prime Ministers Sir Alec Douglas-Home and Sir Robert Menzies, with the aim of promoting British-Australian relations at a high level. It has counterparts in Australian States with which it is in constant touch. Membership of the Society in Britain is limited to 100, excluding Honorary members, and represents a wide range of national interests including senior business and professional people, politicians, civil servants and academics. Membership is by invitation only. The B-AS administers the Cook Society and shares some events.
- Australia-Britain Society members have reciprocal rights when in Britain, and vice versa.