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Australia holds a ‘barbie’ ahead of new DC embassy inauguration

Australia holds a ‘barbie’ ahead of new DC embassy inauguration
Australian Ambassador to the US, Dr. Kevin Rudd, addresses guests at the Big Aussie Barbecue at Australia's new embassy building in Washington, DC.

The traditional Aussie barbecue came to the heart of Washington last month as Australia kicked off a series of events leading up to the official opening of its new, green embassy building on Massachusetts Ave.

“We want each and every one of our friends across Washington to feel genuinely welcome here,” Ambassador Dr. Kevin Rudd said at the Oct. 5 event.

“In Australia, the way you make people feel welcome is, you have a neighborhood barbie, and that’s what we’re doing here tonight,” he said, using the Aussie expression for a barbecue.

Had the event been held at the British embassy, he quipped later, it “would be formal high tea.”

Among the guests at the barbie was Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser.

Dr. Kevin Rudd, right, beams after Washington, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser, left, declared Oct. 5, 2023, Australian Embassy Day in the US capital.

She praised the Australian diplomatic mission for its decades-long support of DC’s Embassy Adoption Program, which allows fifth and sixth grade students attending DC public schools to learn about the languages, customs, history and cultures of other countries without leaving the city they live in.

The program, which has been running for nearly 50 years, is “critical to our public school students,” Bowser said.

Then, to a hearty laugh from Rudd, she proclaimed Oct. 5th Australian Embassy Day in the US capital.

The barbecue was part of the run-up to the Oct. 24 inauguration of the new embassy building by Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.

Guests at the Big Aussie Barbecue on Oct. 5, 2023, look around at the new, green embassy building, Oct. 5, 2023.

Rudd said the building’s construction was remarkable not only for its environmental friendliness but also for the way it captures the essence of Australia and her people.

“It is open, it is light, it is bright,” he said. “It is a place where we celebrate … our indigenous art and where we have an open space representing the open-heartedness and spirit that is Australia.”

The building has gold status under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design protocol, better known as LEED, the standard for green buildings.

By investing hundreds of millions of dollars in the building, Australia was sending a message “to our American friends that we take this relationship seriously,” Rudd said.

But the building’s “killer point” was the 240,000 bees that live on the roof of the embassy.

“We counted them,” Rudd said. “These bees are all citizens of the United States – we have not brought a single Australian bee into this building.”

The hope is that, one day, the American bees will produce “Australian embassy honey … on the roof of this building,” he said.


Karin Zeitvogel

Karin Zeitvogel started her journalism career at the BBC World Service and has worked since then for international media outlets and organizations including Agence France-Presse, U.N. agencies, Voice of America, RIA Novosti and the National Institutes of Health. She's lived in nine countries, speaks fluent French and German, good Spanish and a smattering of other languages.