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Evidence of meeting #9 for Canadian Heritage in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was australia.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Excellency Justin Hugh Brown  High Commissioner for Australia to Canada, Australian High Commission
André Picard  Vice-President, Public and Corporate Affairs, Just For Laughs Group
Louise Pothier  Director, Exhibitions and Technologies, Pointe-à-Callière, Montréal Museum of Archaeology and History

9:15 a.m.

Justin Hugh Brown

I don't think any government would accept a situation in which money was simply given over to community groups without some sort of accountability or transparency. I think it's fair to say that there was a very wide-ranging set of criteria that weren't that difficult to meet, and community-level groups were invited to present submissions for funding.

I've mentioned the example of Townsville in northern Queensland. I'm pretty sure there were similar parades and pageants in Tasmania.

Tasmania was a convict colony in Australia, of course, not like Newfoundland.

9:15 a.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

It depends on how you look at it.

9:15 a.m.

Voices

Oh, oh!

9:15 a.m.

Justin Hugh Brown

Well, Tasmania's history in the early years revolved very much around that theme, of being an offshore convict colony--

9:15 a.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

It gets much better as we go along, doesn't it?

9:15 a.m.

Justin Hugh Brown

--so honouring that particular part of the country's history was something driven by these funds.

Every small community had its own project. I'm not too sure whether I can give you any other examples, but it was a bottom-up process. The criteria and the guidelines were quite open-ended provided a project wasn't obviously self-serving or inappropriate for the dignity of the event. I think there was a pretty generous approach taken to funding community-level proposals.

9:15 a.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

The other aspect you mentioned was that there were celebrations and events that took place outside of Australia. You mentioned Canada being one location, as well as London.

What kind of a theme did they strike? Did some arts groups in Australia say they'd like to go to London? Or did the central government say that “this is what we're going to do in London” and ask who wanted to be involved?

9:15 a.m.

Justin Hugh Brown

There was a little bit of both.

In London, for example, I mentioned that there was an Australia week. That was organized by the national council. They funded different performing groups, artistic events, and other events that took place in London at that time. That was centralized and organized by of the council.

Otherwise, it was very similar to the community-level projects I've mentioned. Particular artistic or other performers made bids for funding from the council if they wanted to perform somewhere that had a historical connection to Australia, London being the most obvious example.

9:15 a.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Okay. So they could have taken their own initiative to go outside the...?

9:15 a.m.

Justin Hugh Brown

Of course, but if they wanted to have the centenary brand, then funding from the national council was one way of supporting their events.

9:15 a.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

How much time do I have?

9:15 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Rob Moore

You have a minute and a half.

9:15 a.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

How much of the overall budget do you think was devoted to that sort of external exercise?

9:15 a.m.

Justin Hugh Brown

I'd have to take that on notice, I think.

9:15 a.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

I'm trying to gauge how much it would be, because I think this is one element of our celebrations I'd like to get into. I never really pictured how we could bring the 150th celebrations outside of our own country. I don't know where.... Australia would be a place to go, but I'm just trying to think of how much was devoted to this, to external relations. Don't get me wrong; I think it's a great idea. I think it's good for our country and for tourism and the like.

9:15 a.m.

Justin Hugh Brown

I don't have a number. I'd be happy to try to dig one up for you. My impression is that it was a small proportion of the overall spending. There was an Australia week. We had some travelling art festivals and exhibitions in Asia.

The Australian feature during Winterlude was essentially some ice sculptors who put up some Australian-themed sculptures during Winterlude.

Compared with the Australian events, it was a pretty small proportion. That's my impression.

9:15 a.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Okay.

The final point I want to ask about is that one of the greatest legacies was the education factor, and I think that's obviously going to be a big one, along with the first nations aspect of it. Can you comment on what was put out there under your celebrations for schoolchildren, especially the young ones, and the legacy it left for the education on Australia and its history?

9:20 a.m.

Justin Hugh Brown

As I said, $9 million was allocated for education-focused activities during the year. There was a website set up that collected local histories, and that was specifically targeted at school students. There was also a variety of other web-based projects established, aimed at improving knowledge of our history for students. I don't have any further information than that, but--

9:20 a.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

But your impression was that it was a great success?

9:20 a.m.

Justin Hugh Brown

As I said earlier, Australia is a country where reflecting on our past isn't part of our national character, so that was seen as a failure, and the inability of most school students to name our first prime minister was quite an alarming revelation for me.

9:20 a.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Yes. I think a lot of our kids think that our first prime minister started the McDonald's restaurants.

9:20 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Rob Moore

Thank you, Mr. Simms.

Mr. Young.

9:20 a.m.

Conservative

Terence Young Conservative Oakville, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you so much for being here, sir.

We have a lot of time. We're ahead of the curve here. We have a lot of time to plan for this. We want it to be big and to engage as many Canadians as possible. Did you have any programs that led up to the centenary year, that people got involved with prior to it, that built up to events or celebrations?

9:20 a.m.

Justin Hugh Brown

No, not that I'm aware of. As I mentioned, there was an advisory committee established in 1993-94, which delivered a report to governments on how to celebrate the centenary. There was opportunity for input from the community to that process.

But we had the bicentenary in 1998 and the Sydney Olympics in 2000, so I don't think there were any specific centenary-badged events in the interim period.

9:20 a.m.

Conservative

Terence Young Conservative Oakville, ON

Were the arts communities involved in communicating Australia's history and celebrations, such as, for example, musicians, dance, film, and playwrights telling stories to engage citizens?