Among Friends: AAS 59th Anniversary Gala Dinner

The Amara Sanctuary Resort in Sentosa, was the gathering place for members, friends and guests of the Australian Alumni Singapore who came together in celebration – not just of its 59th Anniversary but of the milestones achieved through the efforts of many at the dinner.

There was laughter aplenty, vigorous handshakes and hugs. Sipping cocktails, the guests mingled freely, amidst the seemingly endless flow of people arriving. In his welcome address, Chris Cheah, the President of AAS newly elected in May, expressed his thanks to the association’s co-patron, H.E. Philip Green, High Commissioner of Australia, for his tremendous support throughout the year, which included his hosting of 3 key events at his residence:

  1. The AAS Annual General Meeting,
  2. Celebration of Australian Alumni, which was graced by His Excellancy Dr Tony Tan, the President of the Singapore Republic, and
  3. Celebration of the Colombo Plan and New Colombo Plan, which had the attendance of the Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Ms Julie Bishop.

Chris went on to briefly update the guests on the significant developments since the new Management Committee was elected 8 months prior.

  • AAS membership has doubled and is currently in excess of 1100
  • Cash sponsorship of $250,000 have been secured to date
  • There have been regular bi-monthly meetings with the Presidents of the local chapters of the Australian University Alumni Associations (AUAAs)

He announced that AAS’ engagement efforts with the AUAAs have reaped results with Memoranda of Understanding having been signed with 6 AUAAs. In 2015, this initiative will see AAS co-organising strategic joint events with these 6 AUAAs, with AAS providing logistical and financial support towards the important role that AUAAs play.

AAS is also facilitator to a new hospitality programme that will see AUAAs play hosts to visiting new Colombo Plan scholars and Australian students on short transitional visits.

Our Guest-of-Honor and co-patron, His Excellency Philip Green, began his address by sharing the first impressions of a young Minister Iswaran excerpted from the publication ‘Among Friends’ Singapore’s Colombo Plan Scholars in Australia. He then went on to describe “this dinner – in fact the whole AAS – as being among friends … of Australia, of Singapore and of Australian education. It is that feeling of warmth, of connection and of understanding that makes the alumni links between Australia and Singapore so vital for the bilateral relationship.”

Philip Green concluded with another quote, this one taken from a speech delivered by a former Prime Minister of Australia, John Gordon, at the 1971 AAS dinner . In that speech delivered 43 years ago, PM Gordon mentioned his dream of “a cross-fertilisation of students – Australians coming to Singapore, Singaporeans coming to Australia”. Aptly, with the Columbo Plan and New Colombo Plan, and the hospitality of those who host both Singaporean and Australian students, this dream, has come full circle to become reality.

One of the highlights of the night was the announcement of the winning Outstanding AUAA 2014 team. This award, initiated in 2013, encourages AUAAS to proactively organise activities that benefit their alumni and the wider Singapore community. From among the 6 nominees for this year’s award, Monash University Alumni Singapore (MUAS) emerged the deserving winner.

A dinner is most memorable only when all senses are ignited. The night delivered with its combination of good food and wine, great entertainment and wonderful company .

Throughout the night, roving photographers were in high demand snapping hundreds of photos of dinner guests who clamoured to collect little keep-sakes of the occasion in the form of photo-cards. These celebratory images were flashed live on the large projection screens through the night – a reminder of the driving force behind the night’s success – “friendship”.

The wide and eclectic repertoire from the talented musicians of Yabadabbadoo had many a feet tapping and hips swaying to the music. Then came the show-stopping sand art performance by Lawrence Koh which brought the crowd to a stark silence, only occasionally punctuated by gasps, oohs and aahs. Utilising an awe-inspiring combination of sand, music and light, Lawrence magically weaved sand into mesmerising images of Singapore and Australia and received roaring applause when he rounded off his act with the familiar AAS logo.