Meet Andrea Faulkner – Australia’s new ambassador to Israel
Andrea Faulkner, Australia’s ambassador-designate to Israel, talks to J-Wire.
Q. We understand you hold a degree in music. Will you be pursuing your musical interests in Israel? If so, in what way?
Sadly I haven’t been nearly as involved with music over recent years as I would like to have been, but it’s always great to come into contact with music and musicians. Israel’s very rich music scene is one of many good things about being here, and I’m looking forward to experiencing as much of it as possible. Of course musicians from Australia or with Australian connections will be of particular interest, and the Australian Embassy’s cultural program has some good things to offer in this regard in the months to come.
Q. Do you have any other personal interests which you may pursue in Israel?
With such a diverse culture and dynamic society, I’ll have plenty to do on a personal level in Israel when I get some free time. The museums and galleries are terrific. I have a strong personal interest in history, so Israel offers a wealth of fascinating sites and stories, including a number with important Australian connections. I also want to spend time walking and exploring Israel’s many beautiful natural landscapes.
Q. You last served in Tel Aviv in 1994. Have you maintained any contact with Israel over the last 16 years?
My previous posting was from 1992 to 1994. Since that time I had visited Israel only for very short periods, but of course I have maintained a strong interest in the country and always been very pleased to engage with Israeli colleagues in a range of international settings as well as Canberra. Now that I have arrived back in Israel I am really enjoying meeting a wide range of people from different walks of work and life, many with strong contacts already with Australia. It is wonderful getting reacquainted with Israel, and working to broaden those contacts further.
Q. Have you seen much change in the country over that period and if so can you tell us what changes?
I’m still going through the exciting process of getting to know Israel again, and in doing so to see what’s changed and what hasn’t. So far I’ve spent most time in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, with brief visits to other cities and towns. Israel’s positive economic development is clear to see, and there is a real energy all around. Another really noticeable change is the much bigger variety of cafes and restaurants, which I’m keen to explore. Having already spent quite a bit of time rediscovering Tel Aviv on foot, I’m pleased that much also remains the same – the sounds and the special feel of the air.
Q. Do you think your first ambassadorial position will represent a challenge given that you have been posted to one of the world’s hot spots?
It’s a great first ambassadorial appointment. I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to represent Australia in such a strong and important bilateral relationship, and to work to broaden and deepen it. There are so many elements, from developing current cooperation to identifying areas where we could do more together, to working towards our vital mutual global and regional security objectives. Promoting Australian trade and economic interests will naturally be a focus and there are opportunities to expand our already strong ties, including in the agricultural and high technology sectors, and in enhancing foreign direct investment. Consular support for Australians will always be a priority. I will also be placing high importance on supporting the strong people-to-people linkages between our two countries, not least the substantial and significant contribution made by Australia’s Jewish community. In my first few weeks it has been a great experience to meet many Australians here, both visiting and living in Israel. My challenge will be to find enough hours in the day to do the job well.
Q. Where is home in Australia?
I was born and grew up in Adelaide. Most of my family is still there. Over the past twenty years, in between overseas postings, Canberra has been home base.
Q. The home in Herzliya often hosted visiting Australian groups. Will that continue?
Of course. I’m looking forward to welcoming many guests to the residence, and visiting Australian groups will be a very special feature. Like my predecessors, I feel privileged to have such a nice house and garden in which to represent Australia. I want it to continue to be a place where Australians and Israelis – and all comers – can feel at ease, and get to know each other well in an informal and friendly setting.
Q. How is your Ivrit? Are you studying the language? Arabic…same story?
I can remember a bit of Hebrew but not nearly enough to communicate properly, so right away I’ve made lessons a priority. My teacher is very good and very patient, and I’m really enjoying those few hours a week just concentrating on Hebrew. I’m already found around town making terrible mistakes but I guess that’s the best way to learn, and everyone has been very kind and understanding. I studied some Arabic here before working at the Embassy the first time and although most has disappeared over the years, a few words and expressions are coming back.