5-7 May: RCS South Australia Branch hosted the annual National Executive Meeting (NEM) of Australian branches with speakers, discussion sessions, and entertainment including a reception at Government House, a tour of Parliament House, afternoon tea with the Deputy Lord Mayor, a multi-faith celebration at St. Peter’s Cathedral, a visit to the opera and both formal and informal dinners. Sessions included the appointment of national co-ordinators, information about The Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy, reports from Darryl Stevens, Regional Co-ordinator for the Pacific, Elizabeth Neuman on the Commission on the Status of Women and The International Council of Women, while Kanti Jinna chaired a follow-up to the 2016 NEM held in Canberra. A lively youth debate on the topic: ‘Aggressive Peace Policies are the only way forward for the Commonwealth’, was followed by agreement for youth members and Associate Fellows to generate activities, goals and projects. Guests included Peter Mann, Chair of RCS Hong Kong Branch and branch Patron SA Governor Hieu van Le.
12 March 2017: RCS Wellington Branch organised a National Observance at the Wellington Cathedral of St. Paul. Attended by Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy, the service included reflections by Dr Rebecca Dudley, International Humanitarian Law Advisor, NZ Red Cross, and Alex Bengree, 2017 Runner-up Queen's Young Leader. Representatives of the Hindu, Jewish, Islamic and Buddhist faiths shared prayers and readings and the High Commissioner of Canada gave the scripture reading. Outgoing CYNZ Director, Aaron Hape, read the Affirmations. A reception at Parliament followed, hosted by the Hon Louise Upston, on behalf of the Prime Minister
12 March 2017: RCS Auckland Branch attracted 150 attendees to their Commonwealth Service, including Members of Parliament, Consuls, City Councillors, the British High Commissioner, youth groups and members of the public, despite local floods. Marek Townley (pictured), an executive member of Commonwealth Youth New Zealand (CYNZ) introduced this year's theme and emphasized it was up to each individual to do their part in promoting the advance of peace saying: “Peace-building depends on personal action. As Commonwealth members, what steps will you take to build peace in your communities? In the next hour, in the coming days, weeks and months, what will you do?"
9 March 2017 RCS Victoria Branchcelebrated Commonwealth Day with a function of combined RCS Victoria Members and the Council of British and Commonwealth Societies members. The guest of Honour was Mr. Westmoreland Palon, Consul-General of Malaysia and his wife Mrs. Elvinna Luhum. Considerable Commonwealth information was handed out to all present. Pictured, guests 'peace-building', in support of this year's Commonwealth theme.
August 2016 RCS South Australia Branch On the initiative of new young council member, Beth Mayfield, RCS South Australia Branch is holding a series of Yoga & Art Therapy sessions. Advertised through social media, the first session was pronounced a success. Discounts are available to new branch members.
2 June 2016 RCS Auckland Branch hosted a cocktail party celebration of The Queen’s 90th Birthday in style at the 145 year old Northern Club, Auckland City in partnership with the British New Zealand Business Association, Monarchy New Zealand and the Northern Club. The guest speaker was Dr. Sean Palmer, Chair of Monarchy New Zealand who, with a PhD on the role of the monarchy in the 16 Commonwealth Realms, spoke about the contemporary importance of the monarchy for the New Zealand identity and the role it plays in the New Zealand system of democratic government. The event was greatly enjoyed by guests and pronounced a resounding success.
April 2016 RCS ACT branch: There was a heightened emphasis on youth engagement when representatives from Australian RCS branches met over three days in Canberra, with support given to holding a Youth CHOGM in each state/territory in the run up to CHOGM 2018. The principal purpose in coming together was to explore how branches might collaborate effectively in promoting RCS values and objectives. The presence of Helen Jones, Director of Youth Affairs and Education Programmes in London, and of Darryl Stevens, RCS Regional Co-ordinator from New Zealand, provided a significant stimulus to discussion and debate. The meeting’s Youth Day, co-chaired by Ellie Seckold and Darryl Stevens, was well attended and resulted in the establishment of an embryonic youth network of highly talented and motivated young people to network, mentor and advocate for modern Commonwealth values and programs.
Pictured: Young ANU scientist Stephen Fairweather speaking about his work in malarial research at the Youth Day
Commonwealth Day 2016: Members and guests of RCS Canberra were entertained at their multi-faith celebration held at the Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture. The event was attended by the Governor-General, General the Honourable Sir Peter Cosgrove AK MC (Retd.), and Lady Cosgrove, as guests of the Executive Director. The Governor-General delivered Her Majesty The Queen’s Commonwealth Day Message.
13 March 2016: Auckland 300 people attended the Evensong Service to commemorate Commonwealth Day at Holy Trinity Cathedral in Parnell. The Pipes and Drums of the St. Kentigern College Band provided the welcome and amongst the honoured guests were two Members of Parliament, representatives from several Commonwealth country consulates and a number of City Council members.
Music for the colourful service was provided by the Cathedral Choir under its Director of Music Michael Stoddart, the Band of the Royal New Zealand Navy commanded by Lt. Colin Clark RNZN and the Auckland Girls’ Choir conducted by the choir’s Musical Director, Leonie Lawson MNZM. Miss Kimera Chetty performed a Gujarati Folk Dance called ‘Nagada Sang Dhol’.
9 September 2015 - Celebrating HM The Queen becoming the longest reigning British monarch.
Queensland Branch: held a small gathering of Imperial and Australian Honours recipients at Government House Norfolk Island, in full favour of Her Majesty.
Across the Pacific region, 9 Queens Young Leaders have been announced - see the list
August 2015: National Student CHOGM, New Zealand. Students from around the country converged on Parliament to take part in the National Student CHOGM, organised by Commonwealth Youth New Zealand (CYNZ). This year saw the highest number of attendees, many students from schools that had not participated previously. The calibre of students attending was extremely high, and CYNZ was impressed to see students debating topical subjects.
26 May 2015: The RCS was saddened to receive the news that Dame Dorothy Fraser DBE, QSO JP, President of the Otago Branch, had died aged 89.
RCS Director, Michael Lake said: 'Dorothy Fraser was a highly respected and inspirational lady who epitomised the values of the Commonwealth. Our sincere and warm condolences go out to the family.'
New Zealand Labour Party Leader, Andrew Little, said: 'Dame Dorothy was a well-known community figure who gave so much back to the Dunedin South community. She spent 29 years on the Otago Hospital Board, was a Dunedin City Councillor, an Otago University councillor, Otago High School board of governors member, and chairwoman of Montecillo Trust Board.
'The widow of former Labour Cabinet Minister Bill Fraser, Dame Dorothy was a force to be reckoned with. Her egalitarian principles attracted her to the Labour Party and she became the youngest member ever at the age of 14. She said at the time that she joined because she had: ‘little faith in the party if it was ruled by fuddy-duddies, so I rounded up 10 other young members and we formed our own junior branch’.
'Her lifetime achievements were immense – she was an innovator at a time when women found it difficult to have roles outside the domestic sphere.'
8 March 2015: Commonwealth & International Women’s Day: South Australia. Council Members and guests were invited to the State Museum to celebrate this special day. Three keynote speakers shared their stories and experiences of Commonwealth connections and culture, whilst offering their unique perspectives of women’s position and empowerment in society.
9 April 2015: RCS Victoria Branch held a Dinner Meeting to commemorate the ANZAC Centenary. The speaker was the Hon. Ted Baillieu, former Premier of Victoria and Victorian Anzac Centenary Committee Chair, who said: “This is an opportunity for modern Australia to honour the sacrifices of our war heroes and make a connection between themselves and our Anzac veterans,” he also said that the ANZAC Committee wanted to help all Victorians understand the role of the state in World War I and how communities contributed throughout the war effort. The added that the Anzac Centenary website had been developed to help people understand how they could get involved in the commemoration. Visit the website.
Applications close on 17 April for scholarship applications to this 2015 International Conference which takes place in Perth, Australia from 31 August - 4 September. Download the flyer.
Commonwealth Day 2015: South Australia. Celebrations took place in Adelaide on 8 March, at the South Australian Museum. Opened by the Governor of South Australia, there were talks, tours and entertainment to mark the day. The talks were given by three Commonwealth women, simultaneously acknowledging International Women's Day.
Commonwealth Day 2015, New Zealand: Tabby Besley, one of the Queen’s Young Leaders Award winners, at the reception following the NZ Commonwealth National observance. Read the full report of Commonwealth Day celebrations in Wellington.
Essay Competition winners celebrated in Australia
On the 10th February RCS Victoria Branch held a cocktail reception for the local winners of the 2014 Essay Competition as well as an information evening for teachers and parents. The winner, Katherine Hocking, read aloud her essay entitled 'What part does competition play in people’s daily lives?'. Victoria Branch President, Lloyd Byrne, congratulated Katherine on her achievement.
Senior Award winners:
Katherine Hocking, Winner - Rochester Secondary
Bree Latta, Runner–up - Roxborough School
Junior Award winners:
Aimee’ Coquillat, Winner - Kilvington Grammar
Harrison Broughton, Runner-up - Kilvington Grammar
Pictured:Katherine Hocking with RCS Victoria Branch President, Lloyd Byrne
Common Youth Australia Founded
On 1 November a youth-led initiative that provides opportunities for youth engagement and a platform for discussion around Commonwealth principles was founded. 'CommonYouth' addresses the Commonwealth principles by consulting with young Australians and providing a platform for youth engagement and deliberation on many issues facing the world today.
With issues ranging from human rights to environmental sustainability, education and gender equality, CommonYouth endeavours to provide a program for the youth of Australia to work together in a variety of different media to help find a solution and answer to the most important issues
facing our global community today.
CYNZ Executive Director wins Youth Week Award
In a rececption at the New Zealand Parliament on the 20th May, Youth Affairs Minister Nikki Kaye announced the recipients of the inaugural Youth Week Awards. Among the 24 young New Zealanders honoured was Commonwealth Youth New Zealand Executive Director, Aaron Hape.“Youth Week is a fantastic opportunity to recognise and celebrate the significant contribution and achievements of young people from across New Zealand,” Mr Hape said.
RCS Victoria meeting with Imogen Frawley
On the 8th May, RCS Victoria held a dinner and meeting at their headquarters in Melbourne. Guest of Honour was Miss Imogen Frawley – the recipient of a grant from RCS Victoria to assist her in her gap year undertaking, where she will travel to Tanzania for 3 months to teach English, as well as doing construction and conservation work in the local communities. Read her remarks
Commonwealth Youth New Zealand- Constitution
RCS congratulates Commonwealth Youth New Zealand (CYNZ) on its formal constitution at its Inaugural General Meeting held at Parliament on 25th April.
On 14 April a relaunch and Initial General Meeting was held at New Zealand's Parliament, supported by members of Royal Commonwealth Society branches, civil society organisations, Members of Parliament from across the political spectrum, diplomats, and, most importantly, representatives of New Zealand's youth. We were also delighted to have been joined by The Right Honourable Sir Anand Satyanand, Chair of the Commonwealth Foundation and former Governor-General of New Zealand, Lady Susan Satyanand, and Her Excellency Vicki Treadell, British High Commissioner to New Zealand.
Originally set up in 2010 by a small group of alumni from the New Zealand National Student CHOGM programme, the organisation's membership has since expanded to number hundreds of active members across the country. With this came the desire to shift the focus of the group to become more active in policy creation and youth participation in Commonwealth-related affairs.