The UAE and Australia have enjoyed successful relations for a number of years, since the establishment of diplomatic ties between the two countries and the opening of the Australian Embassy in Abu Dhabi. The new ambassador, Doug Trappett, arrived in the UAE at the end of September from his home city of Adelaide, ready to continue fostering this mutually beneficial relationship.

"Prior to my arrival in the UAE I had the opportunity to meet many Australians with interests in the UAE, ranging from our political and business leaders to those involved in education, tourism and arts," he says. "A striking aspect of this was the sense of warmth and optimism about the relationship; this friendship seems to be founded on both nations' status as tolerant, open and outward-looking societies."

To reinforce the positive relationship between the two countries, official visits have been conducted at the highest levels. "A very important facet of the relationship is the expanding contact between the leaders of both countries," says Trappett.

"Both the Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, and the Governor General, Quentin Bryce — the representative of our Head of State — have visited the UAE over the past 12 months, while our Foreign and Trade Ministers have also made official visits to the UAE and enjoy regular contact with their UAE counterparts."

Trade between Australia and the UAE is thriving. "In 2008, bilateral merchandise trade was A$6.3 billion (Dh21.23 billion), but this does not include trade in services, such as education and tourism, which was calculated at A$1.6 billion (Dh5.39 billion) in 2006," says the ambassador. "Australia's main export items to the UAE are gold, passenger motor vehicles, zinc, meat and fresh food."

Commonalities shared by the two countries include a multicultural society and diverse cultural pastimes. "Australia and the UAE co-operate and share information across a broad range of activities," says the ambassador.

"Superior facilities in the UAE such as sporting fields, exhibition centres, theatres, hotels and the corniches offer a wealth of opportunities to promote Australian art and culture in the UAE. Australians participate in major exhibitions hosted in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah, and we have held Australian Film Festivals in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

"The first Australian Football League match, attracting a crowd of 7,000, was held in Ghantoot in February last year, and events like the [Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix] in November and the Australian V8 Supercars in February offer a chance for Australians and Emiratis to share their passion for motorsports."

Educational ties

Efforts to develop ties within the education sector include the establishment of Australian education institutes in the UAE, along with plans to set up exchange programmes offering Australian students the chance to spend six months studying in the UAE. "Education is one of the success stories in Australia's relationship with the UAE, as it simultaneously benefits both countries and, through personal links, brings us closer," says ambassador Trappett.

Environmental issues are also of paramount importance to both countries. "We are both major energy producers with a commitment to protecting the environment and developing renewable energy technology," he says.

Common interests

Further joint initiatives instigated by the two countries include a diverse range of activities. "We co-operate in many areas from civil aviation to police forensics to the provision of social services and distance education and statistics collection," says the ambassador. "We are constantly arranging VIP and senior level official delegations to pursue co-operation and, through common interests such as horse racing, we enjoy strong relations at the highest levels."

The relationship between the two countries was further illustrated by the UAE's response to tragic events in Australia earlier this year. "We were sincerely grateful for the kindness of His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, following the Black Saturday bush fires in Victoria in February," says Trappett.

Such close, mutually supportive relations can only be of benefit to both countries, both now and in the future. n

On the Lighter Side

When he isn't taking care of official business on behalf of his country, ambassador Doug Trappett most enjoys spending time with his wife Robyn and son Hugh, who is a keen cricket and soccer player and Australian Rules football fan. "I think of myself as an avid reader of books on international politics and history, but of course work often derails that pleasure," he says.

The ambassador is excited by his recent move and is looking forward to visiting places such as the Shaikh Zayed Grand Mosque and seeing the UAE's many architectural marvels. "I will be exploring all seven emirates to see what cultural and historical gems they have to offer," he says. "I'm looking forward to learning much more about the Arab culture and history, as well as Islam; to do so within a nation that is rapidly gaining attention within Australia as a ‘must-see' destination and from the position of ambassador is a great honour."

Although the ambassador has so far escaped the golfing bug, he is into sports like the junior member of the Trappett family. "I played a lot of tennis when I was young and still don't mind an occasional hit," the ambassador says.

And as for Australia's performance in the Ashes this year? "We'll be back," he says confidently.