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My advice to my countrymen living in Spain is to learn the Spanish language, eat Spanish food, drink Spanish wine, and make Spanish friends! As to the Spanish people I say they will overcome their economic difficulties and life will be better.
The Torre Espacio is part of the Cuatro Torres (Four-Tower) business complex on the northern part of Madrid. Like its three sister towers, the 57-floor, 235-meter high skyscraper could strike one as a cold architectural masterpiece, much like many business buildings in world class cities. And this is where Australia’s diplomatic mission is housed too.
And yet the Australian Embassy is as bright and warm as the sun outside once you have met Ambassador Jane M. Hardy. Dressed in a green patterned frock for our interview with her, Ms Hardy is as elegant, genial and vivacious a woman as one could possibly imagine. As a newcomer to Spain, Her Excellency often looks out the huge window in her office; she confesses that the outlying scenery somehow reminds her of Australia: ¨The fields and the mountains here look just like those in Melbourne. This city is as beautiful as my home country.¨
Bachelor of Arts, Flinders University and the University of South Australia
Graduate diploma in Foreign Affairs and Trade, ANU
Master of Arts degree, Monash University
Ambassador to Spain
Senior career officer, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Asst. Secretary, Strategic Issues and Intelligence Branch
Asst. Secretary, United States Branch (2010-2011)
Counsellor, Australian Embassy, Washington (2005-2009)
Counsellor, Australian Embassy, Seoul (1999-2002)
Second Secretary, Australian High Commission, Kuala Lumpur (1993-1996)
Published works: Articles and a book on Australian aboriginal art.
How long have you been in Spain? What is your first impression of this country?
I have been in Spain since January this year and my first impression of Spain is that it’s a very friendly country. People here are very energetic, and I think this is very important. Despite the fact that they are having some economic problem at the moment the quality of life and the kind of people the Spanish are will be very important to them as they go through this difficult period.
You have devoted yourself to foreign service. What sparked your interest in this field?
I have always been interested in foreign affairs even when I was a child. As a young person, I grew up at the time when the Vietnam War was on Australian television and I became very interested in either becoming a journalist or a person involved in foreign affairs. The other thing that happened in the 1970s is that Australia received a huge number of immigrants from Asia and other regions and this situation has continued until now. Despite the images of the boat people, Australia has taken the highest per capita number of asylum seekers of any other countries. The overseas-born citizens account for 25% of the total Australian population and it´s the highest proportion in the whole world. Living in such a diversified environment has consolidated my ambition to get involved in foreign affairs.
What is the focus of the Spanish-Australian bilateral relationship?
Our relationship with Spain has largely developed through defense ties, especially since about 7 years ago when the Australian government contracted very major ships from the Spanish company called Navantia. But since that time, really the relationship is developed through other commercial ties. We have about a hundred Spanish companies in Australia now and we keep on cooperating with many Spanish business people.
As you see it, what is the role of your embassy in enhancing Australia’s relationship with Spain?
As ambassador I see my main role as enhancing our relationship with Spain through many many different ways. Obviously, the embassy communicates with the government of Spain, the officials, the defense ministry and the business people. We also make connections with a lot of community groups, think tanks and non-government organizations. We have a wide variety of contacts. My staff and I spend a lot of time outside of this office and outside of Madrid meeting many different groups around Spain. We are also trying to tell people about our activities and our relationship with Spain through our Facebook page. So I encourage everybody to have a look at our page — Australia in Spain, Andorra and Equatorial Guinea — which are the three countries that I cover in my work here. I encourage all the Guidepost readers to have a look at our Facebook page too!
What do you think makes the Australian Embassy in Madrid capable of creating friendly relations between your country and Spain?
Our staff here are open and energetic just like the Spanish people I mentioned! Because of these characteristics, they blend very well with this society and they make friends easily. Furthermore, we have 6 Australian staff and also 20 local staff. Many of our local staff are Spaniard; they are people who grew up in Australia with Spanish parents. We benefit greatly from having those people in our team.
What would be the biggest obstacle to the cooperation between Spain and Australia?
I think it´s probably the language barrier! It´s not really so great when compared to other barriers, but languages are always very important and it is quite a challenge for me to master Spanish within a short period of time. I know other Asian languages but this is the first time that I have studied a European language. I think for everybody it´s important to try and learn Spanish because it´s a very beautiful language and the Spaniards are very proud of it. So, that might be the biggest obstacle. It´s not a big obstacle though.
So far what are the most memorable events since you became Ambassador to Spain?
In February 2013, I went back to Melbourne for the naming ceremony of one of the big ships, which is called the Canberra. The prime minister of Australia named the ship and the Spanish Defense Minister, all of the top echelon of the Armada and many Spanish friends were also there. The Spain Australia Council Foundation was launched at a wonderful dinner in that evening too. Miguel Villar Mir, the president of the Spain Australia Foundation, was sitting next to me, and the Spanish Defense Minister was sitting on the other side of me. Many Spanish senior officials were also there and it was a wonderful event. That was one of the highlights. The other highlight was presenting my credentials to His Majesty King Juan Carlos in February. I would never forget this marvelous occasion.
What are the upcoming events that excite you the most?
In January, we will have our Australian Day celebration. We have been planning it in the past few months and it will be the first one we have here for a long time. I also look forward to September when people come back to work in Madrid because we are going to have a very busy agenda then. I have spent the first six months really getting to know very senior officials, think tanks and business people and in September, October and November we will work hard to build on that. We have a few things coming up, for example we will have the Australian Expo and the Australian Study Centre in Barcelona where the annual Australian conference and other important Australian cultural events will be held. All of these will be exciting for me and hopefully for our Spanish friends.
What are the biggest cultural differences and similarities between Spain and Australia?
There are many similarities in fact! The biggest one is that both Spanish and Australian people are egalitarian by nature. They relate to each other on an equal basis regardless of their status and income. This is a very strong feature of both countries. Moreover, they both have monarchies, we have the British Queen and they have their own king. So these two features make us somehow similar. For the differences, I think it is that the Spanish eat so late at night! The Australian often eats at 7 or 8 o´clock at night and it takes a big adjustment! However, it is delightful and it is not a big problem. Most Australians adapt very quickly to this lifestyle.
Are there any special aspects of Spanish culture that you would like to introduce to your people back home?
Yes! My husband and I love the bullfights! We don´t think that Australia have any bullfights. It is such an elegant and ancient tradition and it is so unique to Spain. Although there are some in France and Mexico, they all come from Spain. I personally think the bulls are treated very well. I know some people do not like the bloodshed and I can appreciate that. Still, I think it is a really fascinating and important art form.
What advice would you give to foreigners, especially Australians, who are living in Spain?
My advice will be to try to learn Spanish language, eat Spanish food, drink Spanish wine and make Spanish friends. Enjoy the very best things about Spain and do not let things become negative. Although, as I said, it is hard times for Spain economically, I am very positive that Spain will overcome these economic difficulties and life will become better in the next few years.
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