Pertti Torstila, Under Secretary of State, at the opening of the new Finnish chancery in Canberra
Ladies and Gentlemen,
First of all, I would like to convey to all of you the personal greetings from HE Dr Erkki Tuomioja, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Finland, who due to sudden illness had to cancel his trip to Australia. It is a great pleasure and honour to me to represent him and the Government of Finland at this opening ceremony.
We Finns are delighted to be here in Canberra today and see this spectacular new Chancery of the Finnish Embassy. Its modern Finnish style of architecture, in our view, complements perfectly Yarralumla’s other impressive Embassy buildings. This new building also blends in with the beautiful Australian bushland, with Black Mountain in the background.
In designing this building the young Finnish architect Vesa Huttunen, who is also with us here today, has been inspired by a Finnish coastal vessel Ilmarinen that was named after the mythical blacksmith Ilmarinen from the Finnish national epic Kalevala. The Chancery’s length and its wooden decks do indeed recall the form of a ship. The mechanical louvres at the far end of the building, controlling light and heat have the resemblance of sails. Other special features of the complex include the geothermal heating and cooling system. Even the traditional Finnish sauna has not been forgotten with its modern features.
For the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs the Canberra Embassy is, after Washington, Berlin and Stockholm, the next and the newest in a series of Embassy buildings using the most modern Finnish architectural trends of design. These designs have been widely praised. As for Canberra this new Chancery replaces the old neighbouring one which had been occupied since 1978.
You may ask why Finland, a small country from far away, has decided to build this new Chancery. Firstly, we see our enhanced presence in Australia with this new building justified. You are important to us. Canberra is Finland’s most remote outpost in the world, covering a vast region of the Australian island continent and Oceania. And secondly, there is a strong uniting factor between Finland and Australia, in addition to our excellent relations, namely the Finnish expatriates amounting to, according to some estimates, 30.000 people.
Even in the past Finland and Australia have not been separated by oceans, but connected by them. Indeed, the first Finn to set foot in Australia arrived by sea with Captain James Cook in 1770. His name was Herman Dietrich Spöring from Turku. Later during the 19th century Finns continued to disembark here. They were seamen on British ships, miners, farmers, and others eager to do their part to build a new nation. Maybe the best known of them are the Mt Isa miners, who have become legendary. Hundreds of Finns arrived during the Gold Rush and formed settlements. After the interruption of emigration during the Second World War the new wave of emigration from Finland started in the 1950’s and 1970’s, helped by the Australian government’s assisted passage scheme. Approximately half of the arrivals have settled permanently.
We consider this relatively large Finnish-Australian expatriate community a significant resource for both of our countries. The Finns in Australia maintain the image of Finns as hardworking, creative people with sound values. They also help to expose other Australians to the array of Finnish art, music, and folk culture.
The distance certainly plays a role in the mutual transactions, but our two countries have already offered much to each other and with offers in the future. The Finnish multinational companies discovered this years ago. The flagship of Finnish IT companies - Nokia - is the best example, being a market leader in GSM phones in Australia.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I want to congratulate the Finnish and Australian architects, constructors and engineers who have designed and created this impressive piece of modern Finnish architecture of Australian materials. I would also like to extend our thanks to the contractor and the numerous sub-contractors and workers who have been involved in the construction of this beautiful building.
And finally, I would like to wish the personnel of the Embassy all the luck and success in their tasks.