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The Correspondent November-December 2002 PDF Print E-mail
The Correspondent
(Journal of The Foreign Correspondents' Association)
November-December 2002


Newsletter Index A good restart with Iraqi briefing by Agneta Didrikson
The FCA is off to a good start in the Spring term. First, we had a briefing with the organisers of the Gay Games. Quite a few of our members found their way to the DFAT meeting room in September. But the real kick off must be the Press Conference with the Iraqi Charge d´Affaires, the country´s highest ranking diplomat in Australia.Dr Saad Al- Samarai came, talked
Iraqi Charge d' Affaires Dr Saad al-Samarai
Iraqi Charge d' Affaires Dr Saad al-Samarai addressing journalists at a press conference convened by the SMC and FCA
.
Photo credit: Urs Bucher
and maybe conquered at least some of the members in the audience if not the reporter from Channel 7. The press conference was held at the new Media Centre (see lead story) and about 20 members made it through the extra security.The diplomats were taken through the garage in a special elevator to the 39th floor, but there were no incidents to trouble the press conference.Dr Al-Samarai had the outer looks of a teddybear, but inside he was his President´s envoy and almost every question from the floor was answered with a question from the stage. He constantly referred to the UN Embargo, which - according to him - has killed 1,750,000 Iraqi civilians. About what an attack on Iraq - with Australian soldiers right behind the Americans - would result in, Dr Al-Samarai asked back: what would you do if a foreign country attacked YOU? That is the way Diplomats talk and most of the FCA members present understood.
The press conference room at the SMC worked really well for the occasion and we hope to be back soon with our next guest. On our list is Chief of Army General Cosgrove, Trade Minister Mark Vaile and Defence Minister Robert Hill.

Newsletter Index Is multiculturalism dead? by Christopher Zinn
Most FCA members are far happier asking questions rather than answering them but for some their moment of truth came at the NSW Writer¹s Centre on October 20.
The association was asked to field a panel as part of the Carnivale festival to address the vexed and minefield laden question of " Is multiculturalism dead?"
Past president Juergen Corleis rounded up the unusual suspects to join him for the FCA¹s contribution; Urs Waterlin who represents Swiss and German publications, Sumegha Agarwal from India and this reporter who was to chair the session. A Lebanon based former foreign correspondent turned author, poet and playwright, Jad El Hage, was seconded by the organisers to join us at the last minute.
Panel discussion on Is Multiculturalism dead?
Christopher Zinn, Sumegha Agarwal and Urs Wälterlin at a panel discussion on Is Multiculturalism dead? Presented by the FCA, the speakers spoke on how foreign journalists based in Australia report on Australian culture and politics to their home countries.

Given the events of Bali, the day of mourning which occurred that Sunday and the subject matter there was some speculation as to whether anyone would actually turn up.
While mulling over what we might actually say a large number of people gathered in the room and we were told was the location for our session. It was packed when we rolled up only to be told our room was actually next door and quite empty!
However about 30-40 people rocked up by the start time and seemed to enjoy the lively exchanges which flowed from multiculturalism and terrorism to definitions of Indigenous and Australian culture.
Juergen, who has made a documentary film on the subject, was most animated by the discussion and Urs took Australia to task for its perceived retreat from multiculturalism as witnessed by the Tampa incident etc.
Sumegha told how she had reported from migrant communities in Sydney where no other journalists seemed to visit and what a wealth of interesting stories lay waiting to be unearthed.
Jad El Hage gave a writer¹s and personal perspective on multiculturalism especially from his own experiences of living in Sydney and running a small restaurant.
In a lesson to us all, most of the questions afterwards were nothing of the kind but lengthy comments some of which waffled on so long and so widely it was hard to think of anything to say in reply. But there were also some good contributions from the floor.
However, the 75 minutes flew by without any embarrassing pauses. Few would claim we actually managed to answer the questions, but those present seemed to feel the exercise was a success.

Newsletter Index Know your president
Agneta Didrikson - Correspondent for Scandinavian Business Papers
Agneta Didrikson
Agneta Didrikson
What are you reading?
BLONDE by Joyce Carol Oates
What are you listening to?
Newsradio on the ABC.
What is your favourite film?
Chariots on Fire about the Olympics of 1924
What are you angry about?
Australia not signing the Kyoto Protocol
What are you excited about?
Getting together a good program for the FCA
Who would you most like to sit next to on a plane?
As I am afraid of flying I would choose a handsome retired pilot.
What is your favourite sound?
Waves rolling on the beach or rain on a hard roof.
Your ultimate holiday destination?
Grundsund, a fishing village on the Swedish west coast.
What are your best moments?
Spending time with my grandsons or walking the beach in the sunrise
The best and/or worst decision you´ve ever made?
Buying Nokia shares in 1996 and not selling them in 2001!
What would you never give up?
Personal and national independence
Who do you find inspiring?
My late grandmother was some great lady!
Who would you most like to meet? 18 holes with Kerry Packer, Bill Clinton and Greg Norman would be interesting.
What do you want more of?
Good speakers for the FCA-lunches.

Newsletter Index Bollywood comes to Bondi beach by Neena Bhandari
With the overwhelming success of , and in national theatres this year; it was evident that Australians wanted a taste of Bollywood.
For long, Australians have been intrigued by what makes Indian cinema Hollywood's greatest rival. In recent years, Australia has caught the fancy of many an Indian and Hollywood producer. The continent offers not only diverse landscapes, but competitive prices, excellent infrastructure and a skilled technical base. The film links have had its spin offs in other industries like tourism, overseas students and the local economy and employment.
In the past four years, over 70 Indian feature films and television serials, commercials and music videos have utilised the resources spending A$3 million a year. To showcase mainstream Indian cinema, the first-ever three-day `Bollywood on Bondi' festival was held here as part of the Carnivale, which celebrates multicultural music, theatre, dance, films, visual arts and literature at a range of venues from the Opera House, Bondi beach to suburban streets.
Says festival curator Safina Uberoi, " I wanted to bring Indian cinema to Australia with a big bang- and what better place to do it than Bondi.
Bondi Beach
I was amazed and delighted at the audience response. They hooted, clapped, cheered, sighed and heckled their way through the films".
Her personal documentary has been a runaway success since its recent release in national theatres and has bagged many awards too.
The opening night screening of the Oscar-nominated Bollywood blockbuster was heavily over subscribed with people lining the aisles at the Bondi pavilion. Introducing the film, scriptwriter Anjum Rajaballi said, "The idea of this festival is to make cinema more accessible to a non-Indian audience. The Westerners have been very dismissive of our cinema. They find it peculiar folk or theatrical or opera or musical, but not cinema. Indian cinema has evolved and need to understand it in its cultural context. The form of narrative is very important and once the westerners allow themselves to be familiar, they are able to engage and enjoy it".
With Indian films making it to the top 10 charts in the US and the UK, a lot of interest has been generated in Indian cinema worldwide. "Bollywood is popping at every corner and Indian films are being reviewed in leading international media. With a film like people are feeling that there must be something to it if an authority like the Academy is finding it of quality", adds Rajaballi of (A big hit in the UK) fame.
The other films at the three-day festival included the classic and 1 Says John Winter, who is producing a romantic comedy encompassing storytelling and design for both sides of the spectrum i.e. Indian and western, "Australia is indeed ready for Bollywood. This is a real opportunity show that Indian films have been evolving and developing with a highlevel of sophistication."
Mainstream Indian cinema is generally viewed with mystification or dismissed as mere fantasy. At a well-attended seminar, panellists discussed what it means to be a star in a country of a billion people and the use of the indispensable song and dance sequences.
Exploring the unique narrative structures of Indian Cinema, the seminar was presented by the Media Department of Macquarie University in conjunction with the Australian Film, Television and Radio School.
AFTRS Director Rod Bishop said, " For Australians, India signifies cricket and Bollywood. has been a miracle and it has introduced the game of cricket to the Americans. It is a myth that Indians make melodramatic films, Americans and Australians do too. The drama and music in Indian cinema does not alienate the outside audience. It has a connection with Westerners and foreign culture".
For Australians, India has suddenly become more than cricket. This was manifested in the huge numbers that turned up not only to watch the films, but also to participate in the closing night dance party.
Sydneysiders gyrated the night away to the beat of Asian underground drum and base, music from the West Indies and the very latest hits from Bollywood. When the doors finally closed, there were still large groups singing and dancing on the sands of Bondi.

Newsletter Index Annual General meeting 2002
President's Report: Juergen Corleis: The two years I was privileged to be president of the FCA were an exciting experience.
There were good times - the Olympics - and bad times, after the Olympics, when the International Media Centre was shut down. And then, there was Ann's Death. It hit us totally unexpectedly, and there was no time for a handover of her work to a successor. All of a sudden we had to reorganize the FCA. We were aware that the times after the Olympics would be difficult for our Organisation. The enormous exposure Australia had received in 2000 would make it more difficult to file stories from here that sell well. We also faced a decline in membership, due to a number of correspondents moving on to other postings. This situation was aggravated by the Federal Government's decision to close the International Media Centre Margaret Street. Whilst we still deplore the loss of our facilities at Margaret Street, we have no problems in co-operating with Diana Nelson, who runs the little new office at Angel Place. Diana has been very helpful to colleagues who have basked for assistance. The Canberra excursion she organized was greatly appreciated. She is one our members, and we are looking forward to further co-operation, irrespective of the Orwellian misnomer for her office. For many years, the main events we staged were the "Newsmaker Luncheons". In the early days, the FCA even derived an income from them, charging $35.
But with the GST and galloping price rises in the Service Industry we could not organize a sit-down luncheon for less than $50, and that is simply too much for many of our members. We have to reduce newsmaker luncheons to major speakers like the Prime Minister or the Leader of the Opposition - we hope to host them this year. But most other newsmaker events will be briefings. Our members are experiencing big changes in their media. There is, for example, less demand for independent analysis and background stories. This, at least, my experience and it was confirmed by quite a few colleagues. There the impression that our media expect that stories which benefit someone should be facilitated by the beneficiary. This has been the practice in travel reports for a long while, now it seems to apply to industry, science and many other areas. Accepting this, we should still able to maintain our integrity. Various Government Departments will help us. But there are also the State Governments with often different interests. Over the last year we have established close relations with Tasmania and Victoria, who facilitated travels for some groups of members and helped us to cover stories which otherwise would have been hardly accessible. The New South Wales Department of State and Regional Development has also assisted with briefings and rooms for meetings. Over the past year, the FCA has become better known, it has more profile. The new board should continue on this path, as our weight and influence is still underrated. We should not be afraid of being controversial at times. The good news concerning last year is that we have survived. Macquarie Bank renewed its sponsorship for two years, together with the membership and joining fees this should cover our expenses. At our last board meeting we decided on a membership drive, and already have a number of new membership applications. The best news is that Nina Fudala has agreed to be our secretary from August 1st. Nina was the Director of the International Media Centre at Margaret Street, later at Wilhelmstrasse, the immediate predecessor of Diana Nelson. She brings along a lot of experience and valuable contacts. With her on board the future of the FCA looks bright. Let me thank all members of the board for the extra work they put in after Ann had left us. It was not easy to keep the association running. But now we can hand the FCA to a new board, having laid the foundations for an even more effective association.
Agneta Diedrikson has been nominated for president and Mark Chipperfield is prepared to stay on as secretary. As for me, I have served my term and could not stand again under our charter. I will automatically be on the new board as the "immediate former President", but I will nevertheless have to be elected as Interim Treasurer. For the next few months, until the database is restored, there seems to be no other choice, and there is no nomination for that portfolio - which is an easy job, when things are going smoothly. I hope to find a successor soon. want to thank all members for their allegiance. It has been a great time for me to be your President.
Treasurer's Report: Agneta Didrikson: Our membership has dropped by about 30 per cent , which is clearly visible in our income. Our total income was $24,771.50, down from the Olympic heights of $38,515.00 for 2000-2001. It was, however, almost in line with the previous year 1999-2000, which was $26,639.66. Our expenditure was also much lower: $26,328.12 , compared to last year when we spent $41,863.17. This gives us a loss of $1,556.62. We had money in the bank and could draw on that. Our bank reserves in the Macquarie Bank are $1,233.69. Our major income source this year was the sponsorship from Macquarie Bank of $12,500 dollars - for which we are very grateful. Members contributed $9,500 and from Functions we received $2,362.11. Secretarial services ($9,381.60), The Correspondent ($6,874.74), Functions ($4,370.50) and our Liability Insurance ($2,024.00) were our main expenses. For details look at the statement of income that I and our auditor Judy Feyzeny have presented.
Secretary's Report, Mark Chipperfield: During the financial year 2001-2002 period the FCA has really felt the Post Olympic consequences.
The last 12 months have been one of considerable challenge for the FCA. Apart from the devastating loss of Ann, we've also been grappling with the changing needs of our members.Our program of lunch time speakers and functions continued as per normal with appearances from Laurie Brereton, Professor Des Ball and our favourite minister Philip Ruddock. Simon Crean has agreed to address the FCA in August. Perhaps the biggest success, however, has been the two hosted trips to Tasmania and Victoria. Not only did these prove highly popular but they produced a wealth of stories for FCA members. I've already received an invitation from South Australia to host similar event and am sure other states would also be interested. Having organised the Victorian trip I'm convinced that the biggest problem facing the organisation is our own lack of public profile. To this end I believe both our website and newsletter should be maintained and expanded. Two other issues are sponsorship and the need to find a new home following the closure of the IMC.
As those who've read the recent issues of the Correspondent will understand there have been ongoing discussions with the NSW state government to secure some space in Macquarie street. I hope to receive a final confirmation about this in the next month. I am confident that the FCA, under the new board, can take up some of these initiatives and continue to expand and develop in the years to come.
(The AGM of the FCA was held at the NSW Leagues Club on 6pm July 23, 2002. The above speeches have been edited for space.)
 
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