EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Romanians from Australia, New Zealand need a more articulated profile of their communities

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Interview with H.E. Mrs. NINETA BARBULESCU, Ambassador of Romania to Australia and New Zealand.

 

 

How is to manage Romania’s foreign affairs at such a long distance and for quite a wide area (Australia, New Zealand)?

 

For me, as a Romanian career diplomat since 1994, currently Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary appointed by two Romanian Presidents, it is the greatest honour and challenge. I am looking each and every day of my tenure in Canberra after Romanians and Romanian footprints in Australia, New Zealand and in all island states from the South Pacific region and I work permanent, to the best of my abilities, for advancing bilateral relations between Romania and all these countries.

 

How large is the Romanian community in Australia and in New Zealand and what are the main fields of their activity?

According to the most recent Australian Census (2011) 12 247 persons speak Romanian in Australia: 5022 in state of Victoria – main city Melbourne; 2375 in New South Wales – main city Sydney; 2126 in Queensland – main city Brisbane; 1620 in Western Australia – main city Perth; 978 in South Australia – main city Adelaide; 70 in Australian Capital Territory – main city Canberra – Australia’s capital; 34 in Tasmania – main city Hobart and 22 in Northern Teritory – main city Darwin.

With Romanians in Tasmania, Hobart
With Romanians in Tasmania, Hobart

According to the most recent New Zealand Census (2013) 1445 persons speak Romanian in New Zealand, mainly in Auckland (the biggest city).

My overall estimations are based on the presence to the electoral process in November 2014 and Romanians associations estimations in both Australia and New Zealand: about 25 000 Romanians in Australia and 3000 in New Zealand.

According to a study based on a LinkedIn group created in 2014 with statistical significance, we found that from a Romanian presence of 1903 results filtered by location: Australia and keyword: “Romanian” there were: 184 Romanians in IT; 79 Romanians in Financial Services; 62 Romanians in Marketing & Advertising; 60 Romanians in Mining & Metals; 59 Romanians in Building; 55 Romanians in Higher Education; 27 Romanians in Research.

After extrapolating the percentage structure we found that 50 % are businessmen – 25 % work in science – 6 % are students – 2,5 % are university lecturers and 1 % are professors.

 

What makes the Romanian community in Australia, New Zealand special? What do you think are their greatest assets?

Romanian communities in Australia and New Zealand are very well integrated into these two advanced societies.

The very first wave of Romanian immigrants arriving to Australia was at the end of the XIX century. Among them, the father of the Queensland Premier during 1920 – 1925, namely Edward Granville Theodor (Red Ted), was coming from my native town of Galati. The second Romanian wave of immigrants arrived to Australia after the end of the Second World War. Romania and Australia established diplomatic relations on March 18, 1968. During 80s the third largest wave of Romanian immigrants arrived to Australia, some of them escaping Romania swimming through Danube, and settled mainly in the states of Victoria and New South Wales. In 1991 Romanian government bought this building in Canberra, opened the Romanian Embassy and appointed the first Romanian Ambassador to Australia. After 1989 the fourth wave of Romanian immigrants is consists mostly of younger people with academic degree.

In New Zealand there is a much younger Romanian community but a vibrant one. There is a strong Romanian Association Doina, established a decade ago, I believe the most representative and comprehensive Romanian association from this part of the world.

Many Romanian scientists and artists are living in Australia and New Zealand, I believe Romanian scientific diaspora is the strongest asset of Romanian diaspora, in particular here in Downunder.

Some important personalities of Romanian origin:

– Professor Silviu Itescu, CEO of Mesoblast Ltd from Melbourne (company with market capitalization of AUD 1 billion in 2014), the spearhead of Australian bio-technology research with adult stem cells, decorated by the Pope; he said at the symposium public interest to initiate clinical trials research institutes in Romania;

– Professor Cristian Calude at the University of Auckland, New Zealand;

– Professor Traian Chirila, chief researcher at the University of Queensland, the inventor of artificial cornea; Adjunct Professor at Queensland University of Technology, Institute for Bio/engineering and Nanotechnology and the Faculty of Medicine and Medical Sciences in Brisbane;

– Professor Richard Bannati from the Australian National Organization for Science and Technology (ANSTO) in Sydney;

– Dr. Floreana Coman, Adjunct Professor, School of Aerospace Engineering, Mechanical and Production Yehnologie Royal Institute in Melbourne, Victoria;

– Roman Grand Joldes, Associate Professor, Deputy Director of the Laboratory of Computational Geo/mechanics from the University of Western Australia (UWA);

– Gabriel Branescu, meteorologist at the Bureau of Meteorology in Darwin, Northern Territory;

– Florin Burhala, lawyer, director BMA Lawyers, Melbourne, Victoria
– Marian Andrei Rizoiu, researcher, Australian Centre of Excellence for communications technology (NICTA), Canberra, ACT:

– Marius Porojan, graduate admissions manager, Perth, UWA;
– Dr. Daniela Andrei, a research assistant at the School of Psychology, Faculty of Science UWA;
– Dana Crisan, responsible for the Centre for Microscopy, Characterisation and Analysis of UWA.
– Cristina Pavalache, Contracts and Projects Manager Campus Services, Edith Cowen University, Perth, Western Australia,

– Ion Gluga, expert in intellectual property;

– The physicians Dana Lepinzan (Perth) and Ileana Corban (Adelaide);

– Diana Renner, co-author of Not Knowing management, CMI award-winning book of the year in 2014;
– Writers: Ana Maria Beligan, George Roca, Daniel Ionita, Mihaela Cristescu, publicist Eugene Ionescu, sculptor Nicolae Turcu and actors Ion Gheorghiu, Clara and Bogdan Voda, and many others whom gladly I will certainly learn in the future.

 

How the Romanian Diaspora stands in terms of solidarity? What problems they are usually facing?

Romanian language and Christian faith are the foundation of Romanian solidarity so far from our country. Romanians are spread all over the territory of mainland of Australia and I believe there is still room to move for building bridges of trust among Romanians from different generations. The most common needs of Romanians from this part of the world are regular and accessible consular services, in particular for Romanians who are yet to become citizens of Australia or New Zealand and a more articulated profile of their communities. The most numerous organisations for Romanians are established by Romanian communities connected with orthodox, Baptist and Pentecostal churches.

 

As an Ambassador you have a quite fervent activity. This month you had meetings with the General Manager of the Australian Antarctic Division, with the Romanian community in Tasmania. Are these new ways of cooperation, there are any projects under way in this respect? If you would like to elaborate on this topics.

July 9, 2015, The Governor of Tasmania Her Excellency Professor Kate Warner AM & Mr. Richard Warner, at the Governor House in Hobart.
July 9, 2015, The Governor of Tasmania Her Excellency Professor Kate Warner AM & Mr. Richard Warner, at the Governor House in Hobart.

I had the privilege to meet early this month a young yet ambitious Tassie politician, Honourable Michael Ferguson MP, Minister for Health, IT and Innovation and he is interested to contact his homologues from Bucharest Government. I also met the dynamic Deputy Lord Mayor Ron Christie who invited us the next day at the amazing Bonfire at Salamanca Square, hoping I may generate a sisterhood between Hobart and a Romanian city. With the Honourable Bryan Green MP, Tasmanian Labor Leader I spoke about the Romanian origin former Labor Queensland Premier and Treasurer Theodor Granville, known as Red Ted, an inspirational leader who made inter alia a political reform abolishing the upper house of the local Parliament in Brisbane during the third decade of the last century, that is way today the only unicameral Parliament in Australia is in Queensland.

I visited the Institute for Marine & Antarctic Studies and started a conversation about the ways and means to expand bilateral cooperation in Antarctica. The Australian side decided to name one permanent research station in East of Antarctica, at the Lasermann Hills, Law – Racovita – Negoita, 2 names of famous Romanians: Professor Emil Racovita the founder of biospeology and Dr. Teodor Negoita, a contemporary Romanian explorer to Antarctica who unexpected passed away in 2011. Romanian scientists are grateful to their Aussie counterparts for granting acces to Romanian scientists at the research station in Antarctica from a decade ago.

 

What other cultural, economic events did the Romanian embassy to Australia host this year? Are there any scheduled in the upcoming months of 2015?

On March 27, 2015 I celebrated 47 years of diplomatic relations with Australia organizing a diplomatic reception and the launch of a photo exhibition entitled Dancing with Costica, at Romanian Embassy in Canberra. The photo exhibition belongs to Romanian photographer Costica Acsinte, born 100 years ago and one of the First World War photographers and to the contemporary Australian artist Jane Long, who kindly joined the reception in Canberra. I believe art bridges the cultural incognito for this important celebration and this event, attended by more than 130 guests, many colleagues Ambassadors from Argentina, the Dean of the Diplomatic choir, Bulgaria, Ecuador, Greece, Lebanon, Philippine, Poland, Qatar, Serbia, Slovakia and Hungary, members of the Parliament, Australians officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Professor Brian Schmidt, Nobel Prize laureat, President and members of the Canberra Rotary Club Board, professors and researchers from the Australian National University and from the University of Canberra, art critics, local media (City News and Canberra Times), Romanians from ACT, Adelaide and Melbourne, many Australian friends.

Costica Acsinte black and white photos taken between 1920 – 1970 became the canvas of Jane Long’s photos. The exhibition Dancing with Costica was opened to the public from March 30, 2015 until June 30, 2015, at Romanian Embassy in Canberra.

Between June 14 – 16, 2015, I was very pleased and honored to organize the very First Romanian Scientific Diaspora in Australia Symposium at Romanian Embassy in Canberra. Minister Honorable Malcolm Turnbull highlighted the importance of Romanian scientific diaspora in Australia and pointed out the contribution of Syrian architect Apollodor from Damascus 2000 years ago by building a bridge over Danube.

Outstanding personalities, most of them of Romanian origin, shared their best and/or current professional achievements in front of a diplomatic and academic audience.

This event was inspired by the rapid growth of two LinkedIn networks established in 2014: Romanian Science and Technology Research Network (82 members) and Romanian – Australian Business Network (101 members) and by the successful grant CAESIE awarded in 2014 to Professor Mamut Eden from Constanta and SUNRISE CSP Ltd from Canberra.
Professor Silviu Itescu, CEO Mesoblast Ltd, announced his plans to start clinical trials in Romania for adult stem cell research; Dr. Ioan Ursu, Scientific Secretary of National Institute Horia Hulubei is interested to start cooperation between ELI – NP (an investment of 300 millions Euro) and Australian institutions QUESTACON and ANSTO.
Professor Heinrich Hora spoke about the laser-driven technique to ignite hydrogen-boron fuel offering the possibility of nuclear fusion for clean, sustainable energy generation; Professor Liviu P. Dinu’s computational linguistic method for measuring the distances between languages might be applicable for the numerous Aboriginal languages;
Adjunct Professor Floreana Coman from Melbourne Royal Institute of Technology presented the third millennium materials through the textiles perspective.

Dr. Stuart Kohlhagen, Director of Science at QUESTACON, pleaded for the 2015 – International Year of Light; Professor Mamut Eden from Ovidius University in Constanta, Black Sea Universities Network (i.e. 120 universities from 12 countries) is looking for an academic long-term partener in Australia; Ion Gluga spoke about Romanian scientific diaspora and the higher education  and lawyer Florin Burhala from Melbourne described the economic attractiveness of Romania, Dan Barbulescu, founder of Bucharest Equity Research Group, spoke about the fascinating story of Internet in Romania and presented professional structure of Romanian scientific diaspora in Australia; John Tuckwell, senior adviser at the local EU delegation presented the Horizon 2020’s procedures and criteria for financing multilateral scientific research projects; Professor Oscar Moze, Italy science attaché, presented the Switzerland – Italy local initiative Canberra Science Diplomats Club. The exceptional bilateral cooperation of Romania with Australia in Antarctica was highlighted. This symposium was reflected in interviews for Romanian TVR International, SBS and on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.

June 24, 2015 - International Day of Romanian blouse (Ziua Internationala a Iei) at Romanian Embassy in Canberra, with my PA Mihaela Nicolae.
June 24, 2015 – International Day of Romanian blouse (Ziua Internationala a Iei) at Romanian Embassy in Canberra, with PA Mihaela Nicolae.

On the occasion of National Flag Day on June 26, I hosted a reception for the members of the diplomatic choir in Canberra, of the Association of Spouses of the Heads of Mission (ASHOM), local Romanian community and the members of the Network of Women Diplomats in Canberra (NOWDA) attended. I told three stories: the brave history of Romanian flag, the historical story of Queen Maria of Romania and the cultural story of cooperation between Romanian official WWI prolific photographer Costica Acsinte and Australian artist Jane Long from Queensland, resulting in Dancing with Costica series (check the web to understand better this space – time portal between Romania and Australia).

During my first visit to Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland (May 31 – June 7, 2015) I discovered Romania from Aotearoa/ New Zealand and I will be happy to create joint events with Romanians living in New Zealand.

In the near future I would like to highlight more the significance of outstanding Romanian artists as Câltia, Corneliu Petrescu, Ion Gheorghiu & many more, part of the Tyler Collection of the University of Tasmania, most probably the biggest Romanian art collection in the southern hemisphere.

 

How do you assess the commercial bilateral relation between Romania and this part of the world? What is the figure of the Romanian exports here (what are we exporting) and how the Romanian investments in Australia and New Zealand stand right now?

The bilateral economic relations with Australia registered a really booming with 44.6% increase in 2014 compared with 2013 reaching 160 million AUD.

Major Australian imports from Romania are: Clothing AU$18m, Artwork & antiques AU$13m, Mechanical handling equipment & parts AU$10m, Rubber tyres, treads & tubes AU$7m.

The main Romanian imports from Australia are: Telecom equipment & parts AU$37m, Medicaments (including veterinary) AU$2m, Hand or machine tools AU$1m.

 

You are among the few Romanian female ambassadors abroad. Is it room for more women to represent Romania worldwide? In your view, how does diplomacy stand among women in the world at the present moment? What would be other greatest gains of women in our Eastern European region in the 21st century and what would they have more to achieve?

May 2014, Nobel Prize for the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in the Hague (Netherlands), one of Mrs. Ambassador's most favourite working place since 2001, currently she is ViceChair of its Confidentiality Commission
May 2014, Nobel Prize for the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in the Hague (Netherlands), one of Mrs. Ambassador’s most favourite working place since 2001, currently she is ViceChair of its Confidentiality Commission

Although I am not a feminist by default, I believe humankind in general has to take substantive advantage of this not yet exploited enough 60 % of human resource. In comparison with 1992, when I joined Romanian diplomatic service after I graduated Magna cum Laude Law Faculty in Bucharest and there were less than 5 Romanian female diplomats, more than half of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ staff are females and about 22 % of the heads of Romanian diplomatic missions abroad are women, as well /embassies, general consulates, consulates, vice-consulates, cultural institutions/.

I am pleased to have many outstanding female colleagues such as Simona Miculescu, currently head of UN office in Belgrade, former Permanent Representative in New York, Manuela Breazu, Ambassador in Ireland, Ireny Comaroschi, Ambassador in Netherlands, Maria Ligor, Ambassador in Canada, Andreea Pastârnac, Ambassador in Israel, Valerica Epure, Ambassador in Indonesia, Dana Constantinescu, Ambassador in Italy, Silvia Davidoiu, Ambassador in Austria, Maria Ciobanu, Permanent Representative in Geneva, Ana Voicu, Ambassador in Mexico, Diana Anca Radu, Ambassador in Brazil, Simona Mariana Ioan, Ambassador in Morocco, Daniela Gatman, Ambassador in Czech Republic and Roxana Iftimie, Ambassador in Luxemburg and many other heads of general consulates, consulates and cultural institute.

Women just recently joined the national political & bureaucratic scene in Romania, either as Member of the Parliament or Ministers/State Secretaries but not always they succeed to secure the best political and social performance. On the other hand, slowly but surely there are more women at the middle management levels within administration or as CEO in various private companies, I believe women are becoming strong competitors for men in all areas.

Closing the historical gap for women in Eastern Europe is a long term process since we may count only 25 years since the conditions for women engagement on public arena changed and focused on the particular merits.

For instance I am very pleased Romanian European Commissioner is a passionate and strong woman, Corina Cretu I cooperated two decades ago when she was journalist at Cronica Româna! O, tempora, o mores ! Maybe the current race for the next Secretary General of the United Nations will be an opportunity for Eastern Europe region for promoting a woman. According to the UN principle of rotation between the UN five regional groups, a representative of the Eastern European Group will be elected most probably and there is public list of very capable and strong female candidates such as Dalia Grybauskaite, Lithuania’s first woman President, now in her second term, former Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of Finance and European Commissioner for Financial Programming and the Budget; Vesna Pusic, First Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Croatia or Irina Bokova, the former Bulgarian Foreign Minister currently in her second elected term as Head of UNESCO.

Family portrait- Canberra, February 23, 2015 plus one of her paintings
Family portrait- Canberra, February 23, 2015 plus one of her paintings

 

At the end I would like to thank you for this opportunity and to invite you to contact Romanian on-line publications in Australia and New Zealand for raising awareness of Romanian communities and to make future interviews with my female colleagues from all continents.

 

Good luck and inspiration,

Nineta Barbulescu

Ambassador of Romania to Australia and New Zealand

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