Ningaloo Reef – nature’s playground

Text: Michaela Lauren
Photographs: Thorsten Joses

Blue sky, red earth and turquoise waters – it looked pretty much like a great location for a beachside holiday anywhere in regional Australia. But, this was a trip with a twist – the real beauty laid well concealed. 

The mild, summery weather welcomed us as we landed on the airstrip at the RAAF Learmonth Base in June 2017– we were ready for our adventure. It started at nearby Exmouth, where we picked up the campervan, our home for the next two weeks.  

Our FCA Christmas party lucky draw price, Tourism Australia’s flights anywhere in Australia for two, led us to the World Heritage listed Ningaloo Coast, located in the most North-Western corner of Australia. It is home to one of the longest fringing reefs in the world, boasting more than 500 species of fish and 220 species of coral, right off the beach.

It took a snorkel, a pair of fins and a wetsuit to uncover what was hidden underneath the calm waters. For 10 days, we swam amongst thousands of fish, cruised next to humpback whales, dugongs and turtles, and explored the massive, some thousands of years old, coral formations. Despite two attempts, we missed out on the whale shark encounter, which the area is renowned for. Swimming with sting rays and playing with majestic manta rays well and truly made up for that.  

We stayed in Coral Bay and the Cape Range National Park. In comparison to the East coast, the area is remote and undeveloped. Only a few hundred locals provide services to tourists in Coral Bay during high season and a total digital detox is possible at the National Park, where a dip in the ocean is your only opportunity to bathe.   

It was a fabulous two weeks of bare feet, salty hair and sunny days in nature’s very own playground. We will return. Our sincerest thanks to Tourism Australia for contributing to our amazing Australian holiday adventure.


Highlights from Global Infrastructure Hub CEO Chris Heathcote’s briefing

What is the GI Hub?

We are a private sector entity, not for profit, with a board structure.  We are financed by grant funding, with the aim to help governments unlock private funding for public infrastructure.

How do Public-Private Partnerships work?

The strength behind a PPP is that you are creating investment certainty by putting forward a structure which is generally accepted and understood, and backed by legal frameworks which are again generally accepted and understood. The cost of a PPP really depends on how efficient you are in using the structure, but also how you choose to use the structure. So, you don’t have to enter into long term finance for the whole life of the PPP if you don’t want to, if that financial cost is considered to be a concern. There are a number of different ways to use PPPs.  

We are there to advise governments to make sure that when they go into that negotiation they don’t go in and say “what would you, the private sector, like to do for us?”. They go in and say “here’s the service I want, this is the contract, these are the risks, and then we can negotiate from that point”. We are trying to empower them to do that negotiation better.

What is the impact of political cycles on infrastructure planning?

You can get these screeching U-turns between different governments. I quite like the model that they put in place here (Australia), and the model that the UK is putting in place which is similar.

It is to have an independent body, Infrastructure Australia, that looks at infrastructure need and publishes a report on an annual basis saying this is what infrastructure need should be and that includes individual projects. Now the government doesn’t have to sign up to those projects … but effectively every time the government changes if they decide they want a different set of projects they at least have to justify why they are cancelling projects to create the next project.

You can’t take politics out of infrastructure and you can’t take infrastructure out of politics.

What role is technology playing in the infrastructure industry?

Technology is a great unknown in infrastructure at the moment and it’s a great risk in infrastructure at the moment. If you look at decision making that’s going on in investors they are becoming increasingly interested in two areas, redundancy of stranded assets and sustainability. They recognize that if they are going to get 30 years of dividends from their projects it’s best they take a project which works, fits with the local population, and provides for a need. On the technology side, … if you’re building a road are you building a road that you still see important and useful if everyone is using driverless car? Is it a road that’s going to be overtaken by some sort of technology?

What is GI Hub’s new online tool –  InfraCompass?

One of the concerns or difficulties for a country is working out why it’s not necessarily succeeding in terms of infrastructure delivery. The basis of InfraCompass is enabling countries to see what other countries are doing well in infrastructure delivery.

InfraCompass, which is an online platform, allows you to go in and look at the performance of that country in six categories key to infrastructure delivery.

This allows you to go in and look at your own country and then compare to five or six other countries. If a country wants to spend money on policy, it can look at InfraCompass and it will tell them where that policy dollar is best spent.

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Ringside seat at the Barangaroo Reserve for the NYE fireworks

By Kaori Takahashi, Bureau Chief for Nikkei Inc

On 31 December 2016, the Barangaroo Delivery Authority on behalf of the New South Wales government, welcomed around 12,000 people, including members of the FCA, at the sold-out New Year’s eve event at the Barangaroo reserve. FCA members had the best vantage point inside the headland park for the midnight fireworks.

The sloping lawns were swarming with people as soon as the gates were thrown open at 6 pm.  I was struck by the level of security at the event. The visitors were organised into 10 orderly queues to pass through security checks, before entering the spectator area. Security guards requested us to empty all water bottles before entering. We were allowed to refill them only once inside the reserve.

Barangaroo Reserve is on the north-western waterfront of the Sydney CBD and is billed as the city`s newest entertainment and lifestyle hub, developed from humble beginnings as a container port in the 1970s. FCA members were taken on a tour of the reserve in 2015, when the space was still under construction. Now, green lawns and sandstones line the harbour side, and glossy commercial buildings, almost completed, stretch skyward.

While partygoers danced around us and families enjoyed harbour side entertainment and  food stalls, we relaxed on a picnic blanket watching the year’s last sunset while waiting for the fireworks to begin. At the stroke of 12am, vibrant fireworks illuminated the city skyline, shooting upwards from the Harbour Bridge and high rise city buildings and raining down almost over our heads. We and our fellow spectators cheered and applauded through the 12-minute spectacle.

It was an amazing experience to herald the New Year from one of Sydney’s newest public gardens.

Grand feast marks 2016 finale

Subel BhandariSubel Bhandari: I don’t usually win prizes at events. Sydney seems to be doing me a favour. I was very happy to win a dinner for two at Zaffran Indian restaurant. My wife has just arrived in Sydney so we are planning to use the voucher soon. Sydney, in general, has developed an amazing taste for authentic cuisine. Zaffran takes it up a notch by being innovative with its exquisite food; Rose Creme Brulee, for example, is embellished with contemporary aroma and exotic flavours. It’s a bit like Master Chef meets Indian ammi’s kitchen. Slightly expensive, but the price is right for a celebratory feast as the dishes are sapid and sumptuous. The view of the harbour and the city skyline and the staff, who were very willing to accommodate dietary restrictions, only make the whole affair an event to remember.


Raj Suri with his prize by Neena Bhandari

Raj Suri: As a member of the FCA for the past 15 years, the annual Christmas dinner is a special one. Usually this is the event where we all get together with our partners for the end of the year catch up and also get to meet new FCA members from around the world. The venue choice and the food is always great along with the relaxed FCA atmosphere of friends and partners. This time was no different. It was great to catch up with friends from the world of news and also from outside the media industry. The welcome drinks, three course Indian grand feast with the presentation by the master chef, Vikrant Kapoor, at the Zaffran restaurant at Sydney’s iconic Darling Harbour. There were lucky draw prizes sponsored by Tourism Australia, Cellar Masters and Zaffran. A great evening spent with colleagues and their families. The only unusual experience was that for the first time I won a lucky draw prize at the FCA! A Gift Wine Voucher from Cellar Masters that will come in very handy during these long summer holidays!


Thorsten Joses: I won the Tourism Australia sponsored prize. I am hoping to use the return airfare for two to Ningaloo Reef.


FCA members quiz Foreign & Trade Ministers

Fifteen members, on the FCA-DFAT Canberra trip, had the opportunity to meet and discuss policy issues with Julie Bishop, Minister for Foreign Affairs; Steven Ciobo, Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment; Ray Marcelo, DFAT Assistant Secretary, Parliamentary and Media Branch; Andrew Goledzinowski, Ambassador for People Smuggling and Human Trafficking; Lisa Rauter, DFAT First Assistant Secretary, InnovationXchange; Paul Foley, Ambassador for Counter-Terrorism; Glenva Parker, Acting Assistant Secretary Strategic Policy, Department of Defence; Stephen Alexander, Deputy Commander, Australian Border Force; and Rear Admiral Peter Laver, Commander Maritime Border Command. The members also attended Question Time in the Australian House of Representatives.

Q&A with Foreign Minister Julie Bishop [© Hiroki Ijima]


Q&A with Trade Minister Steven Ciobo [© Hiroki Ijima]


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Why there’s nothing like Australia?

Our sponsor, Tourism Australia is the Australian Government agency responsible for promoting Australia internationally as a world-class destination for business and leisure. The organisation seeks to promote the country internationally through a broad range of targeted trade and consumer marketing activities – all underpinned by a consistent global campaign message: There’s nothing like Australia.

Tourism Australia’s Managing Director John O’Sullivan provided an update on Australian tourism’s performance, which continues to grow to record levels, to 17 FCA members who attended the luncheon briefing at the newly opened, Primus Hotel on Pitt Street, Sydney. He shared how the industry is tracking against its Tourism 2020 goal of growing overnight visitor expenditure to more than $115 billion annually by the end of the decade.

Tourism Australia is the Australian Government agency responsible for promoting Australia internationally as a world-class destination for business and leisure. The organisation seeks to promote the country internationally through a broad range of targeted trade and consumer marketing activities – all underpinned by a consistent global campaign message There’s nothing like Australia.

John’s presentation can be viewed on  

Animated conversations usher festive cheer

By Caroline Taïx

Many foreign correspondents are now freelance. Most of the time to be a freelance means working by yourself, quite isolated, in your home, in a café or in a library. Some people enjoy this lonely working lifestyle, some don’t, and yet others get used to it.

But as Christmas approaches and friends begin discussing office Christmas parties, one can feel envious. However, I didn’t this year, thanks to the FCA!

FCA members were invited to celebrate Christmas with friends and families. I almost didn’t make it as finding a baby-sitter for our one-month-old baby, Eleanor, was proving rather difficult. I really wanted to attend the party as this was our second Christmas away from family in the northern hemisphere.

A late night SMS to Neena put my mind at rest. Baby Eleanor was very welcome to join the foreign correspondents from countries far and wide.

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Philip table

We had the entire top floor of the iconic Oxford Street restaurant, Micky’s. On arrival, I realised that I was one of the newest members. I had joined the FCA in October 2015, but this was my first interaction with other FCA members.

I started with the welcome drink, introducing myself and my husband to the other very welcoming correspondents. It was a lovely place, with a relaxed ambience and Eleanor slept peacefully in her baby basket below the tinsel.

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John Table

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I had arrived in Australia only 18 months ago, and I had found it very difficult to meet other journalists. But during the course of the evening, over a sumptuous three course dinner, I had met colleagues from Germany, Switzerland, Spain, India, Japan, Pakistan, Vietnam and Turkey.

Conversations extended from Malcolm Turnbull to Australia’s hidden gems. What an enriching experience it was!

And as Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without the gifts, Neena became Santa for a few minutes with the lucky draw of gifts presented by Tourism Australia, Incredible India, and Maya Vegetarian restaurant.

Two of our very own correspondent authors, Roger Maynard and Frank Walker, presented their autographed books to two lucky winners. I won Incredible India’s two star-studded pens!

It was a joyous night and I can’t wait for the next FCA social event.




image001Caroline Taïx is a Sydney-based freelance correspondent, working mostly for the French newspaper, Le Monde. Before arriving in Australia, she lived in Paris, working for Agence France Presse. She is married to Franck, and has two kids, Adam and Eleanor.

Aboriginal leader Patrick Dodson briefs FCA

By Our Correspondent

Eminent Aboriginal leader, Professor Patrick Dodson, gave a valuable indigenous point of view on current events during a briefing to 20 members of the Association in Sydney.

He is former chairman of the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation, former Commissioner into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, winner of the 2008 Sydney Peace Prize and easily recognised with his long flowing beard and ever present Akubra hat with its band of red, yellow and black Aboriginal colours.

Mr Dodson normally lives in Broome so it was a wonderful opportunity for FCA members based in Sydney to hear his insights into the Aboriginal point of view on the big Australian issues such as the changing of the constitution to acknowledge indigenous people.

Many correspondents grabbed the chance to get one-on-one interviews with Mr Dodson. Reports and interviews from the FCA briefing went out on Al Jazeera, Japanese TV, German TV and radio as well as reports done by correspondents for Italy, India, Switzerland, Vietnam, Spain, the US, the UK and South America.

 Pat Dodson’s speech to the FCA was uploaded to YouTube and is available here:

FCA gets exclusive tour of Barangaroo

By Frank Walker

On a sunny and clear late winter’s day several members of the FCA were given an informative guided tour of the new Barangaroo headland park. Showing around correspondents from Japan, Germany and international journals were the CEO of the Barangaroo Delivery Authority, Craig van der Laan, and Nathan Moran, CEO of the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council.

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The six hectare headland park is a very impressive addition to Sydney, and the pride in the project shown by both Craig and Nathan was obvious. FCA vice president Esther Blank from Deutsche Welle was thrilled to discover Craig speaks excellent German from the time he worked in Hamburg and she quickly lined him up to talk to a German documentary crew coming soon to Sydney.
Craig showed us how the park was built over the top of the old concrete wharf that for 100 years was the centre of trade for Sydney as ships came and went. He remembered how this entire area was a no-go zone for Sydney people until the wharf was cleared and opened up for development. Trees still have a way to grow before the reserve looks complete but only native plants have been  planted. The sandstone blocks along the broken foreshore follow the old waterfront and there are many historic spots such as boat slipways that have been rediscovered as the concrete was taken away. Underneath the hill of the reserve is a dramatic huge cavern that could be used for cultural events.
Nathan gave valuable insights to the foreign correspondents of the rich indigenous history of Barangaroo and what the naming of the site after a prominent Aboriginal woman from the days of the early white settlement meant to the Aboriginal people. She was the wife of Bennelong but unlike her husband refused to put aside her Aboriginal culture to fit in with the white settlers.
All in all the tour was a huge help to foreign correspondents to appreciate this new development and make valuable contacts for stories in the future.

An Ethiopian Repast

By John Tulloh

Neena and her new team on the FCA committee are to be commended for trying to restore purpose of fellowship to the Association. A welcome new idea was for members to gather to sample different kinds of multi-cultural hospitality in Sydney.

So one chilly Friday night in September about 35 of us came together to have what for most of us was our first taste of Ethiopian food. It was at a new pop-up-type cafe called A Taste of Ethiopia in the grounds of Fox Studios, Entertainment Quarter.

The owner and chef is an immigrant who had planned to join friends in exile in North America. He decided to spend five days in Australia on the way and is still here 20 years later. His name is Haile Kiros Gebregziabher and he is an impressive person. (Haile has a connotation with spiritual power and Kiros means the cross).

He worked for the International Committee of the Red Cross during the tyrannical years of the Mengistu regime in Ethiopia. As the ICRC also took an interest in the plight of dissidents, he knew he had no future in his country.

In 1988, he fled to neighbouring Sudan, moving only under the cover of darkness because of marauding fighter jets by day. He worked for the ICRC in Khartoum until 1995 when he emigrated. His story is one too typical of newcomers to Australia and you cannot help but admire the way they tackle and overcome adversity.

At his bistro, he produced a buffet of eight dishes of lamb, chicken, vegetables, lentils and sauces, each with different spices. It was like a very tasty amalgam of mild curries. Many of us lined up for a second helping.

Once he had finished in the kitchen, he spoke to FCA members about his life. He said Ethiopian men would be flabbergasted to learn he cooked for a living. They regard that as women’s work, he said. ‘Men are expected to live like kings’, he laughed.

You will find his bistro next to the entrance to Cinema Paris [Hoyts] in the Entertainment Quarter complex. It is open on Friday and Saturday evenings and from 12 noon on Sunday until 9pm. You will also find him at the Fox Studio farmers’ markets on Wednesdays and Saturdays, Bondi Junction markets on Friday morning and the Orange Grove markets at Lilyfield.

You will not be disappointed.

There was talk of the next venture being to a fondue restaurant in October. Watch the FCA website for details.

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