BLAZE OF SUNSHINE WELCOMES FCA TO INNOVATIVE SOUTH AUSTRALIA
Words: April Pressler
Photographs: Raj Suri
Glorious, cloudless skies, a warm welcome from SA Premier Steven Marshall, top class accommodation, and a program packed with fascinating topics, people, and places – as well as incredibly good food, and world-class shows at the Adelaide Fringe Festival – were all waiting for the group of 15 FCA members who visited South Australia (SA) from 14-20 March 2021.
After COVID’S ongoing disruption throughout 2020 of a planned FCA visit to SA, it was exciting for the group of 15 members to realise that their visit was becoming a reality, particularly when major FCA sponsor Tourism Australia organised airline tickets into everyone’s inboxes several days before the trip began. And a few days before then, the soon-to-travel group had also received advice through hosts at the SA Department of Trade and Investment (DTI) that accommodation for the visit would be at the plush, central Adelaide 4-5 star Crowne Plaza hotel. DTI had even included most meals plus ground transport to and from meetings as required, in their generous package of hospitality for the FCA visitors. Could this trip possibly provide more for members? Oh, yes, for sure.
Adelaide PR company JP Media principal Patrick Anderson and Chris Rann of Rann Communication had taken on the challenging task of putting together the week-long program covering subjects, in conjunction with DTI, and selected by the FCA trips committee. The final organisation process took several weeks, which required expert coordination and determination by former BBC and CBS correspondent Chris Rann, who knew how essential it was to keep the program focused on stories that would appeal to foreign correspondents, in close liaison with the FCA trips committee. The result was a jam-packed series of meetings beginning on the first day of the program at Lot Fourteen, the centre where innovative businesses have set up shop, with some even leading the world, from the site of the former Adelaide public hospital.
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The overview briefing on Lot Fourteen by Marketing Director Rachel Walsh, followed by words of welcome from DTI’s State Promotions Director Belinda Redman, set the scene for the day in the Mural Room at Lot Fourteen, where correspondents were treated to expert briefings by principals from businesses (with Q&As that followed) which covered world-class and leading innovative, hi-tech businesses that are making an impact globally. They include:
- Fleet Space, incl. Airspeeder – COO & Co-Founder Matt Pearson briefed FCA members on the cutting-edge communications and space technologies being used by SA space company Fleet Space, and showed the group how Airspeeder was designed to be the first racing series for manned flying electric cars.
- Australian Institute of Machine Learning (AIML), which provides methods involving artificial intelligence (AI), computer vision and deep learning;
- SA’s Hi-tech & Creative Industries overview from DTI Director Gavin Artz;
- Presagen / Life Whisperer –provider of medical AI products for preventing misdiagnoses /creator of a cloud-based AI system that assists embryologists to identify viable embryos forpatients;
- MIT Bigdata Living Lab, a collaborative research initiative led by the SA Government inpartnership with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Bank SA, Optus and DSpark, which uses secure tools and methodology to ensure data privacy for public and private organisations;
- Study Adelaide – a presentation from Strategy, Communications and Engagement Director Jane Johnston on the study and post-study opportunities for international students and graduates;
• Department for Energy and Mining, Growth and Low Carbon – an overview from Executive Director, Nick Smith, on SA’s renewable energy policies, programs, and future;
Dinner on Day 1 hosted by SA Premier Hon.Steven Marshall, with Minister for Trade & Investment, Hon. Stephen Patterson at SkyCity – a warm and welcoming event with superb food – and SA wines, of course!
Visit to Tonsley Innovation District, 10 km south of Adelaide, and tour of the site with Precinct Director Philipp Dautel. The 61-hectare site is the global benchmark for reimagining and redeveloping high-value innovative manufacturing, re-imagined and re-born from traditional manufacturing facilities at the former site of Mitsubishi’s car manufacturing hub in Australia. FCA members toured and were briefed by senior personnel from new businesses at Tonsley, which include:
- Micro-X – designers and manufacturers of mobile x-ray equipment for global medical and security markets;Hydrogen Park SA – Australia’s largest renewable gas project;
- Tonsley TAFE – where students can take up or continue short or long courses in virtually alltrades.Afternoon – back to Lot Fourteen for:
- Visit and tour of the Australian Space Discovery Centre, a brand new facility which has beenestablished as an initiative of the Australian Space Agency, in conjunction with Canberra’sQuestacon.
- Briefing with the Head of the Australian Space Agency, Enrico Palermo.
Visit and tour of the fascinating Museum of Discovery (MOD), the University of South Australia’s futuristic museum which presents inspiring and changing exhibition programs with displays focusing on science and technology, and which demonstrate how our understanding of the world can inform and guide the future – attracting the visitor’s eye through vividly-coloured, compelling shapes and displays, complemented by information panels.The Andy Thomas Centre for Space Resources (ATSCSR), WAITE Research Institute, The University of Adelaide:
- Briefing from Professor Matt Gilliham, Director , WAITE Research Institute, on the University’s exploration, mining, engineering and other research strengths that address the challenges of planetary exploration and resources required for sustaining life during long- term planetary visits;
- Briefing and demonstrations by Head of Chemical Engineering Profess Volker Hessel on generating, growing and storing foods, while maintaining essential equipment and reliability on other planets.Visit to the Australian Research Centre for Interactive and Visual Environment (IVE) at Mawson Lakes. IVE is a world leader in Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality, where technologies are being researched and developed to meet global demand for wearable computing, interface design, empathic computing, 3D visualisation, perception, and telepresence. Briefings and demonstrations:
- IVE Director Professor Bruce H. Thomas, Deputy Director Professor Ning Gu, and Course Coordinator Dino Rossi.
A pleasant 15-minute stroll from the Crowne Plaza hotel to the SA Museum (SAM) on North Terrace led the group to the world’s largest collection of more than 3,000 Australian Indigenous cultural artefacts, housed under the same roof as the SAM’s renowned world-class natural history collection.
- Briefing on SAM’s Indigenous collection and tour with Professor John Carty, Head of Humanities, and national / international expert on Indigenous affairs. Professor Carty is also Director of the National Centre for Aboriginal Language and Music Studies, and Board Members on Australia’s National Commission for UNESCO. He is an extremely knowledgeable and engaging expert on Indigenous Australia, including artefacts, art, language, music and virtually all areas of Australian Aboriginal cultural material.
Visit to Adelaide Oval, with venue tour and roof climb for the adventurous FCA members.
Another pleasant walk took the group to Adelaide’s Botanic Gardens, spread over 51-hectares at the north-east corner of the Adelaide’s city centre, and next door to Lot Fourteen, on the North Terrace side where the Aboriginal Centre is being constructed.
• Briefing and tour with expert and Director Dr Lucy Sutherland, who introduced the FCA group to a range of exotic Australian plants and trees, and indigenous food sources. She led the FCA visitors to a botanically-inspired visual art display in the Museum building by well- known South Australian artist, Catherine Truman, and then led the group to see and experience a briefing at the Seed Bank, which is involved with the World Seed Bank, and is situated on site at the Gardens. At Adelaide’s Seed Bank, experiments are being conducted with plants that can provide food in space, as well as propagating and ensuring the future for rare and vanishing plant species, some of which were saved from devastating bushfires in 2019-20 at Kangaroo Island.
DAY 4 – Evening
Saw the FCA correspondents treated to a fantastic visit experience at the Adelaide Fringe Festival, the biggest arts festival in the Southern Hemisphere and currently the biggest in the world, with COVID preventing Edinburgh’s Fringe Festival from going ahead in 2019 and 2020. The Adelaide Fringe has been going for 60 years and it runs for 31 days and nights, transforming Adelaide and greater South Australia from Whyalla down to Mt Gambier. Events are innovative and they attract talent and festival scouts from around the world, who visit to find and book unique, vibrant shows and artists that include circus, music, theatre, comedy, visual arts and the whole breadth of entertainment. Over 850,000 tickets were sold to the Festival in 2020. The FCA was very lucky to find their visit coinciding with the last week of the Adelaide Fringe Festival and they enjoyed:
- Drinks at the Tanqueray Bar at Gluttony, with briefing by Adelaide Fringe Director and CEO Heather Croall, and Gluttony Director Owner-Operator Daniel Michael, followed by dinner;
- A spectacular 95-minute dance / acrobatic / music show “Matador” featuring 14 performersin alluring and colourful costumes, in the Circus tent;
- A visit to “Borealis”, a soothing, light show based on northern lights, over a lake in theAdelaide Fringe Festival gardens.
A visit to Adelaide’s Central Market began the day, and proved to be one of the most delicious culinary events of the visit. The Market holds the largest number of undercover fresh produce outlets in the Southern Hemisphere and our correspondents were treated to culinary briefings and tastings of a wide variety of delicious examples of foods on offer around the markets, including at the Indigenous outlet, Something Wild. Central Market Authority Chair Theo Maras hosted the FCA on the Markets tour, which included coffee at the start, and a lunch of treats at end.
The afternoon of the FCA’s final day in Adelaide began with a mini bus ride to Cleland Wildlife Park via Mt Lofty summit, in the hills of Adelaide. After a stop to look down over the spectacular view of Adelaide through to the sea not far away, the group continued on to Cleland Wildlife Park, which is home to iconic Australian creatures and which played an instrumental role following the horrendous bushfires of 2020, which saw more than 50 percent of Kangaroo Island destroyed by fire.
A very informative briefing by wildlife and koala expert Professor Chris Daniels and tour of the Koala Rescue Centre introduced our correspondents to some of the 28 koalas rescued from Kangaroo Island (KI) where 50,000 koalas were lost in the bushfires a year ago. The group learned that the KI koalas were disease-free, unlike most of their mainland cousins, so the KI losses were particularly tragic in that sense. However, four of the rescued 28 turned out to be pregnant and produced offspring, 4-5 months after their rescue. Professor Daniels also told the group that a breeding program with some of the rescued koalas and some disease-free mates from the mainland was now underway and most promising for the future of this iconic and much-loved Australian species.
Following Cleland Wildlife Park, the FCA headed by mini bus back down to Adelaide and a special visit to the National Wine Centre for an interactive exclusive Wine Discovery Tour, with a wine briefing by expert and Head Sommelier James Boden, which included some superb foods that demonstrated a taste matching experience which only experts could provide.
With the end of the FCA program and just one night left in this amazing city that hosts unique, special things for its visitors, our group adjourned to the Crowne Plaza and packing of bags, before heading out later in the evening in various small groups – some to special dinners at favourite restaurants, and others to kicking up their heels at a Latin dance venue.. But that’s another story.