14 questions with the Australian Commissioner General Expo 2020 Dubai

With 14 months to go until the Australian Pavilion opens its doors at Expo 2020 Dubai, we caught up with Justin McGowan, Australia’s Commissioner General for Expo 2020 Dubai, for the latest news.

1. Why has Australia chosen to take part in Expo 2020 Dubai?

Australia is pleased to be participating in Expo 2020 Dubai. With 193 countries taking part, this World Expo will be the largest in history and the first of its kind to be held in the Middle East. It’s an unmissable opportunity to promote and maximise global connections and commercial opportunities for Australia. We will also use Expo 2020 Dubai to showcase our cultural assets and innovations and tell the Australian story.

Expo 2020 Dubai also provides a significant global platform for Australian business and industry, helping to strengthen existing links with the region and beyond and to explore opportunities to expand into new trade and investment markets.

2. Tell us more about Australia’s existing relationship with the UAE.

Australia’s close relationship with the UAE makes this event a must for Australia. Expo 2020 Dubai will mark the 50th anniversary of the UAE’s nationhood and we are pleased to support our Emirati friends at this momentous time in their history. The UAE is our largest trading partner in the Middle East and over 360 Australian businesses have a presence in the UAE. The UAE also has significant investments in Australia which creates local jobs and contributes to economic activity.

Our people-to-people links are growing with an estimated 25,000 Australians living and working in the UAE. There are more than 130 flights a week connecting the UAE and Australian cities. The Gold Coast established a sister city relationship with Dubai in 2001 and Brisbane with Abu Dhabi in 2009, further cementing our relationship.

3. What can you tell us about the Australian Pavilion?

The Australian Pavilion visitor journey will be an immersive experience of discovery. It will encapsulate what people know about Australia and take visitors on a journey of the lesser known, including the contribution Australia has made and is continuing to make in addressing global challenges through innovation and collaboration.

Visitors to the Australian Pavilion will also be treated to a dynamic cultural events program, alongside enjoying Australian food and beverage options and some retail therapy. Australian Pavilion visitors will also be able to download specially curated Australian music playlists and participate in a CrowdDJ experience – there really will be something for everyone at the Australian Pavilion.

We are working closely with international event production companies, including Melbourne-based Accolade to curate our visitor journey and  Sydney-based Jacqui Bonner Marketing + Management to curate the Pavilion cultural program – we look forward to sharing more details in the buildup to October 2020. Accolade has worked on major world events, including the Sydney and Athens Olympics ceremonies, so you can be sure the Australian Pavilion experience will be something special.

4. Can you tell us more about the concept behind the Australian Pavilion theme: Blue Sky Dreaming?

The theme for our Pavilion, Blue Sky Dreaming, celebrates Australia’s indigenous culture as the world’s oldest civilization. It celebrates the indigenous connection to land, sky and sea and encapsulates the idea of blue sky thinking which has generated Australian innovation during the last 65,000 years. It also represents the optimism of Australians, the broad horizons of our landscape and the infinite opportunities our diversity creates.

We hope that visitors to the Australian Pavilion will leave feeling inspired and excited to continue their Australian adventure – whether as a repeat visitor or new - and experience the Land Down Under.

5. What exciting developments have there been regarding the Australian Pavilion?

I’m excited to say we’ve broken ground on the Australian Pavilion site and are in the process of preparing for construction to commence. We hope to launch our Pavilion design shortly.

We have also been busy working to onboard our partners and corporate partners. Between now and October 2020, I am focused on bringing the best of Australia to the UAE so we can make the most of this phenomenal opportunity.

6. What opportunities will Expo 2020 Dubai offer Australian businesses?

Over the six-months duration, Expo 2020 Dubai will play host to hundreds of international trade delegations, making it the Olympics of global business events.

Expo 2020 Dubai officially kicks off in October 2020 but Australian businesses have already achieved commercial and corporate success. Melbourne-founded tech start-up Rosterfy has won its biggest contract ever to power the 30,000 strong volunteer staff network, while Melbourne-founded consultancy GHD is helping to deliver emergency services buildings at the Expo site.

The UAE is not only Australia’s biggest trading partner in the Middle East but a gateway to the rest of the world.

We are encouraging Australian businesses operating in or looking to expand into new markets to join us in  leveraging the Expo 2020 global platform to exploit the potential commercial opportunities on offer and expand business networks.

7. What industries will Australia be promoting at Expo 2020 Dubai?

We have been working with state and territory governments and key commonwealth agencies to identify key priority industries where Australia offers world-class expertise and quality in goods and services. Such industries will be the focus of the Pavilion business program including agribusiness and food, space, advanced manufacturing, education, energy and resources, international health, major infrastructure, services and technology, creative industries and tourism.

The Pavilion business program will feature government-to-government, business-to-business and government-to-business events. Austrade will also lead a number of trade related activities around key priority industries. We are also working through the Australia Arab Chamber of Commerce and Industry (AACCI) to alert businesses to Expo 2020 opportunities.

8. What have you learnt about the UAE in your time as Australian Commissioner General?

The UAE is not only a mega aviation, finance and logistics hub but is also a shining example of a successful multicultural society as is Australia. What the UAE has been able to achieve in a relatively short period of time is remarkable.

9. What similarities have you noticed between Australia and the UAE?

Both being relatively young nations Australia and the UAE have a lot in common. Both countries are optimistic and forward-thinking. Innovation is key to both countries who continue to diversify their respective economies. We both have achieved significant value from our multicultural and diverse populations.

10. What are Australians living in the UAE saying about Expo 2020 Dubai?

There is a lot of enthusiasm for Expo 2020 within the Australian community in the UAE. Australian business chambers are well aware of the business and investment opportunities that will be on offer when the world comes to Dubai in 2020.

11. Apart from the Australian Pavilion, what other attractions at Expo 2020 Dubai will you want to visit?

Expo 2020 will feature a central entertainment space, the Al Wasl Plaza and three district themed pavilions: Sustainability, Mobility and Opportunity. Australia’s Pavilion will be in the Mobility district. I will be looking forward to visiting each of the themed pavilions and to hosting Australia’s National Day celebrations in the Al Wasl Plaza.

I’m also looking forward to visiting other country pavilions – some of the designs look spectacular!

12. What Australian events can we look forward to at Expo 2020 Dubai?

The opening ceremony on October 20 2020 promises to be an Emirati spectacular to kick off the world’s biggest ever Expo.

The Australian Pavilion will host a variety of cultural events throughout Expo 2020 Dubai and our daily visitor experience will be a must-see. I am also looking forward to Australia’s National Day in 2021. It will be a fantastic day and night of entertainment showcasing Australian culture, creativity and hospitality.

13. What has been the highlight in your Expo 2020 Dubai journey so far?

The bringing together and the unified approach of team Australia – we are bringing the best of Australia including our wonderful states and territories, creatives industries and business community to Dubai. We have a long way to go but I am very proud of our team’s progress to date.

14. Finally – where should we go for more information?

Our website has all the latest information. For real time updates, subscribe to our social pages on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn. If you have any questions, say g’day and contact my team here.