ABU DHABI, The Australian Ambassador to the UAE, Heidi Venamore, described the UAE's response to her country's bushfires as "breathtaking."
During the 'Celebrate Australia' event, held Monday by the Australian Embassy in the UAE, the newly appointed Ambassador said that she had arrived in the country "at a time when the UAE has been demonstrating extraordinary generosity and kindness towards Australia."
"The UAE has shown us the kind of help that is effective in helping many communities deal with the onslaught of the fires," the Ambassador continued.
The UAE introduced several campaigns to support Australia, including the Emirates Red Crescent's #MatesHelpMates bushfire appeal, and the efforts of the country's airlines - Etihad Airways and Emirates Airlines - which waived flight change fees for Australians impacted by the fires.
The #MatesHelpMates grassroots movement was launched in the UAE to raise funds and support people impacted by the unprecedented bushfires in Australia.
Venamore offered her "heartfelt thanks" to the UAE and "everyone who has given of themselves to help Australians in need."
The intimate event saw some 300 individuals from the UAE and Australian expat community come together to celebrate UAE-Australia ties, and to showcase how Australia is open for business.
Also attending the event were Dr. Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, Minister of Climate Change and Environment, along with business people, officials and military personnel from various nations.
During her speech, Ambassador Venamore noted that ties between the two countries had "advanced to new levels."
"Our business, defence, security, aviation, education and people to people links are thriving," she affirmed.
Currently, the UAE is Australia's largest trading partner in the Middle East, with two-way goods and services trade reaching AU$9.8 billion (AED24.14 billion) during the 2018-2019 period.
The Australian Ambassador reassured members of the audience that despite the onslaught of the bushfire season, "Australia is very much working to ensure everyone knows that we are still open for business."
As of January, the reported death toll reached 33 individuals, and more than 11 million hectares (110,000 square kilometres) of bush, forest and parks across the country has burned.
Following Venamore's speech, a special video message by the Australian Governor General, David Hurley, was presented to attendees, during which he expressed his appreciation to the UAE government and people for their support.
"We have a saying here in Australia, that you know who your friends really are when a trouble strikes," said Governor General Hurley.
"The response by the UAE to the bushfire crisis in Australia strengthens an already strong relationship between us," he added.
Some 25,000 Australians currently reside in the UAE, representing the ninth largest Australian overseas community in the world.
Source: Emirates News Agency