King Harald and Queen Sonja were in the midst of a state visit to Australia this week, spending time in both Sydney and the capital of Canberra before heading on to Perth. It’s the first time a Norwegian head of state has made an official trek to the country so large that the normal two- or three-day state visit was lasting a week.
It started just after the king’s 78th birthday on Saturday and just after he’d also visited Norway’s research station on Antarctica. Queen Sonja joined him in Canberra on Sunday, where the royal couple also were accompanied by Norwegian Foreign Minister Børge Brende and Oil & Energy Minister Tord Lien.
The state visit aimed at strengthening ties between Norway and Australia, not least in the areas of industry and defense. Lien was along to promote Norway’s oil and offshore expertise and the couple were also accompanied by a large business delegation from Norway keen to boost business with their counterparts “down under.” Shipping companies like Wilh Wilhelmsen and industrial firms from oil to mining have been active in Australia for year, not least in western Australia, which the royals were to visit at the end of their trip.
They began in Canberra, the seat of Australia’s government, with the customary visits with the prime minister and head of state that featured a kangaroo safari. They visited the Australia War Memorial, met veterans and were honoured with a welcome ceremony outside Government House and a luncheon at which King Harald said he wanted to also “pay my respects” to the aboriginal Ngnunnawal people and “their Elders past and present.”
The king also spoke at a defense industry seminar, noting that Australia has become a steadily more important partner of Norway in defense cooperation, both through NATO operations and directly. Norwegian forces worked with Australians in Afghanistan and also are taking part in the F35 fighter jet program.
Fredrik Larsen Lund, a Norwegian historian and author, wrote in newspaper Aftenposten this week that “it’s high time that our head of state pays a visit” to Australia since the first Norwegians are believed to have arrived there in the 1600s. He wrote in a commentary that Australia and Norway share long democratic traditions, have both been ranked as among the best countries in the world in which to live, and share an informal style, egalitarian ideals and a love for sports and the outdoors.
The royal visit moved on to Sydney and was to end in Perth on Friday.