Magazine created by students of the Department of English and American Studies at Masaryk University.

“Every day is a new experience”: Interview with the Honorary Consul of Australia Ms Jana Kvasnicová

in Current Issue/Interviews

By Kristína Šefčíková and Markéta Šonková

Photo kindly provided by Austrade, used with permission.

 

Interviewing Ms Kvasnicová was special in at least two ways: for the first time in the history of the magazine, we had the honour of talking to an honorary consul – one of only two such representatives of major English speaking countries based in the Czech Republic. Ms Kvasnicová is also a graduate of our very own Department of English and American Studies, which made the interview all the more special for both sides involved. The fruitful discussion delved into the history of Czech-Australian ties, current developments of said ties heading towards closer cooperation, the role of the European Union in these processes, but also football teams, career advice, and of course, fond memories of the consul’s times at the Department.

This year, we commemorate 100 years since the foundation of diplomatic relations between the former Czechoslovak Republic and the Commonwealth of Australia, as it was exactly 100 years ago when the first Czech diplomatic representation in Australia, the still present Consulate in Sydney, was opened. Yet, the ties go well beyond diplomacy, trade, and numerous bilateral agreements. For example, earlier this year, Prague Zoo raised 20 million CZK to help the Australian fauna after the bushfires that swept across the continent. So, there indeed seems to be quite a palpable sense of solidarity between our nations. How do you personally perceive the relationship between the two countries?

The relationship between the Czech Republic and Australia is very strong. There is keen interest from both governments to engage, and although we can’t travel to and from each other’s countries at the moment, government to government interaction is on-going. We both stand for free and open global markets and we greatly appreciate the support from the Czech Government.

 


Australia focuses on quality education, research and innovation, and I see great potential in mutual collaboration here.


 

The Czech Republic and Australia are separated by immense physical distance. However, do you see any common foundations, either cultural, historical, or political, that connect these two countries and could help overcome the distance and perhaps learn from each other? 

Besides the clearly demonstrated shared love of wildlife and animals, a sense of humour is certainly something that our nations have in common, as well as a love of wine.  

On another note, Australia focuses on quality education, research and innovation, and I see great potential in mutual collaboration here. 

Ms Kvasnicová with Zdeněk Hřib (mayor of Prague) and Miroslav Bobek (Prague Zoo director) at the announcement of the sum collected to aid Australia after the bushfires. Photo courtesy of Austrade, used with permission.

An interesting example of historical ties not many people know about is that of the Czech soccer club Bohemians. In 1927, the club was the only one in Europe to have accepted the offer of the Australian soccer association to travel down under and play a series of matches with local clubs across Australia. Since then, Bohemians have had a kangaroo in their emblem and have cherished the Australian experience as an important part of the club’s history. This year, Bohemians and their fans organized a fundraising campaign and collected AU $15,000 as a part of the bushfire relief initiative.

 

There is also a community of Czech Australians, descendants of former Czech migrants, still living in Australia. There even is a football club called Sydney FC Prague. Do you think the community of former Czechoslovak and Czech expats is close-knit and maintains ties to their heritage, perhaps even spread it in Australia?

The Czech Embassy is based in Canberra and is best positioned to maintain these ties. I know they have been involved in these activities for many years. There are significant Czech-Australian communities in Sydney, Melbourne, and Canberra and even in remote parts of Australia. Social media have recently played an important role in keeping the communities live and active. The Czech Embassy in Canberra runs regular “Embassy talks” on Facebook. They host interesting personalities from various industries (diplomats, businessmen, Czech language teachers etc.) and are attended not only by Czechs living in Australia, but also by Australians interested in the Czech culture and language and Czechs considering relocation to Australia.

 


Australia is committed to an open and transparent global marketplace. The Australia and  EU Free Trade Agreement is currently being negotiated and we believe this will bring significant benefits to both the Czech Republic and Australia.


 

A glimpse into the private life of Ms Kvasnicová and one of her fluffy companions. Photo courtesy of Austrade, used with permission.

Australia is the sixth-largest country in the world and ranks as one of the countries with the highest standard of living. Moreover, it has the highest forecasted GDP growth among major advanced economies. Where do you see Australia’s role in the world today and where do you see the most important cultural, political, or other exports from Australia?

Australia is committed to an open and transparent global marketplace. The Australia and  EU Free Trade Agreement is currently being negotiated and we believe this will bring significant benefits to both the Czech Republic and Australia. 

The services sector drives the Australian economy. Key sectors include financial services; healthcare, education and tourism. Australia is also a major producer of agricultural commodities, premium food and a wide range of minerals.  

The Austrade Prague office is responsible for the region of Central Europe and the Prague team focuses on education, research collaboration, energy & resources and healthcare. We also work with local companies interested in investing in Australia – those wishing to establish a manufacturing branch, for example.

 


Being the sole representative of Australia in the Czech Republic, I strive to extend and strengthen the invaluable cooperation with the other members of the Five Eyes embassies (UK, NZ, CAN, US) as well as local authorities.


 

Photo courtesy of Austrade, used with permission.

When it comes to Australia and the European Union, there are differences in many areas, such as immigration and visa policy, education, as well as trade policy. Especially some of the issues in the last area mentioned could intersect with the consular role in commercial affairs among the countries. How do you think these political differences impact Czech-Australian relations and do you see any prospects of overcoming them?

 

The Australia and EU Free Trade Agreement is now being discussed and the content negotiated. The agreement will help to expand our commercial relationships when finalised. Ratification of the agreement will be an important political decision that will have a positive impact on trade between the Czech Republic and Australia.

 

I would also like to ask you about the position you hold as an honorary consul. Is there any topic on your agenda that you feel strongly about or want to prioritize during your tenure? Does your position equip you with tools to pursue it?

It is largely thanks to my predecessor, his commitment and passion, that I decided to pursue the role of the Honorary Consul. It was both fortunate and challenging as he was the embodiment of Australia in the Czech Republic for more than 20 years. 

Being the sole representative of Australia in the Czech Republic, I strive to extend and strengthen the invaluable cooperation with the other members of the Five Eyes embassies (UK, NZ, CAN, US) as well as local authorities as it is the network (who you know) which enables providing the most efficient, professional and timely response to Australians in need as well as achieving wider awareness and recognition of Australia. Both Austrade and the supervising mission in Warsaw greatly support my endeavours. 

 

Australia’s consulate in Prague is the sole Australian representation in the Czech Republic – the closest embassy providing for Czech citizens is located in Warsaw, Poland. In our correspondence prior to this interview, you also mentioned that the consulate is quite unique since it administratively falls under the Australian government agency Austrade. That makes you an employee of the Australian government and the Honorary Consul of Australia at the same time. Do you find this double role difficult or, on the contrary, do you see benefits to it, both to yourself and the respective countries?

I very much like the dual role as its variety indeed fulfils me. More important however is that as an Austrader, I have got access to a greater support and variety of tools that enables me to provide a wider range of services in a highly professional way.

 


You need to trust yourself more, you need to be willing to make the extra step, to spend a bit more time than needed… and you must not give up if the first door you enter does not provide you with the path you want.


 

Ms Kvasnicová in Africa, which she got to see and visit thanks to her job. Photo courtesy of Austrade, used with permission.

You are a graduate of our very own department. How have you benefited from what you learned there, and do you feel the department had prepared you for the role you currently hold? Do you perhaps have any recommendations for those students who might be inspired by your career and would like to pursue a similar career track? 

I am absolutely sure that the fact that I studied and graduated from the Masaryk University did considerably influence where I ended up in my career path. It is only thanks to my alma mater, and my own effort too, of course, that I was able to study in Canada and England. 

You need to trust yourself more, you need to be willing to make the extra step, to spend a bit more time than needed… and you must not give up if the first door you enter does not provide you with the path you want. 

I love what I do. It is my passion and responsibility and I take it very seriously. But I have also found new colleagues and friends from around the world, visited exciting places and met interesting people. Every day is a new experience.

 

To end on a lighter note – What is your fondest memory of your time at Masaryk University?

I am unable to name just one, so here is what comes to my mind: new amazing friends, Don Sparling, Pavel Drábek, Gypsywood Players, Canada, England.

 


 

Photo courtesy of Austrade, used with permission.

 

 

Honorary Consul Ms Jana Kvasnicová

Ms Jana Kvasnicová was appointed as the Honorary Consul for the Czech Republic by the Australian Government in October 2019. She entered the office with over four years of experience as a consular officer and even more as an office manager. At the same time, she is an adviser at the Australian Trade and Investment Commission (Austrade), the Australian government agency under which the consulate falls administratively. You can check out her professional CV here or follow her Twitter account

 

 

 

 



Last but not least, we would like to sincerely thank Ms Kvasnicová for her time and flexibility, as the interview was arranged and carried out under the special circumstances of the past few months. 

 

Latest from Current Issue

Go to Top