James Letherbarrow and Anna Alvsdotter have recently been appointed as the new Honorary Consul General of Sweden and Honorary Vice Consul, respectively.
I caught up with both of them at Fika in Manly to discuss their new roles and what we in the Swedish community should know and can expect from them.
Tell us a bit about your backgrounds?
Anna: I am a freelance journalist and copywriter, living in Australia since 2003. I lived in New Zealand for 10 years, and with stints in England, Belgium and Spain before that. I grew up in Malmö, but Manly is my home now.
James: I’m an accountant by background, and have historically worked as a CFO and HR Director for media/public relations companies. My family has had a long association with Sweden, as my father Roger held the position as Honorary Consul for the last 10 years. Roger used to work for Volvo Australia as in-house counsel and lived in Gothenburg back in 1987. My sister and I stayed in Sydney for our schooling, but we’ve been to Sweden many times, and have enjoyed many Swedish connections over the years.
What do you do as Consuls?
James: We act as Sweden’s official representatives in NSW, with directions from the Embassy in Canberra. We assist business and cultural exchanges and we manage the staff at our office in Cremorne, which handles many enquiries, including visas and passports (to name a few), for both Swedes travelling and living in Australia plus people wanting to move to Sweden.
Anna: Another important aspect of the job is to assist individuals when problems occur, such as deaths, accidents, and crimes. This part of the job is not very visible, and can take up a lot of time.
Do you get paid?
James: No Anna and I do not get paid, our appointments are honorary positions. The Consulate is partially subsidised by the Swedish Embassy in Canberra, which helps provide for office rent and the consulate staff in addition to the revenue we earn as fees (in providing some of our services).
Anna: It’s essentially a time commitment, which we are happy and proud to give.
How did you get the gig?
James: I got to know the Ambassador Pär Ahlberger when my father was awarded an Order of the Polar Star in Stockholm a few years ago. We stayed in touch, and when my father decided to retire, I was very honoured to be asked to take on the appointment.
Anna: I have been involved with the Swedish community and the Swedish Australian Chamber of Commerce (SACC) on a paid as well as on a voluntary basis for some time. I feel it’s a great honour and privilege to be asked.
How would you like to engage with the Swedish community?
Anna: We are helping the Embassy with events such as the Raoul Wallenberg exhibition in 2019, and we will keep supporting community organisations such as SACC and SiS, and be of any assistance to Swedes in need.
James: Anna and I have spoken about how we can engage more with the community, which is something we really want to do. We want to get to know more of the Swedes living permanently in Sydney, and also to be there when Swedes get into trouble, which happens at times unfortunately. As an example, I can remember when my father made weekly visits to young Swedes in prison and hospitals on many occasions, because he wanted to help people in trouble. It consumed a lot of time, and he didn’t have to do it, and yet he got a lot of satisfaction from it. I would like to emulate that.
Any special messages to the Swedes in Sydney and NSW?
James: As I said earlier, we really want to engage with the Swedish community. Let us know when functions or events are on, and if we have the time, we will participate. For example, we both plan to go to the ABBA Festival in Trundle in May. (Editor’s note: And put your events in the Calendar at www.swedesinsydney.org!)
And if you end up having some serious problem, let us know. While we may not be able to help directly, we can hopefully point you in the right direction for assistance.
Anna: Yes, let us know about your events. James and I look forward to being of service to the Swedish community and to help promoting Swedish business and culture here in NSW.
A big “Tack” to Anna and James.
It was a pleasure to have a chat over coffee and cinnamon buns at Fika, and I hope this blog has been useful to our subscribers! All comments and feedback welcome.
Johan Hedström, SACC Board Member