Prime Minister, media circus and a photobomber descend on West Ryde’s Uniting Church
No doubt on the average Wednesday morning in Sydney’s suburbia, it would be somewhat unusual to find burly men in dark glasses striding earnestly from stately looking cars.
So, with a Prime Ministerial advance party surveying the area it’s understandable if perhaps I detected the odd curtain twitch as I strolled up Maxim Street, a leafy residential side road in West Ryde.
It was day three of Australia’s federal election campaign and the big show was rolling into town.
For the unsuspecting Korean students assembled in the Uniting Church it was to be one of the more memorable English classes.
As they pondered a tricky pronoun they may have suspected something was afoot when a fleet of cars containing PR advisors, minders and government officials suddenly pulled up.
Reciting vocab started to take a back seat when a bus followed, carrying countless photographers, every major national TV broadcasting network and a who’s who of Political Correspondents.
But the phrase books were well and truly retired for the day twenty minutes later when the Prime Minister – the Hon Kevin Rudd MP – arrived, flanked by Senator Kate Lundy (Minister for Multicultural Affairs), Jason Yat-sen Li (Labor Candidate for Bennelong) and Rev Dr Brian Brown (Moderator of the Uniting Church Synod of NSW.ACT).
Our Mandarin-speaking PM (“accented but pretty fluent”, UnitingWorld’s Rev Dr Ji Zhang assured me after conversing with him in the language) decided to take his campaign trail to the Uniting Church’s English class to announce that Korean would become one of five key Asian languages taught in Australia.
Mr. Rudd also took the opportunity to pay heed to the good relations enjoyed between the church and the federal government and acknowledge the church’s multicultural roots.
“May I thank our friends at the Uniting Church for letting us be here today. I know their history of taking together the Methodist, Presbyterian and the Congregationalist Churches and I know in Korea the Presbyterian Church is very strong,” the Prime Minister said.
“What is wonderful is to see how the local Uniting Church are working with our friends as a Korean community and helping our little Korean friends there in so many practical ways.”
The little friends in question were the group of children who were enjoying onsite crèche facilities at the back of the room, but Mr. Rudd hadn’t reckoned on the PR prowess of one in particular.
As the Prime Minister’s advisors attempted to stage a photo op, cheeky Joseph Kim danced and hollered with such gusto behind him, that it’s not hard to see how he earned the nickname “happy boy”.
The Prime Minister being photobombed by a five year old hadn’t been in the script and the assembled media laughed at the performance. Photo lenses snapped furiously and the journos began to rework their copy as the little showman worked the crowd.
His mother, Esther Lee, later told reporters her son hadn’t known Kevin Rudd was famous, so had been surprised later that day to see his beaming face plastered all over the national news, but she added that he was “enjoying the attention”.
The visit capped a great week for the Uniting Church and UnitingCare. Following the visit of Senator the Hon Jacinta Collins (Minster for Mental Health and Ageing) at the UnitingCare Ageing NSW.ACT staff awards the Friday before, the appearance tally stood at three ministers and a candidate in just six days.
And if some of our coverage was the work of a Korean lad with a flair catching the eye of the photo desk? Well, at least we were in good company.
Dominic Streeter, Senior Media Liaison and Public Affairs Officer, NSW. ACT.
Photo courtesy Dominic Streeter
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