2021 Swiss Prize celebrates Swiss-Australian collaboration

Monday 8 November 2021

At this time when Australia is beginning to re-opening its borders, the Embassy of Switzerland in Canberra opened its doors to the Australian National University (ANU), to commemorate the 2021 Swiss Prize.

This year marks the 23rd anniversary of the essay competition, which Ambassador of Switzerland to Australia Mr Pedro Zwahlen described as the flagship of the partnership between the Embassy and the ANU.

“I would like to thank the Australian National University and its School of Literature, Languages and Linguistics in particular for the successful collaboration for over two decades,” Ambassador Zwahlen said.

“Our cooperation has turned from a small project to a cherished tradition underpinning the close relationship between the ANU and Switzerland.”

To enter, students from the ANU College of Arts & Social Sciences studying Italian, French and German write an essay in their language, addressing a set topic. This year, that topic was: When Swiss and Australians work together, perspectives on past, present or future Swiss-Australian collaborations as we celebrate 60 years of relations between Switzerland and Australia.

Winning essays spanned subjects ranging from Antarctic research, a Swiss art gallery that specialises in Indigenous Australian art, to Swiss-manufactured Pilatus aircraft.

Ambassador Zwahlen told the students at the prize announcement: “I am impressed by your efforts and the results submitted in the three official languages of my country.”

He congratulated the students for their hard work and commitment to learning a Swiss language, and spoke about how their efforts will be rewarded.

“You strengthen your position in the world,” Ambassador Zwahlen said. “By demonstrating openness and confidence, you build trust with your peers. And the additional access and trust which you gain by your proof of interest in the stranger, will reward you a hundred times.”

ANU Deputy Vice-Chancellor for International Strategy and Dean of the ANU College of Law Professor Sally Wheeler also spoke at the Swiss Prize announcement. Professor Wheeler told the audience that the ANU considers Switzerland an important partner.

“ANU is a proud supporter of continued efforts to foster education and research partnerships between Australia and Switzerland, and I'm very grateful for the efforts of your Embassy in helping to facilitate these ties,” Professor Wheeler said.

“When borders are open, I hope that we will see many more Swiss students and we will be able to send many more students back to Switzerland.”

On the subject of open borders and re-opened doors, Ambassador Zwahlen repeated an announcement by Senator Marise Payne about Australia re-opening its embassy in Bern, the capital city of Switzerland, next year. 

“After 30 years of absence, we are happy to welcome Australia's diplomats back in our capital,” said Ambassador Zwahlen. “It will contribute to intensifying the relations between Switzerland and Australia long term. And with your new language skills, dear students, you are now very well prepared.”

ANU alumni mezzo-soprano AJ America (PhB (Hons) ’18) and pianist Ella Luhtasaari (B. Sci ’11, B. Mus (Hons) ’12) provided the musical accompaniment at the event, performing pieces in Italian, French and German between the prize announcements. 

Swiss Prize 2021 winners


1st Prize - Isabelle Arnaud
L'Antartide e la ricerca sul cambiamento climatico (Antarctica and climate change research)

2nd Prize - Elizabeth Turner
La Svizzera e l’Australia: La Conservazione di una Lingua Minoritaria (Switzerland and Australia: the Preservation of a Minority Language)

3rd Prize - Samuel Tomlinson
La Cooperazione svizzero-australiana (Swiss-Australian Cooperation)

1st Prize winner in Italian Isabelle Arnaud:
“Climate change is very much the challenge of our time. Australia and Switzerland both have experience and expertise in research in climate change and Australia has been very much involved in Antarctica and Switzerland also in Greenland with its institutions in climate change researching in various collaborations around the world.

"Obviously research in Antarctica is very costly and Australia and Switzerland together can achieve so much more in research on climate change which is a very important field of research in today's world.”


1st Prize - Bianca Barrass Borzatti
Antarctique: La Dernière Frontière? (Antarctica: the last frontier?)

2nd Prize - Gaia Trincone
La Suisse et l’Australie 60 ans de coopération dans la formation et la recherche : un passé fructueux et des perspectives d’avenir (Switzerland and Australia: 60 years of cooperation in education and research)

3rd Prize - Vivien Deng
Fondation Opale: Une Extension Du «Country» Aborigène En Suisse (The Fondation Opale: an extension of Aboriginal « country » in Switzerland).

1st Prize winner in French Bianca Barrass Borzatti:
“I wrote my essay on Australia and Switzerland's very long history of collaboration in the field of Antarctic exploration. So that's a relationship that's gone back over 100 years and it has a lot of elements. And I also talked about the opportunities that it's presenting for climate change research.”


1st Prize - Zoe Avery
How Switzerland can promote Indigenous Australian culture through art (Wie die Schweiz die Kultur der Ureinwohner Australiens durch Kunst bekannt machen kann)

2nd Prize - Dorothée Steinbach
Swiss-Australian climate research in the Antarctic through the ages (Schweiz-Australische Klimaforschung der Antarktis im Wandel der Zeit)

3rd Prize - James Damjanovic
The PC-21 and Pilatus in Australia: a high-flying partnership (Der PC-21 und Pilatus in Australien: Eine hochfliegende Partnerschaft)

1st Prize winner in German Zoe Avery: 
“I am a Worimi woman [from] up in the Forster/Newcastle area. So Aboriginal culture is something very close to my heart. And when I heard about this Fondation Opale in Switzerland where obviously it's the biggest exhibition in Switzerland of Indigenous art, it really made me think about how Europeans have this value of Indigenous art in Switzerland. […] We do have Indigenous art galleries in Australia, but it just made me think about how much Australia could do better by how Switzerland has approached having these galleries showcasing Indigenous art.”

Written by Evana Ho

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Updated:  8 November 2021/Responsible Officer:  CASS Marketing & Communications/Page Contact:  CASS Marketing & Communications