“It’s the world in union,” trills the trio singing the chorus of the Rugby World Cup’s anthem, and that’s exactly what the Emerge Foundation was celebrating last Friday at its seventh annual 40,000 Rugby Lunch.
This number is in honour of the 40,000 brave Timorese who died during WWII supporting Australian soldiers, a debt the Emerge Foundation intends to repay in the form of supporting the ICFP Baucau Teachers Training College in Timor Leste; Barefoot Nurses to promote health literacy and basic primary healthcare; and the Future in Youth programme, fostering leadership, health and life skills to children and young people through soccer.
The lunch also honoured the impending Rugby World Cup in the UK (due to kick off in a matter of hours at 8pm in Twickenham) and the ANZAC legacy, partnering with the French Tourist Bureau with the theme of ‘Remembering those who fought so bravely for Australia’.
The guest of honour, His Excellency Christophe Lecourtier, Ambassador of France to Australia, spoke of the Australian sacrifice to save Villers-Bretonneux in WWI that will never be forgotten by the French, while the most coveted item from the Live Auction was an experience to visit Villers-Bretonneux on ANZAC Day. It was sold for $24,000, an incredible boon to the Emerge Foundation’s projects in Timor Leste, contributing to an estimated total of $200,000 raised at the event.
John Howard opened the talks, touching on both the serious – having seen the plight of the Timorese first-hand during his leadership – and the humorous – he was the last Australian PM to drink from the Bledisloe Cup.
Among the 700 or so rugby players and fans filling the Grand Ballroom of The Westin Sydney, guests were given an insight into the game from a panel of former Wallabies, Nick Farr-Jones and Rod Kafer, and former All Black captain, David Kirk. Fox Sports presenter Greg Clark, who also served as the event’s MC, quizzed the sportsmen on the Bledisloe Cup (it can hold 54 cans of beer, according to Kafer), Australia and New Zealand’s chances at the 2015 World Cup, touring South Africa, and life outside the sport. Francois Pienaar, the South African captain known for leading the Springboks to victory at the 1995 World Cup, also joined the conversation via video link.
The Emerge Foundation was founded in 2001 by Ian MacRitchie of IMR Financial Advisors and his wife, Marionne, harnessing the network of the finance and funds management industry to raise money for his vital charitable works.
LATTE and its sister publication, Signature Travel & Style magazine, attended the inspiring lunch and provided a luxury travel pack as a lucky door prize.