First ASEAN-Australia Youth Summit held in Melbourne

MELBOURNE hosted the first ever ASEAN-Australia Youth Summit last weekend, where new student body the ASEAN Student Council of Australia was launched. Leon Saw reports.

More than a hundred Southeast Asian students studying in Australia attended the first ever ASEAN-Australia Youth Summit in Melbourne on Saturday, where a new study body, the ASEAN Student Council of Australia (ASCA), was launched.

In addition to the student delegates, the summit, themed “Youth leaders today, nation builders tomorrow”, was attended by ASEAN and Australian government officials, including Ambassador of Indonesia to Australia H.E. Mr. Primo Joelianto, Second Secretary of High-Commission of Singapore Ms. Fiona Zhang, Malaysian Consul General in Victoria Dr. Rameez Yahaya, and the Ambassador of Australia to ASEAN, H.E. Ms. Gillian Bird.

Vietnamese student Anh Thu Phan said the summit was intended to be a launching pad for ASCA.

“We are amateurs and not really recognised yet, so the purpose of the Summit is just to officially launch ASCA and create awareness about it,” she said.

“We wanted to engage the media and the various VIPs to get some publicity, as well as get the various student bodies together to network.”

Malaysian representative and current head of ASCA, Miss Ashley Toh said the Council was set up to aid communication between the different ASEAN student bodies in Australia.

“The various ASEAN country student bodies were doing very well by themselves but there was no interaction between them, so we decided to form a body that will facilitate communication between them, which is what we have now, the ASEAN Student Council of Australia,” she said.

The Council is made up of representatives from five ASEAN country student bodies in the state of Victoria, the Malaysian Students’ Council of Australia (MASCA Victoria), the Indonesian Students Association of Australia, Victoria (PPIA Victoria), the Melbourne Overseas Vietnamese Student Association (MOVSA), the Singaporeans of Victoria (SOV), and the Thai Students Association of Victoria (TSV).

Noticeably absent on the Council were student representatives from ASEAN nations Cambodia, Burma, Brunei and the Philippines.

But Ms Toh said this was because those countries did not “have a significant number of students in Victoria or even in Australia”.

“ASCA will help them form their councils, but in the mean time, they will be represented by their respective university student societies,” she said.

The Summit

The first half of the event kicked off with the ASEAN anthem, followed by speeches by various VIPs and a presentation by the newly formed ASCA about their goals.

The second part of the day was dominated by discussions focused on ASEAN and ASEAN-Australia issues.

Delegates mulled over how to improve education in ASEAN, how ASEAN students can contribute towards building their nations, and whether it was important for Australia and ASEAN to move closer together.

Singaporean delegate Miss Hillary Gomez said she found the first half of the Summit to be “not really engaging.”

“(ASCA) just presented goals for themselves but not for the ASEAN student community as a whole,” she said.

She felt the setting of the forum “was not conducive for discussions” and “there was no time for solutions”.

But she conceded the Summit “was good for getting to know people from other countries and the problems they are facing, as well as for networking”.

Miss Marsha Yusuf, a delegate from Indonesia, echoed Miss Gomez’s sentiments.

“The summit was a good way to express feelings about ASEAN issues, and to do something to indirectly contribute to our respective countries, but the scope of the discussion was too broad,” she said.

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