THE recent ASEAN-Australia Youth Summit was a step forward in strengthening the ASEAN youth leadership community in Australia, and encouraging more Australian students to take an active interest in the ASEAN region. Cally Sheng reports.
Young leaders from ASEAN countries and Australia gathered at the recent ASEAN-Australia Youth Summit to engage in discussions on a range of regional issues including obstacles to doing business in ASEAN countries and solutions for more effective disaster management.
Held on October 11 at the William Angliss Conference Centre, this year’s summit saw some 100 delegates in attendance.
In the opening keynote, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade director of the ASEAN section Vanessa Wood highlighted the mutual benefits of strengthening ties between ASEAN and Australia, and acknowledged the summit’s contribution towards strengthening that relationship.
Presentations by Professor Tran Van Hoa on ‘Globalization and Impact on Business Performance in ASEAN Countries’, Dr Avery Poole on ‘Australian and Disaster Management in ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community’ and Professor Carlyle A. Thayer on ‘Australian-ASEAN Relations 1974-2014: An Expanding Agenda’ were followed by robust discussions among delegates.
Issues such as poor infrastructure, regional instability, and policy restrictions were raised as obstacles to doing business in ASEAN countries.
Delegates also proposed solutions for more effective disaster management. In addition to regional obligations and sharing expertise on knowledge and technology, delegates were in agreement on what Australian and ASEAN youth could do.
Suggestions included organising workshops to educate and train local communities, as well as developing programs to influence governments in terms of policy-making and providing more transparency in providing aid.
The importance of cooperation and providing a co-ordinated response in times of disaster was also brought home when a delegate from the Philippines shared how he was thankful for the contributions by Australian and ASEAN countries to help rebuild his hometown following the devastation that Typhoon Haiyan brought in its wake. He called on future leaders to consider the region as a whole and the importance of joint responsibility in emergency response.
All points raised will be drafted into a Working Paper, which serves as the primary concrete outcome of this year’s summit.
A member of the organising committee Doreen Sia said that the team had worked hard to form a strong ASEAN youth leadership community in Australia, involving both local and international students.
“We hope to project a stronger ASEAN influence among young Australians though the summit”, she said.
A fifth of the delegates were made up of representatives from Australia, and among those delegates was Monash University student leader Clarice Campbell.
Ms Campbell said the summit provided a space for meaningful discourse around Australia and its ASEAN neighbours.
“Many Australians don’t pay enough attention to Asians or they’re just anxious because of language and culture barriers,” she said.
“The information I take away from this summit is not only for myself, but also to educate fellow Australians for general awareness”.
International student Johnson Tan, from Singapore, said he had flown from Canberra to Melbourne just for the summit.
The international relations student at Australian National University said it was an opportunity he would have regretted if he had missed out.
“It is exciting to see so many people from different countries come here for a common interest talking about issues that are important and relevant in our society,” he said.