‘Business as usual’ no longer: My Global Voices experience so far

Earlier this year, I was awarded a scholarship from Global Voices, a not-for-profit that funds student delegations to conferences worldwide. I will be attending the OECD conference in Paris this June, and have recently returned from preliminary meetings in Canberra. This blog post presents my thoughts on those recent Canberra meetings.

Me, in front of Parliament House (11/05/17)

Meetings with DFAT, Penny Wong’s senior advisers, and Tanya Plibersek; bumping into Julie Bishop in the halls of Parliament House; a private tour of Parliament with former House speaker and Global Voices board member Harry Jenkins. These are but some of the incredible moments I experienced as a Global Voices delegate at the Canberra pre-departure briefings. We have learned so much, yet one lesson stands above all else so far: the importance of critical thought and introspection when our core structures, values and institutions are called into question. 

Throughout our time in Canberra, we met with many different groups and people, ranging from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute to Australia’s G20 Sherpa, Dr David Gruen. However, a resounding sentiment hung over many of our conversations: that we currently face a future that looks uncertain and unsettling; volatile, even. ‘Business as usual’ is over, indeed. This is truly the character of the global political sphere in 2017, so it was fascinating to meet with some of Australia’s best minds in policy at this point in time. Many of them propounded the importance of self-assessment as a means of ascertaining a direction for our society and its values. Reflecting on the pre-departure briefings with this in mind reveals the incredible depth of learning that this experience offered.

Over two days, we heard from all those mentioned, as well as US Diplomats and the InnovationXChange, on issues ranging from the rise of economic protectionism, the strategic challenges posed to Australia by our relationships with China and the US, and the importance of innovation to the future of our country. Regardless of the topic, it was fascinating to see these brilliant people grapple with questions of direction and positions in the face of uncertainty, and to attempt to know what being Australian means in these contexts. No definitive answers were presented, but witnessing this pursuit was ultimately just as rewarding.

The Global Voices team with Julie Bishop. (Parliament House, 11/05/2017).

Of course, these questions were on the minds of the other delegates too. They are all doing some fascinating, timely work, ranging from mitigating the disproportionate impact of technological progress on women, to the future of Australian manufacturing. It was particularly interesting to see the intersection between our thoughts and those held by the experts, showing yet another angle to the multifaceted discourse on progress.

Ultimately, these experiences will prove invaluable for our trip to Paris, and my upcoming research paper on the future of trade liberalisation. An understanding of Australia, and its place in the world is essential to derive value from both experiences, and my experience in Canberra will stand me in good stead in this regard.

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