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Dispatch from Jakarta, by John Swan, DFAT iSAY essay competition winner 2019

DFAT’s 2019 iSAY trade essay competition winner in the university undergraduate student category sent us the following dispatch about his prize of attending the ASEAN-Australia Young Leaders Forum.

Group photo of Cameron Allen (Director, ASEAN-Australia Young Leaders Forum), Professor Shamit Saggar (Director, University of Western Australia Public Policy Institute), John Swan, Amelia Joyner (Second Secretary, Australian Mission to ASEAN), and Hayley Winchcombe (Chair, ASEAN-Australia Strategic Youth Partnership).
(L to R) Cameron Allen (Director, ASEAN-Australia Young Leaders Forum), Professor Shamit Saggar (Director, University of Western Australia Public Policy Institute), John Swan, Amelia Joyner (Second Secretary, Australian Mission to ASEAN), and Hayley Winchcombe (Chair, ASEAN-Australia Strategic Youth Partnership) at the closing ceremony. Credit: ASEAN-Australia Young Leaders Forum.

The ASEAN-Australia Young Leaders Forum was a meeting of 41 young people from the ASEAN states and Australia to discuss the challenges and opportunities facing the region. The Forum was held between 29 November and 2 December 2019 in Jakarta, Indonesia.

Three key themes discussed were the digital economy, counter terrorism and disaster resilience. It was great to meet experts from business, government, non-government organisations and universities to learn about these issues.

I especially enjoyed hearing Adelina Kamal, the Executive Director of the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management (AHA Centre), discuss the centre’s coordinating role in responding to natural disasters across ASEAN and its cooperation with the Australian Government. The Forum also included an opening ceremony at the Australian Embassy, where we heard from the Secretary-General of ASEAN, H.E. Dato Lim Jock Hoi; a reception by the Australian Ambassador to ASEAN, Jane Duke; tours of the Indonesian technology start-up firms Tokopedia and QLUE; and a visit to the ASEAN Secretariat.

My favourite parts of the Forum were the group activities with other delegates. There were presentations on each of the ASEAN states, a diplomatic crisis simulation activity and a ‘Hackathon’.

In the ‘Hackathon’ we formed into groups of around five delegates and brainstormed solutions to issues we were interested in such as reducing plastic pollution, promoting gender equality, improving agriculture financing, addressing mental illness, increasing ASEAN-Australia youth engagement, and supporting migrant worker rights. I was in the migrant worker rights group that discussed the ASEAN-Australia Counter-Trafficking Initiative, as well as how these efforts could be strengthened through greater cooperation between source and host countries and harnessing consumer pressure for ethical products.

By participating in the Forum, I have made friends across the region. I would enjoy working in the exciting area of ASEAN-Australia relations in the future. 

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