Canberra pre-departure briefings wrap-up

Meetings: Day One

Ewan McDonald

Our first meeting with DFAT Deputy Secretary Ewan McDonald began with a discussion on the current department policy focus and special projects. Mr. McDonald is Chair of DFAT's Audit and Risk Committee, Aid Policy Committee, and Aid Investment Committee. 

Delegates participated in a question and answer session on topics including the Sustainable Development Goals, in particular, the impact of gender inequality on economic development. We were interested to learn that 85% of DFAT programs have some sort of gender equality outcome. This includes a focus on eliminating domestic violence and promoting female economic empowerment in Australia’s Pacific Regional aid program.

The session concluded with a discussion on Australia’s response to the humanitarian crises in the Asia-Pacific region. Delegates noting the impact of climate change and the increasing frequency of extreme weather events. Mr. McDonald acknowledged the DFATs refocus on disaster mitigation to prevent a large-scale humanitarian disaster and costly emergency aid response. The discussion was a great example of students from across disciplines sharing their own experiences, discussing the pros and cons of each policy.    

Our Semester Two 2016 delegates listening to Mr. McDonald discuss the Sustainable Development Goals.

Our Semester Two 2016 delegates listening to Mr. McDonald discuss the Sustainable Development Goals.

Mr. Gary Quinlan

Mr. Quinlan is the former Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations and President of the UN Security Council. He was also the Senior Advisor to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs, Defence, and National Security.

Mr. Quinlan shared his experience representing Australia in high-level diplomatic negotiations and his insights into the inner workings of the UNSC. Mr. Quinlan discussed his view of the changing nature of conflict and the security challenges posed by increased targeting of civilians and aid groups. The delegates also asked questions about Australia’s role in maintaining security in the region.  

Jeff Roach

Mr. Roach is the Assistant Secretary at InnovationXchange, a program of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. This is the second time we have met with InnovationXChange and it is a new highlight on our agenda. The delegates were excited to visit the unique office space and the dynamic work environment at the hub, reflecting a commitment to innovation at all levels of the program.

The InnovationXchange was established by Foreign Minister the Honorable Julie Bishop to trial and support innovation in Australian foreign aid through public and private partnerships. Jeff spoke enthusiastically about current projects and fielded questions on a wide range of topics, including; the role of emerging technology, progress towards the SDGs, and the need for government to be adaptive and flexible in the face of global challenges. 

We were particularly interested to hear about the partnership with Bloomberg Philanthropies to deliver the ‘Data for Health’ program. The program hopes to gather and harness data to effectively target and respond to the health needs of communities in developing nations. The hub has also led open calls to the public for innovative solutions to global disasters. 

Delegates with Mr. Jeff Roach the Assistant Secretary at InnovationXchange.

Delegates with Mr. Jeff Roach the Assistant Secretary at InnovationXchange.

Dr. David Gruen

Dr. Gruen is the Deputy Secretary of Economics and Strategy at the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. Prior to joining DPC Dr. Gruen worked at the Australian Treasury and the Reserve Bank of Australia. Dr. Gruen led a lively discussion with delegates on the role of Australia in the G20 and our reputation as an ‘honest broker’ in global diplomacy. The conversation also touched on issues related to the World Bank and IMF and the increasing significance of the Asia-Pacific region in the Bank’s strategic future.

Delegates participating in a question and answer session with Dr. David Gruen.

Delegates participating in a question and answer session with Dr. David Gruen.

Dr. Gruen also shared valuable advice for strategies to share policy ideas and the importance of avoiding jargon to ensure an inclusive discussion around global issues. The delegates also had an opportunity to ask several questions which revealed a shared interest in the growing role of technology and data in measuring economic productivity. Dr. Gruen also discussed the changing nature of the economy and the possibility of including unpaid domestic work in GDP.

Sally Moyle, Felicity Errington, Sean Singh, Sian Phillips, Felicity Errington and Sean Singh

Commission on the Status of Women delegate Tara Liddy (Charles Darwin University) poses a question to the Gender Equality team.

Commission on the Status of Women delegate Tara Liddy (Charles Darwin University) poses a question to the Gender Equality team.

The Global Voices delegates also had the opportunity to meet with senior team members from the DFAT Gender Equality section. The delegates learned that the department is taking a global approach to gender equality, challenging social norms in regions where gender inequality is most pervasive. There is a particular focus on projects within the Asia-Pacific region, particularly the promotion of female economic empowerment through the support of SMEs and social enterprise projects. Sally Moyle also emphasized ‘empowerment’ extends beyond the control of income and decisions making but also to soft skills to enable more meaningful and productive participation within their communities.

The team also discussed Sweden’s emphasis on ‘Feminist Foreign Policy’ and how gender outcomes are a central indicator for success in all of Australia’s aid programs. The delegates were also briefed on the themes to be discussed at the Commission on the Status of Women, including the role of women in the world work and the emerging emphasis on the impact of gender inequality on indigenous women. Our discussion concluded with the Department’s commitment to gender equity and the importance of women in leadership roles.

Meetings: Day Two

Global Voices Board Chair Harry Jenkins AO explaining the history of the Great Hall in Australian Parliament House.

Global Voices Board Chair Harry Jenkins AO explaining the history of the Great Hall in Australian Parliament House.

Our day kicked off with a guided tour of Parliament House by Global Voices Board Chair, former Speak of the House, Harry Jenkins AO. We arrived during a parliamentary sitting week and Canberra was buzzing with energy and movement. We were lucky enough to bump into several frontbenchers, shadow ministers and Senators from both sides of the floor, all of whom were familiar with the Global Voices program. Now in our fifth year, we are proud of the relationships we have fostered with MPs and government departments. We were also lucky enough to attend a buffet lunch at the Members and Guests in the Sir Frederick Holder Dining Room. The delegates were grateful to receive such attentive and kind service from the dining room staff, and the diversity and quality of options available – try the chocolate tart!

The Honourable Dr. Andrew Leigh

Dr. Leigh is the federal Labor member for Fenner and was previously a professor at the Research School of Economics at the Australian National University. In our session, Dr. Leigh discussed Australia’s diplomatic success as a reflection of our commitment to open and engaged dialogue during multilateral discussions. He also emphasized the need for increased engagement in global markets and the importance to avoid a protectionist foreign policy agenda.

Dr. Leigh discussing Australian economic policy with delegates.

Dr. Leigh discussing Australian economic policy with delegates.

The discussion then moved to the importance of effective communications strategies in governance and foreign policy and the importance of not taking a reductionist view of important and complicated issues. The delegates asked a myriad of questions related to economic policy and Dr. Leigh’s expansive and specialized knowledge was impressive and informative.

Senator Scott Ludlum

Senator Ludlum discussing Australia's Free Trade Agreements.

Senator Ludlum discussing Australia's Free Trade Agreements.

Senator Ludlum is a Greens Senator for Western Australia. In a whirlwind fifteen-minute session Senator Ludlum spoke to several different issues related to foreign policy, including climate change, nuclear weapons, sustainable cities and free trade agreements. Senator Ludlum spoke in particular about the role of the Senate as a mechanism for accountability and transparency and the imbalance between the Executive and Parliament in reviewing global treaties and trade agreements. Delegates attending the Habitat III conference were also briefed about the current Western Australian plan for Sustainable Cities and the affinity with the summit agenda.

Melanie Brown

Ms. Brown is the Adviser to the Hon Michaelia Cash the federal Minister for Women. This insightful discussion was particularly useful for delegates wishing to pursue a career in the Australian Public Service. Ms. Brown discussed her own career path and experience moving through the ranks and delegates wereinterested to hear about her experience as a woman in the public service. Ms. Brown have an honest appraisal of the current gender split in government and the need to create mentoring and leadership programs to help other women rise through the ranks.