Australian Youth Innovation: Youth interactions with ASEAN and the Indo-Pacific
The director of the Southeast Asia Program at the Lowy Institute, Ben Bland, once stated that “it’s hard to trust your neighbor if you don’t know them.”
Even though the ASEAN states are some of Australia’s closest neighbours, there has always been a strong disconnect and distrust, stemming from a lack of understanding and ignorance.
It is strange that some Australians believe Bali is a country, ignorant of the fact it is one of 17,000 islands in ethnically diverse Indonesia, our closest neighbour and one of the fastest growing economies in the region. It is also strange how even now, in our multicultural community home to over 200 nationalities, American news stories still trump anything from the Indo-Pacific news cycle.
Our unconscious bias, experiences and media representations have shaped our perceptions to view our neighbours as distant and inaccessible, and it is only in the last decade that Australian interests have propelled forward ASEAN-Australian relations, with our Strategic Partnership commencing in 2014, as well as the New Colombo Plan, which supports Australian students wishing to study in the Indo-Pacific region.
As the next generation to shape the world, we have the responsibility to do more than those before us. We have at our disposal the benefits of social media, the ability to connect with someone thousands of kilometres away at the touch of a button, to engage with young leaders from all walks of life with a simple text ‘hello’.
Utilising the internet has become the most successful way to navigate a divided world disrupted by COVID-19, with many organisations creating online opportunities for young Australians to take action in narrowing the gap across the Indo-Pacific, through consultations, collaborations and connections.
The ASEAN-Australia Strategic Youth Partnership (AASYP) has recently launched the AASYP Reset Challenge, bringing together young professionals and students from across Southeast Asia to answer the question: ‘How might we develop stronger people to people relations between youth across ASEAN and Australia?’
By working together on a multidisciplinary project, AASYP is encouraging young people to upskill, network and innovate, whilst providing a space to learn from other young leaders on areas such as personal experiences and knowledge, traditions and values, and domestic politics. Such programs are vital to promote cross-cultural interactions between ASEAN states and Australia.
UN Youth Australia has joined forces with UN Youth New Zealand to provide an opportunity for high school students to learn more about the Trans-Tasman and ASEAN alliances, broadening international perspectives and engaging with like-minded peers and mentors to empower young globally-minded citizens.
As international relations now encompasses every career industry due to globalisation, from business to medicine, humanities to science, linguistics to diplomacy, this summit enables young Australians to learn significant skills that are imperative to any life path, such as communication, leadership, negotiation, active listening and collaboration.
Youth participation in ASEAN-Australia relations through mutual cooperation and understanding is integral in ensuring peace and prosperity in the region for years to come. By seizing every opportunity we can to challenge and educate ourselves, we can develop the skills and knowledge required to shape the future of the Indo-Pacific region. All it takes is for us to take the first step.
Whilst the AASYP Reset Challenge has closed, the Tasman-Pacific Relations Summit still has places available for any high school student in Australia and New Zealand. See event details below.
Written by Cassidy Sneikus: a senior facilitator with UN Youth Australia and a member of the ASEAN-Australia Strategic Youth Partnership. She is currently in her final year studying a Bachelor of Arts (History, Politics and International Studies) at the University of Melbourne.