Dialogue, diaspora and development

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Indian and Australian youth discuss key issues to strengthen bilateral relations, reports PREETI JABBAL

A diverse range of delegates from Australia and India attended the first Australia India Youth Dialogue (AIYD) in Melbourne and Sydney recently. AIYD 2013 was an initiative to foster and enhance partnership between the youth of India and Australia, providing them with an opportunity to engage and collaborate with each other. The event was held at Asialink in Melbourne, and brought speakers from both countries to discuss topics related to business, social and cultural development. The event was held from January 30 to February 1, and attracted an impressive list of participants including keynote addresses from Hon Alex Chernov AC QC, Governor of Victoria; Hon Martin Ferguson MP, Minister for Resources and Energy; Hon Chris Bowen Minister for Immigration and Citizenship; and Hon Barry O’Farrell MP, Premier of NSW.
A welcome video message from the Hon Julia Gillard Prime Minister was played at the gala opening night dinner held at the Richmond Football Club.  She also met with AIYD alumni during her visit to India in October 2012. According to the PM, the relationship with India has moved forward by leaps and bounds. She said the visit to India had dramatically improved bilateral relations and had left a deep impression on her personally. “Last year I launched my government’s blueprint of our engagement with Asia which has put India at the forefront of our plans and goals,” she said. Ms Gillard said the conference had facilitated the visit of young leaders from India and helped them engage with the best and brightest young leaders of Australia in both Melbourne and Sydney, and that such interactions would make a contribution toward enhancement of these ties.
During the conference, delegates also heard from eminent speakers including His Excellency Governor Alex Chernov; ALP Senator for Tasmania Lisa Singh; Indian High Commissioner Biren Nanda; former Australian High Commissioner to India John McCarthy; and Associate Dean (International) Macquarie University Professor Naren Chitty. Planet Ark Founder John Dee, also 2010 NSW Australian of the Year; co-author of Target 3 Billion Srijan Pal Singh; award winning Scientia Professor Veena Sahajwalla; member of Indian Prime Minister’s Global Advisory Council Of Overseas Indians Neville Roach AO; 2011 Australian of the Year Simon Mckeon; Director of AII Professor Amitabh Mattoo and Vice-Chancellor and President of Deakin University Prof Jane den Hollander also participated.
Discussions on the first morning centred on the rapidly expanding Australia-India relationship through an overview of political and administrative landscapes in both countries. This was followed by a discussion on the diaspora, cultural representation and soft power. The second day of conference focused on education in Australia and India, entrepreneurship and social innovation, and the challenge of sustainability. On the third day, the delegates moved on to the Lowy Institute in Sydney to hear about FDI in Australia and India and International Security, followed by a Q&A session. The opening and closing dinner events offered opportunities for delegates to socialize with each other and establish networks with local politicians, participants and the media.
The delegates from Australia included political reporter Latika Bourke; Jo Haylen, senior adviser to the Prime Minister of Australia; Jacob Tyler, professional rugby player and Rhodes Scholar; Gonul Serbest, Executive Director, Trade in the Department of Business and Innovation; Gautam Raju, director and co-founder of OurSay, a democratic media website; and Niki Ariyasinghe, Head of Strategy & Planning at ING Direct. The Indian delegates included Amoghavarsha JS, wildlife photographer and filmmaker; Bhuvana Anand Director, Development & Communication at Centre for Civil Society in Delhi; DNV Kumara Guru, Director External Relations at Indian School Of Business; George Alexander, Vice President of Muthoot Finance; Hakim Habibulla, Olympian swimmer; Mayuri Mukherjee, journalist from the Pioneer; Neha Khanna, senior correspondent and news editor NDTV; Rohit Kumar General Consul of United Phosphorus Limited; and Vivek Kumar, Deputy Consul at the Consulate General of India in Sydney.
Since its inception in 2011, the AIYD Steering Committee has been instrumental in connecting promising youth from Australia and India, with previous forums in Mumbai and New Delhi enjoying equal success in building bridges between these youth. Said Monika Barthwal, Datta member of the Steering Committee of the AIYD and lecturer in International Security at the University of NSW, “Youth can play a key role in helping to shift old attitudes and find new avenues for collaboration and partnership. India is a youthful country. Almost two-thirds of the population is under 30. In 2011-12, India was Australia’s largest source of permanent migrants. Greater engagement with India’s youth gives Australia an excellent opportunity to shape the attitudes of its emerging leaders and allow them to develop a deeper appreciation of Australia’s political, economic, strategic and social concerns.” (The Australian)
Bachar Houli, Multicultural Ambassador for the AFL offered the AIYD delegates a short introduction to the game of AFL just before the opening night dinner. The gala event was held at the Maurice Rioli Room at the ME Bank Centre. In an attempt to strengthen its relationship with the Indian community, the Richmond Football Club is also supporting the recently incorporated Masala Football Club. It is a new team in the Victorian Amateur Football Association that aims to promote footy within Melbourne’s migrant communities, specifically those from the subcontinent.
It was an exciting three days for the delegates who were exposed to ideas and issues from a wide range of fields and disciplines. Srijan Pal Singh, one of the speakers succinctly stated, “Across the globe there is a huge market for ideas, and this flow of information and opinions between young people is the best forum for such ideas.” The AIYD event received good reviews all round. Professional rugby player Jacob Taylor who is an active advocate for improving cultural intelligence, said that the AIYD conference enabled him to gain a better understanding of India and its people. Jacob, who has developed strong associations with China in the past, was keen to explore similar possibilities with India through bilateral dialogue and shared knowledge. According to Jacob, AIYD offered him that sustainable platform. In summing up, Mayuri Mukherjee commented in her farewell, “The conference may be over but in so many ways, the journey has just begun.”

Preeti Jabbal
Preeti Jabbal
Preeti is the Melbourne Coordinator of Indian Link.

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