The Australia China Emerging Leaders Summit (ACELS) is an initiative of the Australia China Youth Association (ACYA). The Summit began life in 2013 as the ACYA National Conference and has grown from there to become ACELS. In 2016, ACELS was organised for the first time in China and hosted 45 delegates in Shanghai.
The objective of the ACELS initiative is threefold. The first is to develop the professional capabilities of youth in either country with an interest in the other. The second is to provide an avenue for discussion, conceptualising and designing new projects. The third is to provide networking opportunities with professionals and leaders in the Australia-China space from various sectoral backgrounds.
ACELS Shanghai ran from the 19th to 21st of February. The itinerary included a networking panel with both Australian and Chinese business leaders in Shanghai, professional seminars, and group discussions and workshops among delegates.
ACELS applications are open to university students and early career professionals from both Australia and China. This places the typical age of a delegate in the range of 18 to 26. There is no explicit age bracket for applications.
ACELS is generously supported by funding and in-kind sponsorship from various organisations, including but not limited to the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Australia-China Council and M Group of Restaurants. In turn, where appropriate and applicable, the event is also supported by ACYA’s partners such as Wines By Geoff Hardy, Austrade, and AustCham.
Recently Asia Options’ Greater China Correspondent Alice Slevison sat down with ACYA’s Advisor, Jimmy Zeng, and 2016 ACELS delegate, Jennifer Tridgell, to discuss the ACELS.
Interview with Australia China Youth Association Adviser Jimmy Zeng
Some background on Jimmy:
You could say that my background is in Energy. I studied a dual Bachelor’s in Electrical Engineering and Economics at the University of Queensland, with an Honours dissertation on the economic implications of gas and electricity market integration. I’m Cantonese Chinese by background and you could call me a second generation Chinese Australian.
My involvement with the Australia-China community has primarily come about through ACYA; they are essentially one and the same in my mind. I’ve been part of ACYA committees for the past four years, serving in a variety of positions. My interest in China stems from both personal and professional interests: I am particularly interested in Chinese History, the stories and histories of Chinese-Australians, and anything to do with economics and energy in China.
What was your involvement in the 2016 ACELS?
From 2015 to 2016, I served as ACYA’s National President. I had been involved with the first incarnation of ACELS four years ago (back then, it began life as the first ever ACYA National Conference) in Brisbane, and have either overseen or been directly involved in the project management of each successive conference. ACELS came about as a result of what ACYA saw as a need to develop the professional capabilities and networks of youth in both countries. As ACELS Shanghai was the first time the event had been hosted in China, I also took on the additional role of being the Project Manager for the event.
We (the National Executive) hope that delegates will gain greater insight and perspective into the myriad events and activities that happen in the Australia-China space and also have the opportunity to develop relevant professional capabilities with similarly enthusiastic individuals. In hosting these conferences, ACYA is able to continue developing this youth community. We’ve had delegates from past conferences get involved with ACYA and bring their ideas to the organisation as well. There’s definitely value for all parties involved.
What was your personal highlight from the 2016 ACELS?
Good question, there were quite a few. Let me choose an anecdote that isn’t really a single highlight so to speak. On the 19th, delegates had the time to meet and mingle and get to know each other before conference proceedings began. The project team for the event was still being kept busy sorting out last minute details during this. In the short breaks in our schedule where we were able to find the time to relax, the sense of pride and accomplishment that we shared with each other in making the event happen was undeniable.
I have worked with each member of the project team in the past in various roles in ACYA, so it was especially inspiring to be able to stand there in Shanghai and celebrate the success with each of them. I won’t embarrass them with names; if they’re reading this I’m sure they know who they are.
What tips would you have for Australian/Chinese applicants who would like to attend the 2017 ACELS?
ACYA project teams have developed quite effective, robust selection processes over the years. Expressions of interest/applications will generally ask an applicant to describe their academic background, personal interests, any professional interests or experiences to do with Australia-China affairs (in any sector); any past involvement with ACYA or similar organisations; what they hope to get out of a successful application; and also the opportunity to explain to us why they’re personally doing what they do.
I wouldn’t say I have any specific tips at all: merely give us your best and show us who you are and why it’d be great to have you at a conference!
Interview with 2016 ACELS delegate Jennifer Tridgell
Some background on Jennifer:
I am in the penultimate year of my BA (Politics & International Relations)/Law at Macquarie University, and I am currently on exchange at the University of Hong Kong as a 2016 New Colombo Plan Scholar. Recently, I have joined the ACYA’s newly relaunched Hong Kong Chapter as Secretary.
My main areas of interest are international dispute resolution and comparative law in the Asia-Pacific region, having worked with the Australian Disputes Centre and Australian Human Rights Commission.
Why did you apply for the 2016 ACELS?
ACELS was an opportunity to immerse myself more fully in the world of Australia-China relations. Recently, I had moved to Hong Kong and joined ACYA, so I was eager to learn more about the Greater China region by visiting Shanghai and meeting fellow delegates. Personally, these friendships help me to learn from talented young leaders in Australia and China, foster cross-cultural understanding and deepen people-to-people connections in the region. Whilst travel broadens the mind, it is the people who make the experience such a rich one.
How does the ACELS fit into the aims of the New Colombo Plan?
The New Colombo Plan is a signature initiative of the Australian Government, which cultivates greater knowledge of the Indo-Pacific region by supporting undergraduate students to live, study and work in nearby nations. Currently, I am studying law at the University of Hong Kong, before undertaking legal internships in Hong Kong and India respectively.
ACELS and the New Colombo Plan share a common goal: to strengthen professional and personal links between Australia and our neighbours, such as China. Bright young leaders are key to transforming and strengthening our bilateral relationship in the future, so ACELS is a perfect platform for developing knowledge and skills on Australia-China relations.
What was your personal highlight of the 2016 ACELS?
ACELS was an invaluable Summit for professional development. Whether it was workshops, speaker panels or networking events, I was continually impressed by the high calibre of distinguished guests and fellow delegates alike. It was wonderful to meet both emerging and established professionals from a diverse range of backgrounds, from tourism marketing to international aviation.
Additionally, ACELS showed me the vast potential of young leaders for shaping Australia-China relations. Through discussion groups, we shared ideas on challenges and prospects posed by the bilateral relationship and strategies to increase youth engagement. Since returning from ACELS, a number of my fellow delegates and myself have relaunched the Hong Kong Chapter of ACYA.
What are your tips for Australian/Chinese applicants who would like to attend the 2017 ACELS?
For future ACELS delegates, come with an open mind and an earnest desire to learn more about the Australia-China space. I encourage you to be receptive to new ways of thinking, cultural practices and opportunities that may arise. This positive outlook will increase your eligibility as an applicant, as well as enrich your ACELS journey.
Finally, ACELS emphasises leadership development. Challenge yourself to develop new skills and knowledge, but then consider how you can share this experience with others. Taking the initiative to spread the message of ACELS to a wider audience is a sign of leadership.
Follow the link to find more about volunteering with the Australia China Youth Association (ACYA)
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