Macquarie University’s Global Leadership Program held its annual domestic symposium to Canberra in March. The symposium involved a visit to Parliament House for Question Time, an evening with the High Commissioner of Pakistan, Abdul Malik Abdullah, in his diplomatic residence and numerous opportunities to explore the culture and socio-political issues of Australia. GLP students Gemma Bastock and Megan Collier recall their experiences in the capital.
“Our first stop was Parliament House. We were shown around by a rather quirky Austrian tour guide, who claimed he could make the flag atop the House wave, by activating a certain tile – we applauded and expressed wonderment in such sorcery.
We then sat in on Question Time, which was a real treat! The passion and tension in that room was palpable. And we had the once-in-a-lifetime privilege of witnessing a tremendous moment in Australian politics: the Labor Party’s vote of no-confidence in the Speaker, a political climax the Parliament had been working up to for some time. The motion failed – so I suppose it’s not quite worth bragging to the grandkids about – but it was a cool event to be part of.
Next we headed off to the U.S. Embassy. We got so much out of it, not the least of which was a selfie with the ambassadors themselves! We were so inspired by their warmth and openness, and everything that their position required of them.
On the second day, we dined at the house of the High Commissioner for Pakistan (I never get tired of saying that sentence!). The High Commissioner was very enthusiastic about the bright future he saw between our two countries: strong relations and exchange of knowledge. We were all quite touched by this.
It hit me then how hard it must actually be for a government to represent a country. I mean, a country is not a homogeneous mass of people with the exact same values, attitudes and needs. A country is a complex entity, composed of many different voices and visions. It’s hard to make everyone happy, so sometimes it is worthwhile putting our swords down and showing appreciation for all our politicians do for us.
Now, if you’d told me last year that I was going to attend a politico-cultural symposium in Canberra , I would definitely not have believed you. But I’m really glad I did, because I’ve gained so much from the experience. So if there’s one thing I hope you take away from this story it’s that it’s worthwhile trying something different – because you never know when you’ll discover a new passion!”
“As an American exchange student, I expected to be enlightened by the political landscape, intrigued by the cultural differences and surprised at the experiences, but I underestimated just how much my participation in the symposium would broaden my understanding of cultural and political issues within Australia.
Upon arriving at Parliament House, I was struck at how similar it looked to Washington, DC. Question Time in the House of Representatives taught me about the nature of discourse in Australian federal politics. The manner of debate in the Australian House of Representatives made me reflect thoughtfully on the similarities to and differences from the US House of Representatives. I suppose I learnt to analyse perspectives in a larger context, an essential quality of global leadership.
We also attended a briefing and dinner at the Pakistani High Commissioner’s home. This was my favourite event of the symposium. I only knew a little about Pakistan and their role in Asia and the world, so I really looked forward to the evening. I was given a new perspective to examine the press coverage I had seen about Pakistan and understand the rationale behind it. I think this evening reminded me to consider all sides of a story before coming to a conclusion and that it’s important to keep an open mind.
During the symposium, the delegation was divided into teams and assigned projects that related to different events that were to take place. My team was given the assignment to make a book outline on the history of immigration in Australia with a focus on Indonesian immigrants. This was a challenging experience for me because I did not have any background on relations between Indonesia and Australia. After the other members of my team helped me understand the context behind the project, I felt like I was more able to contribute. The lessons I learnt from each event of the symposium made working in a group a successful experience.
The most important lesson I learnt from the weekend is that anyone can lead. I think that leading is about wanting to make a change and being bold enough to try, no matter how small of a role you think you have.”
This post has been adapted from versions that first appeared on the MQGLP blog.
The Global Leadership Program is an extracurricular program that can be undertaken alongside any degree at Macquarie. It provides you with unparalleled opportunities to enhance your study experience and develop important leadership skills.