And it was back this year—with a bang! With the return of Asia Pacific Week this year, the air was once again abuzz with stimulating discussions and debates on a diverse range of themes and topics that are relevant and critical to Asia and the Pacific, and also globally. Under the theme ‘Pathways to Transformation: Resilience in an Age of Uncertainty’, this year’s student-run conference, with CHL's Professor Katerina Teaiwa as the academic convenor, aimed to challenge young leaders to defy the status quo and envisage pathways towards positive transformation.
Pathways to Transformation
APW 2022 was hosted by a committee of 13 ANU students (many from CHL) supported by their academic convenor Professor Katerina Teaiwa and the ANU College of Asia & the Pacific (CAP). Now in its twelfth year, the Australian National University's Asia Pacific Week is an interdisciplinary conference that brings together high-calibre students and young professionals from around the world. The program has been running under the aegis of the College of Asia & the Pacific since 2004.
Held across four days from 20–23 June 2022, 80 delegates from over 21 countries, 22 nationalities, and 32 universities listened to and participated in a wide range of academic panels, discussion workshops and social activities. A large number of academics from the ANU School of Culture, History & Language contributed to APW this year in their participation on a diverse array of panels and activities. They included—of course—Professor Katerina Teaiwa, Professor Carol Hayes, Dr Ross Tapsell, Associate Professor Shameem Black, Dr Yuri Takahashi, Dr Christopher Diamond, Dr Subhan Zein, Associate Professor Ruth Barraclough, PhD Candidate Talei Luscia Mangioni, Dr Janit Feangfu, and Professor Li Narangoa.
The conference began with a live streamed Opening Ceremony, featuring a smoking ceremony and a Welcome to Country by Ngunnawal Elder Uncle Wally Bell. The ceremonial opening was followed by opening comments from Professor Helen Sullivan (Dean of the College of Asia and the Pacific), Professor Katerina Teaiwa (APW Academic Convenor), and climate activist, student and artist Moemoana Schwenke (Keynote Speaker).
Ngunnawal Elder Uncle Wally Bell performing the smoking ceremony
Check out the opening ceremony here.
Deep Discussions and a rich cultural experience
APW 2022 was comprised of six main panel discussions and lots of culturally rich and fun activities. The theme for this year, ‘Pathways to Transformation: Resilience in an Age of Uncertainty', challenged delegates to explore innovative, out-of-the-box pathways towards addressing real-world issues, amidst an era marked by constant change, uncertainty and chaos. In this context, delegates and the committee reflected upon wide-ranging, relevant themes such as climate change; cultural globalisation and modern social activism across the Asia-Pacific region; the evolution of cosmic, cyber and artificially intelligent technologies; economic recovery in the post-pandemic era; and women in diplomacy and the proverbial glass ceiling.
Panel One: Uncertainty and Upheaval: Mitigating and Adapting to the Climate Crisis (L-R) Professor Kuntala Lahiri-Dutt, Salā Dr. George Carter, Professor Paul Burke, Romulo Nayacalevu, and Kira Atkins (Moderator)
Panel Two: Studio Ghibli, Disney and Beyond: Cultural Globalisation in Asia and the Pacific’ (L-R) Dr. Ross Tapsell (Moderator), Professor Katerina Teaiwa, Professor Carol Hayes and Associate Professor Shameem Black
Panel Three: Amnesia or Action? Modern Activism in Asia and the Pacific (L-R) Dr Janit Feangfu, Associate Professor Ruth Barraclough, Anita Wahid and Talei Luscia Mangioni
__Panel Four: Framing the Future: Cosmic, Cyber and Artificially Intelligent Technologies’.(T-B, L-R) Dayle Stanley (Moderator), Dr. Cassandra Steer, Dr. Alwen Tu, and Associate Professor Kim Blackmore
Panel Five: Rebuilding a Region: Economic Recovery after Covid’(L-R) Dr. Henry Ivarture, Emeritus Professor Peter Drysdale (Moderator), Dr. Adam Triggs, and Yixiao Zhou
Panel 6: Women in Diplomacy: Breaking the Glass Ceiling’(L-R) Her Excellency Ma. Hellen De La Vega, Dr. Elise Stephenson (Moderator), Elizabeth McGregor, and Emi Tagi
Other exciting aspects of the event—beyond the panel discussions—included a Pacific Dance workshop, language taster classes, a Mongolian movie screening evening, trivia, a ‘threatcasting’ session, a Chinese calligraphy workshop and Buddhist meditation.
According to Alice Morgan, one of the APW Committee Media and Marketing Coordinators:
“Our Special Projects classes and workshops have been highlights for me. And the discussions I’ve moderated between delegates and panellists have been so engaging and interesting. Our delegates this year are extremely talented, and all have different perspectives to offer - this year most of the delegates (apart from Australia) are from Papua New Guinea. Our language taster event offered three languages: Bahasa Indonesia, Burmese, and Hindi. These classes were taught by Dr. Yuri Takahashi (Burmese), Dr. Christopher Diamond (Hindi) and Dr. Subhan Zein (Indonesian) to great success.”
Pacific dance is one of the many ways in which Pacific peoples have documented and passed on their histories and values for centuries. APW 2022 gave delegates the opportunity to learn how to tie the lavalava (worn throughout Polynesia and other parts of Oceania around the waist) they received in their delegate parcels. The dance instructors from Matavai Cultural Arts led the delegates through an introduction to Samoan or Hawaiian dance culture, technique, and a short routine based on the choreography they learned! The gear shifted to Mongolian during the screening of the Mongolian film, Echoes of the Empire: Beyond Genghis Khan directed by Robert H. Lieberman, a stunning cinematic journey into Mongolia’s past and present, illuminated through intimate stories told by Mongolians — from nomads to city dwellers.
As part of the technologies panel, delegates were treated to a workshop on threatcasting. Threatcasting is an exciting way of imagining and responding to potential threats in the future. This form of scenario planning is an important tool that has been used by organisations to forecast challenges to national security. Delegates were given a theoretical scenario set 10 years in the future. The goal of the workshop was to critically develop strategies in response to the scenario.
By working in small groups, delegates identified and analysed the risks and catalysts that led up to the flashpoint and how this could have been mitigated. This practical and fun exercise pushed the participating delegates to think about prospective threats that face Asia and the Pacific.
Day 4 also featured a Chinese calligraphy workshop. Chinese calligraphy, an ancient art form, is as much a philosophical and literary medium as it is an artistic one. Delegates learned about the aesthetic practice, followed by a live calligraphy demonstration from a practicing distinguished artist, Dr. Fan Dongwang. Later, the delegates had the chance to practice their skills by writing two Chinese proverbs related to this year's conference theme.
Another activity was Buddhist meditation. Buddhism is the time-honoured tradition for finding greater peace and clarity in one’s mind, more warmth in one’s heart and excellence in navigating personal challenges, and meditation is a large component of Buddhist practice. Delegates had the opportunity to follow a traditional Tibetan Buddhist meditation under the guidance of Lama Choedak Rinpoche, a revered and experienced teacher who has been sponsored by His Holiness, the Dalai Lama.
It's a Wrap…
Last but not the least, the Closing Ceremony brought to conclusion what was a fantastic four days filled with research and intellectual showcases, debates, discussions, and intellectual stimulation across so many themes and subjects of relevance. The ANU KPOP society, as always, added spunk to the occasion with a rocking performance; and the ANU Chinese Classical Music Society added to the musical buzz in the air with a melodious conclusion to the event. The closing keynote speech contributed by Mariko McTier, Co-Founder and Director of Social Innovation Japan and Japan's first free water refill app, mymizu, was an eye opener and inspiring to say the least. Her address considered and challenged the Australian Government’s approach to its imposition of border restrictions, and she invited the delegates to do the same.
You can watch the closing ceremony here.
Overall, APW 2022 concluded with lasting friendships and connections forged by young people all over the world. The academic content presented throughout the conference challenged, questioned and expanded the mindsets of those in attendance, and the other unique events featured in the week complimented the general sense of motivation, innovation and diversity that shaped the entire conference.
According to Katerina Teaiwa, “Convening Asia Pacific week and working with smart, passionate, collaborative ANU students to pull off a complex hybrid event has been an incredibly fulfilling experience for me. I'm particularly proud of the leadership, attention to detail, problem solving, and resilience these students display pulling off APW while juggling their studies, jobs, life, and pandemics. I'm also very happy with how we've increased Pacific content, speakers, and participation of Pacific Islanders from the region and diaspora.”
APW is a real testament to the passion, drive and diversity of talent and thought that the College of Asia & the Pacific epitomises—through both its academics and students. According to Alice Morgan of the Committee, “Asia Pacific Week has been a wonderful opportunity to connect with other young professionals and students that study issues relevant to these regions today. I would highly encourage students with an interest in the field to apply for either a committee or delegate position in 2023 after the fun we've had this year!”
2022 director Anna-Kate Braithwaite said, “The conference and journey to get here has been amazing. I’m grateful to have challenged myself to lead such a talented, dedicated team and I’m proud of what we’ve all achieved together, and the rich conference we were able to deliver with the support of Katerina Teaiwa, Patrick Conroy, Luka Vertessy and our College leadership and CHL staff. It’s been a privilege to connect with and witness the dialogue of such inspired, exceptional speakers and young people across Asia and the Pacific.”
We applaud yet another year of this wonderful celebration of knowledge, perspectives, talent, culture, innovation and community; we look forward to many more Asia Pacific weeks to come.
And that’s a wrap, folks.