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Canberra Symposium: Apolitical to Political

Eda Ince is an Undergraduate student in her 3rd year, studying a Bachelor of Laws and Arts, majoring in Social Justice.

4 days. Food. Friendships. Politics. Nation-states named Emilania, Chloenisia and Tarastan. A coach driver named Barry.

Canberra is indisputably the core of Australia’s democratic and diplomatic relations The GLP’s Canberra Symposium gave 28 university students the unique opportunity to immerse ourselves into the heart of politics.

The trip began on a Thursday morning (7:00am to be exact- the earliest that I’ve been to university in the history of ever!). What followed was a wonderfully jam-packed 4 days consisting of parliamentary visit, debriefs with Embassies, NGOs and Tim Wilson, visits to the War Memorial, National Museum of Australia and National Art Gallery and a beautiful lunch at the High Commissioner of Pakistan’s residence.

Did I mention food?

A lot of it.

I need to repeat that again because there was a lot of food.

I came back from the trip and my jeans were way too tight (no regrets).

More importantly, I came back from the Symposium with a well-rounded view of diplomacy and democratic relations and this is something that I will take with me when I graduate.

If you have the opportunity to attend this Symposium, I highly recommend it. There were so many memorable aspects to the trip that it’s difficult to choose my favourite one.

Our trip kicked off with a tour of the Parliament House. Our tour guide, wrapped in a love/hate relationship of politics, gave us both an informational and charismatic overview of parliamentary proceedings. We had the chance to see Tony Abbott, Joe Hockey, Bill Shorten, Bronwyn Bishop and Julie Bishop in action during Question Time.

It was interesting to see how intentional every gesture or statement made by politicians and diplomats is. This was particularly relevant during our brief with Australia’s Human Rights Commissioner, Tim Wilson. Known for wanting to change section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 and being a critic of the Human Rights Commission, we had the opportunity to question his standing on particular issues. He was extremely well spoken and very political. It was amazing to see him in action and although I do disagree with a majority of his political views, I do commend him with the work he has done for the LGBTQIA community.

One of the most memorable moments of this wonderful trip was our lunch and debriefing with the High Commissioner of Pakistan, Her Excellency Naela Chohan. We ate beautiful Pakistani food whilst discussing Australia’s relations with the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and the struggles that Her Excellency underwent in order to enter the diplomacy field. There is an air of authority and tenacity about her and I was both honoured and humbled to hear her story.

The Canberra Symposium was a brilliant insight into diplomacy. If you are into politics and international relations, I recommend this Symposium. You will gain everything that’s wonderful about exiting your comfort zone: a learned experience, friendships and new information that you could store in your brain and use for conversation starters when you’re in awkward situations and have ran out of things to say (we’ve all been there!).

On behalf of the delegates of session 2 2015 of the Canberra Symposium, I would like to thank Emily, Tara and Chloe for organizing this wonderful experience.

Although only 4 days long, it was a learning experience that will resonate for a lifetime!

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