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My Experience in Canberra – A Reflection on the GLP Canberra Symposium

Isabella Fordy, Bachelor of Security Studies and Bachelor of Laws

As a final year Law and Security Studies student, I feel that the GLP Canberra Symposium was an incredibly valuable experience in gaining an understanding of the ins and outs of Canberra. However, I like many other Australians, put Canberra in my mind as only being relevant as the political centre of Australia. I was wrong. Canberra is rich in cultural and historical experiences and in my opinion, is highly underrated.

As a group we had so many fantastic and informative briefings that varied in terms of focus - some were political, some were cultural and some were historical. There really was something for everyone and with such a diverse range of delegates, studying such a variety of disciplines, this was essential. As we attended many different briefings, I am going to tell you about three very different briefings, but to give you a taste of what our trip looked like, our itinerary was as follows:

- Day One:

o Aboriginal Tent Embassy

o First Nations Tour at Old Parliament House

o Parliament House Tour

o ABC Parliamentary Bureau

- Day Two:

o Australian Centre for International Development (ACFID)

o The Embassy of Afghanistan

o Tour of the National Portrait Gallery

o Australian Federal Police

o Australian War Memorial – Last Post Ceremony

- Day Three:

o The Embassy of the United States of America

o The Australia Institute

o The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

- Day Four:

o The Embassy of Finland

o The National Museum

o The National Museum – Antarctica Virtual Reality Experience

On our first day in Canberra, we were incredibly privileged to be able to go on a tour of the ABC Parliamentary Bureau and media offices with ABC's Foreign Affairs reporter, Stephen Dziedzic. Whilst media is not a primary interest of mine, I still found it incredibly valuable in piecing together the whole picture of the inner-workings of Parliament House. The highlight of this tour and Q&A with Mr Dziedzic was entering the ABC TV Studio within Parliament House and seeing our faces on the producers screens. After listening to a recount of how a news story is broken, I definitely have a newfound appreciation for ABC reporters and their dedication to getting the facts right in such a short amount of time before publishing or going live with a story.

Taking on a completely different aspect of what Canberra has to offer, I really enjoyed our visit to the National Portrait Gallery, where you guessed it, there are various artistic mediums of portraits. We were able to tour through the current exhibition; Portrait 23: Identity, which contained portraits in the mediums of sculpture, interactive wall art and modern twists on traditional portraiture. It was really incredible to see how each of the individual artists had their own unique voice that truly did shine through their work. Although, this stop on the Symposium was relatively brief, it was refreshing to be exposed to a specific cultural aspect that provided a whole different dimension to Canberra as a vibrant city.

Our briefing at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) was extremely valuable for all the delegates who took the opportunity to ask some extremely though-provoking questions. These were often met with frank, honest answers and offers to elaborate further if required. DFAT were kind enough to set up two different briefings for us. Our first was with a high-ranking diplomat who explained to us Australia’s foreign policy position and highlighted some of their experiences overseas responding to crises, including when MH17 was shot down. The most important thing that I took away from the first briefing was that Australian diplomats posted overseas have a primary role of upholding Australian interests overseas, which often involves being persuasive, building rapport and being open to compromise to attain a mutually beneficial solution.

The second part of our DFAT briefing was a more informal Q&A session with four diplomats with different areas of expertise and varied levels of experience. To begin with it was moderated by the diplomats to give some background about their career highlights and what their different roles involved. Some of the diplomats were even involved in the 2021 evacuation of Afghanistan, so hearing about their experience and perception of the events leading up to it was incredibly valuable and insightful for any aspiring diplomats in the room. Then came the part that lots of us had been waiting for, the Careers talk. We were privileged enough to have one of the members of the recruitment team enlighten the delegates on what makes an application to DFAT stand out. My biggest takeaway from this segment was the comment on using your holidays wisely and to your advantage, something I wish I had thought about a lot earlier in my degree!

In addition to our briefings, we were split into groups and given topics that we had to present on at the conclusion of the Symposium without using technology, and only drawing upon the information provided to us during our briefings to aid our imaginations. This was an extremely fun way to wrap up the Symposium and the variety of topics provided to each group and the mix of personalities within them, made for a very entertaining segment that allowed the delegates to apply what we had seen and heard throughout the Symposium to ‘hypothetical’ scenarios.

To wrap up, to any student who was thinking about applying to the Canberra Symposium, I cannot recommend this experience enough and cannot emphasise the fact that you do not need to be studying within the law and policy discipline to attend. There is something for everyone and I guarantee you will learn valuable things that you can apply to your study or career.

To Anneke, Emma and Courtenay, thank you for taking the time out of your week to take all of us to Canberra and encouraging us to ask the hard questions. I cannot stress enough how grateful we all are for your guidance and support on the Symposium. To the rest of the GLP Team thank you for helping to make this Symposium a reality so that students of all backgrounds can learn about our nation’s capital and the systems that keep it running.


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