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Alfred Deakin Oration 2023

Alfred Deakin Oration 2023

On Tuesday 10 October 2023, the Alfred Deakin Institute held its annual Oration. Due to the disruptions of Covid-19 lockdowns, it was the first time since 2019 that this important event could be held. The event was hosted by Vice Chancellor Professor Iain Martin and Alfred Deakin Professor Fethi Mansouri at Deakin Edge, Federation Square, Melbourne.

The Hon Pat Conroy MP (Minister for International Development and the Pacific; Minister for Defence Industry) spoke about Australia’s engagement with the Indo-Pacific region through the federal government’s international development program.

The Minister opened by reflecting on Alfred Deakin’s life and politics, inviting consideration about what he might think of Australia today – a country that very much goes against many of his ideals. Minister Conroy drew a link between the process leading up to the recent referendum and the work that may be accomplished through the international development program.

“It all comes down to listening with respect and humility to people and communities, to understanding their priorities and their aspirations.”

The Minister went on to discuss the government’s new international development policy, released in August this year. After undergoing a consultation process, the policy was developed on the principles of:

  • Respectful listening
  • Acting on partner priorities
  • Working in genuine partnership with governments and communities across the region.

Among shared concerns across the region, climate change is a central focus of the development policy – with climate change funding targets set for the first time and major new climate initiatives established.

The Minister returned to the importance of including First Nations voices and perspectives in development efforts. “Because think of what we could do if we harness all the talent, empathy and drive of Australians across this country, and coordinate and share more effectively.”

In closing, the Minister spoke of children being born today and what they might look forward to in years to come – and how the development program could change that for the better.

Opening the floor to questions via an innovative QR system led to a discussion that unpacked some of the issues further. Moderated by Professor Mansouri and involving the Vice Chancellor, the Q&A discussion engaged with Australia’s approach to and priorities around international development in the Pacific, its approach to shifting geo-strategic dynamics regionally and globally, and – more broadly – its plans for improved mobility arrangements in the region in a post-Covid environment.


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