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Learning area: Languages, Work Studies
Year level: Year 10, Year 11, Year 9
Country: Australia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea

Work and life opportunities

Asia Skills in Action presents short interviews with a small sample of the estimated 150,000 Australians who live and work in Asian communities.

As you might imagine, their stories are extraordinarily interesting and varied. What the interviewees have in common is their alertness to this part of the world and the increasing necessity of Australians paying attention to their geographical neighbours and what several of them call the new ʻepicentreʼ of world events. It is also clear that they have been well rewarded — in terms of opportunities for both personal and professional growth — for their insight and interest.

Each interview follows the same general structure:

  • interviewees introduce themselves and their work and describe what it involves
  • they talk about what sparked their interest in Asia
  • they talk about their career pathways
  • they offer advice to young people starting their working lives.


Video: Asia Skills: A Taster by AEF

Activity 1: Getting wise to Asia


  • To learn exactly what ʻAsia skillsʼ are, why they are important and how we can acquire them
  • To help develop an effective action plan for the acquisition of Asia skills

The Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA), the independent authority responsible for the development of the new national curriculum, has as part of its remit: ʻthe development of the Australian curriculum will include skills, knowledge and understanding relevant to Australiaʼs engagement with Asia in various social, cultural, economic and political contexts.ʼ

Schools need to support this process and other related policy through their own efforts.


Develop responses to the following questions:

  • On viewing any three or four of the interviews and your own experience and ideas, what do you think Asia skills might be?
  • How can they be acquired?
  • What can we put in place to make sure this occurs?

Consider this definition:

Asia skills enable Australians to live and work effectively in Asia and with people from the Asia region.

These skills — knowledge, language skills and intercultural competence — are intimately related to and interactive with the others.

  1. Knowledge of the environment, history, culture and practical requirements of the country in which they are living and working and its region
    These are the sorts of things it is valuable to know about, including:
    • Environment: location, topography, climate, demography, environmental conditions
    • History: major events, trends and issues
    • Living: current events, entertainment, media, sports, arts, religion and religious activity
    • Surviving: accommodation, food and drink, travel, shopping, staying healthy
  2. Skills in using the local language
    • Language reflects and shapes the way we think and influences the way we live
    • Verbal and written communication skills open a new range of possibilities for interaction and appreciation of different cultures
    • Language acquisition is a sign of respect for the host culture
  3. Intercultural competence
    These are the attributes that will be valuable, including:
    • Sensitivity and willingness to learn: alertness to cultural differences and their significance, open mindedness, empathy, the capacity to pay attention and observe carefully, patience.
    • Self-awareness: knowledge of how your own culture has shaped who you are, knowing your own strengths and weaknesses, being clear and focused on what you want to achieve.
    • Analytical and communicative skills: capacities to analyse situations, develop solutions and collect information, communicate your ideas.
Relevant Interviews

Most of the interviewees talk about ʻAsia literacyʼ or Asia skills. What Nick Goodwin in his interview calls ʻthe ability to operate comfortably and effectively across a range of culturesʼ is a good starting point for thinking about this idea.

Activity 2: School leadership teams

The preamble to The Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians (MCEETYA, 2008) notes that ʻmajor changes in the world are placing new demands on Australian educationʼ. Five issues are cited for these changes – technological development, the communication revolution, climate change, globalisation and the shifts in geopolitical power structures. All of these could be related to the urgent need to develop deeper and more productive relationships between Australians and their Asian neighbours.

But this declaration, governing the direction of all Australian schools, makes it explicit.

India, China and other Asian nations are growing and their influence on the world is increasing. "Australians need to become ʻAsia literateʼ, engaging and building strong relationships with Asia." (p.4)

The tasks for school leadership teams are:

  • to get up to speed with this initiative themselves and to determine what it means in practice in their own setting, and
  • to generate interest and support from their school community.

Getting up to speed internally

Intended audience

School leadership teams and subsequently relevant members of staff


To provide an introduction to some of the fundamental ideas which underpin this process:

  • building awareness among community, staff and students of the need to develop Asia skills
  • the need to provide effective language learning in one or more of the four priority languages
  • the need to include reference to Asia content in a range of curricular areas and/or to provide courses in Asian studies.

View a number of the interviews as a team. They provide an excellent introduction to some of those fundamental ideas. Discuss which of the interviews would be valuable in raising awareness of the importance of Asia literacy.

Establish a plan, structures and programs in the school to support this process.

Develop a presentation for members of staff, using the interviews to illustrate any or all the issues above.

Relevant interviews

Of the interviewees, Chris Bennett, Tom Parker and Nick Goodwin talk directly and by inference about the value of leading this process. What Maha Sukkar has to say will be important and perhaps familiar for many school personnel.

A number of the interviewees about the significance of business and trade with the additional value of speaking from personal experience (Brett Farrelly, Gaethan Cutri, Charlie OʼSullivan, Nicole Fraser). In terms of thinking about persuasion there are some wonderful stories of effective humanitarian assistance (Kate Armstrong, Kirk Willcox) and developing higher-level political relationships (Nick Goodwin, Alexandra Owens). There is an effective representation from the arts community. What several of these people have to say would be of considerable interest to a general audience. For this purpose Amy Frasca and Kate Ben-Tovim might be first ports of call.

All of them talk about jobs and work; all of them provide persuasive arguments for taking the shift towards Asia in this regard very seriously.

Generating interest and support from the community

Intended audience

Members of the school community: parents, friends and citizens, and students


To use the video material as a contribution to building awareness of and interest in Asia literacy among the broader school community


Use the videos to promote the importance of Asia skills to the school community. All new ideas need to be sold, especially ones that run along different lines to long- established practice and conceptions. The material in the videos would be an excellent adjunct to discussions about instituting a new concrete interest in Asia- related education.

Show the videos at a night held to consider what the school might do about developing Asia skills. You might choose portions of interviews in this process. Peter Kerrʼs emphatic and knowledgeable judgement about the prospects for aspiring journalists in Australia will move some audiences and provide a good talking point:

  • If you canʼt get the job you want in Australia, do opportunities exist overseas (and they often do)?
  • And if so, what do you (going on the experience of others) do about it?
  • How do you prepare?
  • What skills should you acquire?
  • What is the role of the school in this process?

That line of discussion should take you to considering action the school should take.

Relevant interviews

Almost all would be very suitable, but Gaethan Cutri tells a great story; itʼs grounded and unusual. Nicole Fraserʼs work and experience will be of considerable interest to some members of a community audience and Adam Liawʼs celebrity status may help generate interest.

Activity 3: Languages other than English

Encouraging Asian language learning

Intended audience

Students and their parents, primarily when considering what subjects to take


To encourage the acquisition of Asian languages

Tom Parker is right when he says, ʻLanguages aren't really seen as a priority in Australia… Weʼre a bit complacent about it. While we travel a lot and are mindful of other cultures, we donʼt have those skills.ʼ There are reasons for concern about enrolment in each of the four Asian priority languages, Chinese, Indonesian, Japanese and Korea.

These materials show successful and interesting people saying how important the acquisition of a foreign language has been to them, their lives and careers. Or in the case of Brett Farrelly, among others, how much he regrets not learning an Asian language at school.


Show one or more of the interviews to provide students with input about the benefits of language learning prior to subject selection. Asian language teachers could use them at the end of the year at the time when students are deciding whether or not to continue with their Asian language study.

Relevant interviews

Almost all of the interviewees speak of the value of language learning and the personal and professional benefits they have drawn from the process. The interviewees who spend most time talking about this are: Adam Broinowski, Brett Farrelly, Nick Goodwin, Marco Hernandez, Sarah Heseltine, Alexandra Owens, Tom Parker and Kirk Willcox.

Supporting thinking about issues in language learning

Intended audience

Language students


To provide talking points for the class on broader issues of language and linguistics To confirm the value of learning another language

Task and relevant interviews

Show the relevant interview as noted below, and engage students in discussion of the following questions orally and in writing.

  • Adam Broinowski
    • ʻI developed an ear for itʼ – What do you think he means? How does this happen?
    • ʻFluency is a bit of a mythʼ – What does he mean by that? What does it mean for you and your language learning?
    • ʻIf you learn a different language … you actually change [your perception] and way of thinkingʼ – Can you think of some examples to help explain what this might mean? Can you think why that process might be valuable?
  • Alexandra Owens
    • Alex began learning an Asian language ʻfor balanceʼ. What do you think she means by that? Is that a good reason for learning a language?
    • What opportunities opened up for her as a result of learning Indonesian?
    • What does she think ʻAsia literateʼ means? Do you agree with her? Why or why not?
  • Sarah Heseltine
    • How did Sarahʼs involvement with Asia begin?
    • What does she say about how Australian perceptions of Asia have changed?
    • What benefits does she suggest come form learning an Asian language?
  • Nick Goodwin
    • What prompted Nick to learn Indonesian at school?
    • How did his career develop from this interest?
    • What is his definition of ʻAsia literacyʼ? Do you agree?
  • Tom Parker
    • What difference did knowing a language make to Tomʼs career?
    • He gives a number of reasons why Australians donʼt learn a second language. What are they? Do you think they are they valid reasons?
    • Why does he think learning another language is so important?

It is recommended that teachers preview websites to ensure they are suitable for their students prior to use in class. Content accessed via these links is not owned or controlled by the Asia Education Foundation and is subject to the terms of use of the associated website.

Activity 4: Career practitioners

Asia skills in action for career practitioners

Intended audience

In the classroom: students. At broader events: students and their parents.


To raise awareness and generate ideas about working in Asia and to illustrate the extraordinary diversity of possible career paths for those with Asia skills


Present the interviews to larger groups to highlight contemporary career trends. Members of the audience could be invited to share any similar experiences of their own, or to talk about people they have known who have lived and worked in Asia or with Asian communities in Australia.

In this case it would be useful to have some information available about the sorts of jobs where there are openings in Asia or Australia. It will be helpful too to discuss requirements/skills for working in an Asian country.

Select a suitable number of interviews (three perhaps) and show to class groups. Ask students to respond to the following questions:

Career pathways

  • What was the starting point for the intervieweeʼs career? How did he or she become involved in working in Asia or with Asian people?
  • What was his or her motivation?
  • What do they say they have learnt about communicating across cultures and how to do it?
  • What do they say about how working in Asia or with Asian people changed their views and ideas about the world?
  • What did they find satisfying about the experience?
  • What advice did they have for young people who might be interested in working in Asia?

Requirements for working in an Asian country

  • Listening to what these people have to say, what do you think the skills required for working in Asia or with Asian people might be?
  • What would be the best way to get these skills? (You might need to do some additional research to answer this question.)
Relevant interviews

The interview/s that you choose to show would of course be determined by the nature and purpose of the activity. You will find the index helpful for narrowing your search.

Some which are obviously more suitable are those with Adam Broinowski, Adam Liaw, Alex Owens, Amy Frasca, Kirk Willcox, Brett Farrelly, Gaethan Cutri, James Johnson, Kate Armstrong, and Kate Ben-Tovim.

Activity 5: Humanities studies

The interviews will support work on many topics in the areas of English, History, Civics and Citizenship, Work Studies and Languages. The following provides an indication of the possibilities.

Intended audience

The intended audience for all of these activities is secondary students.

Living and working in Asia: a weird adventure or a natural step?


To invite and encourage increasingly informed speculation about what it might be like to live and work in another, especially Asian, country.


Consider the following:
There is a natural temptation for most Australian students to think that shifting to another country to live and work is an unusual and ʻweirdʼ experience. As many of the interviewees point out, it can have elements of adventure, but it is becoming increasingly conventional.

Students can:

  • View a number of interviews suggested below, discuss the reasons for the interviewees choosing to live/work overseas and consider whether or not these circumstances might be applicable to them.
  • Investigate the number of Australian-born people living and working overseas and in Asia, what countries they are living and working in and what sorts of jobs they are doing.
  • Make contemporary or historical comparisons with labour force choices in other countries, for example with European countries where national boundaries have limited impact or with countries like Turkey, Malaysia or the Philippines which have substantial emigrant work forces. The degree of choice might be considered.
  • Locate an expatriate or someone who has had expatriate experience and interview them about the nature of the experience.
Relevant interviews

Adam Broinowski, Brett Farrelly, Adam Liaw, Alex Owens, Amy Frasca, James Johnson, Kate Ben-Tovim, Marco Hernandez, Nick Goodwin, Peter Kerr and Tom Parker

Activity 6: Australia’s Identity

Shifts over time


To provide personal accounts reflecting on issues related to changes in Australiaʼs identity


Consider and discuss:
The topic of identity often includes the history of migration and the change in the nature of immigrant groups arriving and a discussion of cultural assimilation and change over time, or as Amy Frasca says in her interview, a country of ʻmany people from many placesʼ.

It is also often about the direction and nature of Australiaʼs ʻgazeʼ: towards Britain as the ʻmother countryʼ, towards European countries as countries of origin for many citizens, towards America as the worldʼs most powerful nation and a source of security (and cultural influence). And now? Where should we look?

View the interviews below and encourage students to talk, think and write about the following questions:

  • What impact does Australiaʼs geographical location have on its identity?
  • How is that changing over time?
  • What evidence is there of a shift in geopolitical influence?
  • What is the influence of that likely to be on Australia over time?
Relevant interviews

Amy Frasca, Charlie OʼSullivan, Chris Bennett and Sarah Heseltine have comments to make on these issues.

Activity 7: Relationships between countries

Australia's international relations in Asia


To open up questions for the young population of a large and comparatively isolated island nation about why and how countries relate to each other


Investigate and discuss the following:

  • How do countries relate to each other? What for? Consideration could be given to trade (one of the oldest of relevant human activities) and investment; tourism and migration; education and learning about the world; humanitarian assistance; sport; security.
  • To which countries does Australia relate most closely? What are the reasons for that?
  • Which countries that are geographically close does Australia have little relationship with? What are the reasons for that?
  • In this discussion how has a ʻrelationshipʼ been defined?
  • At present which countries should Australia have a strong relationship with? How can these relationships be fostered?
Relevant interviews

Suitable interviews to use as discussion starters: Alex Owens, Brett Farrelly, Chris Bennett, James Johnson and Sarah Heseltine.

Consideration of the general value of cultural interaction could be added to this activity. Adam Broinowski, Adam Liaw, Kate Ben-Tovim, Maha Sukkar, Nicole Fraser, Tom Parker all make comments which could be used to stimulate discussion on this issue.

Economic and trade relationships between Australia and other countries


To provide an incentive to look at trade, a fundamental aspect of international relationships, more closely


Examine more closely a couple of examples of individual trade relationships.

  • Why have these people and their enterprises chosen to work with and in Asian countries?
  • What differences and there in their reasons and what similarities?
  • What do they see as the advantages of working with Asian countries?

Undertake additional research and discuss the following:

  • What is the current pattern of Australiaʼs trade relationships with other countries?
  • How has this changed over time?
  • What sorts of goods does Australia sell into Asian countries?
  • What do Asian countries sell to Australia?
Relevant interviews

Brett Farrelly, Charlie OʼSullivan, Gaethan Cutri, Nicole Fraser

Humanitarian aid


To stimulate thinking about some of the basic questions about personal and national humanitarian aid


Watch the suggested interviews and consider the following questions:

  • Why should one country provide aid to another that is less well off?
  • What sorts of help and services are best to offer?
  • Several of the interviewees talk about ʻempowering people to look after themselvesʼ. How would this be done? How does it differ from other types of aid?
Relevant interviews

Kate Armstrong, Kirk Willcox, Kate Ben-Tovim, Alex Owens, Maha Sukkar

Activity 8: Creative arts

Artistic exchange


To advance perceptions of the value of investigating artworks created in different cultural contexts, using the cultures of Asian countries as a primary example


View several of the suggested interviews.

Discuss the following fundamental points that are made in different ways by all these people:

  1. Very exciting and diverse things are happening in the art worlds of Asian countries.
  2. The stimulation provided by the experience of a culture other than the one you have grown up in is extremely valuable to artists, both in terms of an individualʼs work and cross-cultural collaborations.

Consider how these two ideas might be investigated and exploited in an arts context.

Relevant interviews

There are five people who could be considered members of the arts community interviewed for this project.

Kate Ben-Tovim is an independent arts producer who ʻmakes shows happenʼ. She has interesting things to say about intercultural collaboration and is the only interviewee to talk about our nearest neighbour, Papua New Guinea.

Adam Broinowski is a performer, writer, director who has lived and worked in Japan.

Amy Frasca is a television program manager for the Australia Network working across the Asian region who talks about what audiences like and the saleability of Australian drama in Asian countries.

Larissa Hjorth is an artist and ethnographer, currently employed at RMIT University who has worked in Asia mainly in Korea for 10 years.

Nicole Fraser is a fashion designer and the head of Kinki Gerlinki who has found garments and materials as well as manufacturing processes in China which accord with and stimulate her fashion ideas.

And perhaps we should add Adam Liaw, who says in his interview that: ʻsome of us had grown up with Asian food but, sitting around chatting after the show, it was a surprise to discover that really talented cooks knew so little about Asian flavours and cuisineʼ.

These notes support two broad strategies for using the interviews:

The first is to decide for yourself what and how you would like to use the material, tailoring it to your individual needs (a process with which you are deeply familiar). In this case you will be helped by use of the Resources section, which provides a summary of the content to be found in each interview, and the occupation and the geographic area of experience of the interviewee.

The second strategy has been to make more specific suggestions for use by particular groups of school, and community, personnel so that the search is narrowed and more specific ideas are provided.

Asia Skills in Action includes a series of 20 self-contained interviews with Australians who have lived and worked with Asian people, mostly in Asia, but policewoman Maha Sukkar lives and works in Australia with some of its Asian communities.

As you might imagine, their stories are extraordinarily interesting and varied. What the interviewees have in common is their alertness to this part of the world and the increasing necessity of Australians paying attention to their geographical neighbours and what several of them call the new ʻepicentreʼ of world events. It is also clear that they have been well rewarded — in terms of opportunities for both personal and professional growth — for their insight and interest.

The interviews started life as part of the Australian Governmentʼs My Future: Asia Skills Project, a project aimed at building awareness of a new imperative — understanding and responding to the demand for skills required for working with Asian communities, both in Australia and in the countries of Asia.

Showcasing the interviews to educators led to requests for them to be made available to schools in a consolidated form. They could be used, it was suggested, not just for teaching purposes (although they could be highly valuable in that regard). They could also fill a gap in helping explain schoolsʼ new interest in Asia and Asia-related matters.

Taken as a whole, they provide a contemporary and powerful rationale for new outlooks, new emphases and new programs in schools focused on Asia literacy.

While the material in the interviews was initially intended for secondary-aged and older students, many of the interviews would be easily accessible for older primary students and would lend themselves as useful resources for integrated studies learning and teaching. Primary-aged students for example might find the following interviews more accessible: Maha Sukkar, Gaethan Cutri, Kate Armstrong, Adam Liaw, Amy Frasca, Nicole Fraser, Kirk Willcox, and Tom Parker.


By country/geographic area
Asian Region generally
Asian-­Australian Communities
By interviewee's name
  • Kate Armstrong

    Medical practitioner, Caring and Living as Neighbours

    Kate talks about her concern for the long-term chronic health conditions that she initially encountered in Vietnam. She made comparisons with care available in Australia and felt a need to offer similar help. She talks about the power and strength of communities and the value in spending time with people who share the same medical condition. From a medical perspective, she finds Asia a really exciting place to be working. ʻThe opportunities to make profound differences in peopleʼs lives are enormous.ʼ… She reminds us that ʻYes the language and yes the culture are differentʼ, but the impact of a medical condition on the human body anywhere is very much the same.

  • Chris Bennett

    Marketing director, Santos

    Chris studied law and commerce and his career pathway began with the foreign service. His exposure to Asia was through the prism of policy making. How do we build the relationships that would strengthen Australiaʼs relationships with the Asian region? – That question was the real insight and driver for his keen interest in the Asia Pacific Region. Subsequently he has used his knowledge and experience to help build successful business. His motivation now? How to build a continuingly prosperous Australia and secure a steady and successful pathway for this region in the future. Chris believes that the opportunities for anyone with Asia skills are endless. ʻWhen you think of the role Asia will play in Australiaʼs future, it is at the epicentre [of so many different fields].ʼ

  • Kate Ben-­Tovim

    Independent arts producer

    Kate says her work is ʻreally about the link between the art and all the infrastructure that makes it happenʼ. She work on festivals for example, and ʻmakes shows happenʼ. She lived in Indonesia for a year, in which time she worked with a dance company. Following an earthquake that destroyed all the local infrastructure, supported by AusAID she helped develop a new performance space. She has also worked in Papua New Guinea. ʻIt was like another world – a really beautiful but very complicated place.ʼ She worked with a choir made up of people from a small village, fusing their music with jazz provided by Australian musicians, which has become an ongoing collaboration. ʻThis experience provided an amazing insight into a culture and another world, our neighbours really, something that most of us donʼt know anything about.ʼ Within the arts there is more and more interest in work from the Asian region – the paths less travelled as she describes. She says that having a focus on Asia has been a huge advantage in her career, enabling her to take part in projects that are unique.

  • Adam Broinowski

    Performer, writer, director

    Adam lived in Japan early in his life and developed an ear for the language. He has since returned and lived there for many years making films and working in theatre. He is firmly of the view that intercultural collaboration, working in a new area or new country, opens up new opportunities; and that ʻif you learn a different language … you actually change [your perception] and way of thinkingʼ. He is certain that this is an important and very enriching process.

  • Gaethan Cutri

    Grower and exporter, Cutri Fruit and ʻCertified Freshʼ

    Gaethan is a stone fruit producer from Swan Hill whose company sells most of its produce into Asia. He spent his early life in Swan Hill before going to Melbourne to study Commerce and Law. After five years of legal practice he came back to the farm, and since that time has developed new export brands to become the largest stone fruit producer in Australia. His father began supplying produce to Taiwan many years ago and he remembers being in charge of farm tours of Asian buyers when he was in his early teens. ʻI love dealing with buyers from all around the world, and I just love our industry. I think there are so many opportunities in it… [And some of the most populous countries in the world] are in our backyard.ʼ

  • Brett Farrelly

    Product designer, Cocoon Republic

    Brett does a lot of business in China. He designs goods that are manufactured in China and brought back to Australia for sale. He studied design in Australia but on completion decided to work overseas where he thought there were more opportunities. He thinks Australia has the creative flair but not the manufacturing capacity. China has the reverse situation. The chance to be creative motivates him in his work and doing business in China enables him to have control over the whole process from design to manufacture to sale of finished products. During school he wasnʼt offered the chance to learn Chinese and laments that in his current situation, ʻIt would have greatly helped me.ʼ

  • Amy Frasca

    Television program manager, Australia Network

    Amy is the program and ʻtrafficʼ manager for this international network, which operates within the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC). Previously she has been an independent documentary filmmaker, a commissioning editor, in television sales and a journalist. She is delighted to be able to offer the wide range of material shown on the Australia Network – ʻamazing Australian filmsʼ. She thinks, in particular, that ʻour [Asian] audiences are refreshed and engaged to see social issues portrayed within the context of dramaʼ, and that ʻthe face of Australia is one of many people from many placesʼ. By comparison to Hollywood or other American products, this and other factors enable people in Asian countries to see themselves in our drama. She has no doubt of the value of developing Asia skills – ʻIt gives you a great advantage in the workplaceʼ – and suggests starting with travel to an Asian country, ʻperhaps one close byʼ.

  • Nicole Fraser

    Fashion designer, Kinki Gerlinki

    Nicole has sourced fashion products from China for the last 11 years, originally because she found that interesting garments could be bought in China for good prices. But she was also drawn to the kind of fashion that was being manufactured in Asian countries, which seemed to be much more about experimentation and imaginative and interesting ideas that reflected her own interests. In the last five years her business has changed; they have started manufacturing their own garments and have chosen China as a base for this process. Over time she has established good working relationships with her Chinese agent and his staff. This has happened, she thinks, because of focusing on what they all have in common, and going with good will and developing trust and understanding. ʻFor anybody who is interested in a career in fashion your first stop should be the Guangzhou fabric market (China) just to have a look at what is available.ʼ

  • Nick Goodwin

    International development manager, University of Sydney

    Nick studied Indonesian at high school. He was moved by what he describes as a ʻfantastic video of a teacherʼs travels. … It really got me interested in the variety and exciting diversity that exists outside Australia.ʼ That led him to continue with his study of languages at university both in Australia and in Indonesia. Subsequently he got a job in Indonesia. He has worked in a wide range of jobs – for the UN, in the public and private sectors, in the media – in 13 or 14 different countries. In that process he has met a diverse range of people, and been engaged with ʻexciting issues that affect us allʼ. He describes Asia skills as the ability to operate comfortably and effectively across a range of cultures, and suggests that ʻif you are thinking about learning Asian languages or studying Asia just follow what you find interesting to you.ʼ

  • Marco Hernadez

    Tour guide

    Marco spent some time working as a tour guide based in Korea bringing Korean University students to Australia. In his adolescence he had a friend in Sydney who was Korean and this, combined with an interest in language, got Marco involved with Korea. He attended a Catholic university in Seoul and enjoyed his time there. His language skills evolved more from everyday experience rather than in the classroom, and developed to the point where he could work as a Korean-speaking tour guide. He finds learning an Asian language a great deal of fun and suggests that when you ʻget over to the country itʼs even better. Youʼll learn something new about the culture you could learn no other way. It will be something that you have never learnt before. Youʼll never forget the experience.ʼ

  • Sarah Heseltine

    Public servant, Program coordinator at Shanghai World Expo, Victorian Government

    Sarah works for the Victorian Government, most recently coordinating Victoriaʼs very successful display at the Shanghai World Expo — ʻa chance to showcase ourselves to China and the rest of the world.ʼ She loves her work. ʻYou get to travel, and Australiaʼs exposure to China is so broad every day is different.ʼ There are such a wide range of issues and activities to be involved in. She did her first university degree in Taiwan and later studied in Beijing, marrying a Chinese Canadian. She now has two children and will be ʻpushing Asian languages with themʼ. Over the span of her career she has seen a massive change in China, and also in Australiaʼs perceptions of and relationships with China. The shift has been from China being a country ʻvery far away and distant to part of our daily life.ʼ She believes that immersion in a language will certainly broaden your horizons, and many companies that you might work for will see that as a very valuable skill to have as well.

  • Larissa Hjorth

    Artist and ethnographer, RMIT University

    Larissa has been working in the Asian region for 10 years, mostly in Korea which she loves — ʻa friendly generous country&hellip with fantastic hospitality and foodʼ – and a world leader in her area of interest — mobile communication technology and its uses. She is interested in the impact of taking something intimate, like text messages, and making them public. She undertook cultural studies, focusing on a critique of Anglo models for thinking about technology. ʻIn Australia a lot of the models we get for thinking about cultural practice are either very US-based or very European-based. For me it didnʼt make sense. I was trying to find my own model and the Asia-Pacific region provided me with that.ʼ She is also a firm believer in the value of learning Asian languages. ʻThe languages we need to learn are changing in line with global currency… As an Australian you canʼt afford not to think about Australia in the context of our region.ʼ

  • James Johnson

    Sports lawyer, Professional Footballers Australia

    For James and the soccer worldʼs governing body, Australia is part of the Asian Football Confederation, so for football purposes Australia is an Asian country. He works as part of a group which is exclusive representatives for all Australian soccer players. He was a footballer himself. He played for the Australian youth side and also in the premier Vietnamese league. His current work enables him to combine both interests, while the different perspectives provide a well-rounded knowledge base, which is vital to his work. He thinks that Asia is a great place for Australian footballers to develop, especially in the major Japanese or Korean leagues, two of the top countries in Asian football. ʻThere are so many opportunities over there for players - opportunities that they may not have here in Australia.ʼ

  • Peter Kerr

    Journalist, Sydney Morning Herald

    Peter is a journalist who has lived and worked extensively in Indonesia. He began his career on a country newspaper, worked as a political aide, and then returned to journalism where he has had many roles. In his current job he handles all legal and complaints issues for the ʻSydney Morning Heraldʼ. Before he went to Indonesia he took an intensive language and culture course, which stood him in good stead. Working for Jakarta Post, he was ʻtaken inside the organisationʼ and Indonesian life, ʻa very different experience from backpackingʼ. This provided him with ʻremarkable opportunitiesʼ, opportunities he would never have had in Australia. In Peterʼs words, ʻItʼs tough for young aspiring journalists in Australia at present. Think outside the square, think beyond Australia, think about Asia because thereʼs some terrific opportunities over there.ʼ

  • Adam Liaw

    Lawyer and chef (ʻMaster Chefʼ winner)

    Adam worked as a lawyer in Japan for the Walt Disney company. He speaks Chinese, but felt that when this job came up it provided an interesting opportunity to go to Japan. So he leapt at it. Later he got a chance to indulge his ʻsecret passionʼ for cooking very publicly, as a participant and eventual winner of ʻMaster Chefʼ. He notes that ʻsome of us had grown up with Asian food but, sitting around chatting after the show, it was a surprise to discover that really talented cooks knew so little about Asian flavours and cuisineʼ. He goes on to say that we are really lucky to have the broad range of Asian cuisines that we do in Australia. Regarding work and career, he thinks that knowing more about the region sets you apart from many others who are going for jobs. ʻYou might have the same skills, same personalities, same drive to succeed.ʼ But someone who has that interest and experience… it sets them apart.

  • Charlie O’Sullivan

    Director, Scientific Affairs, Hospira

    Charlie works for a company specialising in injectable medicines. His interest in Asia has stemmed from the natural growth of his company from Australia and New Zealand into the larger markets available in Asia. Hospira has a major interest in Japan. Hospiraʼs share of the market in the Asia Pacific region is currently 10 percent but it is projected to rapidly exceed that in the future. Charlie talks about ʻthe power of proximity, [being] at the epicentre of what is going onʼ. He is certain that knowing about Asia or, better, speaking an Asian language, means you can form all-important relationships more effectively. ʻEven in the age of instant digital communication nothing replaces face-to-face for effective communication. Personal relationships are so critical to making progress.ʼ

  • Alexandra Owens

    Foreign affairs advisor, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

    Alexandraʼs major responsibilities are in the area of South-East Asia and more specifically the ten ASEAN countries. As a schoolgirl she learnt French and later wanted to do an Asian language ʻfor balanceʼ. She was told that Indonesian was good and relatively easy to learn, and she fell in love with Indonesia on her first visit there. She spent time in Indonesia with host families and taught school children. Now she supports Australiaʼs engagement with ASEAN by providing information and support to our political and diplomatic representatives. Her motivations include the personal connections she is able to make to broaden relationships more generally between two countries. ʻHaving an Asian language can only enhance your own personal life and your career opportunities.ʼ

  • Tom Parker

    Business consultant, Director, Redtape Consulting

    Tom runs a consultancy business to help Australians do business in China. Two of his clients are the Melbourne Football Club and the AFL. Their interests in this matter are diverse but include attracting new sponsors and new members. He describes an in-country team-building process through exposure to Chinese cultural experiences. His task is to get the group to engage with China, to realise there are significant points of cultural difference (between Australia and China) and to try to understand the drivers behind these differences. He suggests that sport can build bridges, but without some depth to the experience it is an opportunity wasted. He first went to China in the early ʻ70s and ʻdecided he wanted to make China part of my journeyʼ. He has done a lot of things – been a teacher, worked in government and the media – but China has always been involved somehow. He is concerned about the state of our Asia skills and language abilities in particular. ʻLanguages arenʼt really seen as a priority in Australia… Weʼre a bit complacent about it. While we travel a lot and are mindful of other cultures, broadly speaking we donʼt have those skills.ʼ

  • Maha Sukkar

    Multicultural Liaison Officer, Victoria Police

    Maha works with migrants and Asian Australian communities. She joined the police force seven years ago, trained and did all the normal police work but wanted to become involved in proactive rather than reactive work. She was aware that she comes from a different cultural background and wanted to share her experience and to make it work for others. Most of her work these days is dealing with refugees, ʻnew settlers who donʼt know anything about Australiaʼ. As a police officer she sees her job to make these new Australians feel welcome, to explain the role of laws and their obligations, and ʻto show the other side of the police forceʼ for people who have usually had only negative experiences with police. ʻThese people have experienced a lot of trauma, and it takes a bit of time to get used to the situation here.ʼ Her watchword is, ʻYou need to treat people with respect, but not treat everyone the same.ʼ

  • Kirk Willcox

    Communications Director, Surfaid International

    Surfaid International was formed in 2000 when a New Zealand doctor went to a group of islands to the west of Sumatra (Indonesia) to surf and was confronted by the extreme health problems of the people who lived there. He decided to do something about it. In this case the process is underpinned by the principle of community development, empowering the local people to look after themselves through Surfaid. They are taught simple things like regularly washing hands, maintaining ways of avoiding malaria, employing sound nutrition and preparedness for emergencies. This is a high-level earthquake and volcanic eruption area. Kirk runs the communications part of this process. He is a journalist by profession, many years ago becoming editor of ʻTracksʼ surfing magazine then working as a freelance writer before becoming Quicksilverʼs marketing manager. So he has been involved in the surfing industry most of his working life and that is what took him to Bali when he was 22. He hadnʼt appreciated that there was a foreign culture so close to home and this had a profound effect on him. Among other things he encountered the frustration of not knowing the language of a place you like to go and where you want to communicate.

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