High profile diplomats answer students’ burning questions in UOW visit

High profile diplomats answer students’ burning questions in UOW visit

It’s an advantage to be a woman in diplomacy: UN Ambassador to Australia

What would you ask the Australian Ambassador to the United Nations if you had her ear?

University of Wollongong International Relations students relished the chance to quiz Australian Ambassador to the United Nations, Gillian Bird PSM about world affairs on Thursday, 12 September.

UOW students didn’t shy away from asking tough questions about current international issues and were interested to hear about how an ambassador dispassionately represents the policies of the Australian Government of the day, even if it differs from personal views. They also asked about how she navigates diplomatic relationships at the UN when sensitive issues are at play.

International relations students engaging with diplomats on Thursday.

UOW students left a strong impression on Ambassador Bird, who later said it was terrific to meet students and staff at UOW to discuss Australia’s engagement in the UN.

“The future is in good hands,” she said via Twitter.

Ambassador Bird opened the forum by addressing a question from Senior Lecturer Susan Engel, who asked what were the key challenges of being a woman in the diplomatic sphere?

“If anything, it’s an advantage to be a woman in diplomacy,” she said.

 “Even when you’re in countries where gender equality is not where you’d like it to be, in Lebanon or Iran, being a woman gives you access to networks of women which your male counterparts may not have access to.”

President of the United Nations of Australia Association (NSW) Dr Patricia Jenkings, and Past President of the United Nations of Australia (NSW) Kel Gleeson were also on hand, offering insights on conflict prevention, nationalism, global citizenship and career pathways into the UN.

Ambassador Bird meets Sustainable Buildings Research Centre Director Senior Professor Paul Cooper on Thursday.

The hour-long forum was part of a joint visit to UOW by Ambassador Bird and Australian Ambassador to the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), Jane Duke.

The Ambassadors started the day at Innovation Campus, where they toured iAccelerate, the Australian Institute for Innovative Materials, and the Sustainable Buildings Research Centre, seeing UOW’s internationally-significant research.

Tour of Innovation Campus on Thursday.

UN and ASEAN ambassadors received high level briefings from senior UOW leaders about the institution’s activities globally.

During their visit, UOW announced an $8,000 scholarship for honours students committed to the UN's Sustainable Development Goals including clean water and sanitation, affordable and clean energy, sustainable cities and communities, responsible consumption and production, climate action, and life below water.

The scholarship, which is funded by the United Nations Association of Australia, will be open to students enrolled in any degree. They will have to outline their commitment to one or more of the Sustainable Development Goals and how their chosen degree will assist them in that commitment.

The agreement was signed Dr Patricia Jenkings and UOW Acting Vice-Chancellor, Professor Jennifer L. Martin AC.

Monique Harper-Richardson, Jane Duke, Jennifer Martin, Patricia Jenkings, Gillian Bird and Kel Gleeson at the signing ceremony.

After witnessing the scholarship agreement signing ceremony, the UN and ASEAN ambassadors said they were pleased to see the establishment of a new scholarship which focuses on awareness and understanding of important international issues and United Nations of Australia Association goals.

About the United Nations Association of Australia

The UNAA works to inform, inspire and engage Australians on the work, goals, and values of the United Nations to create a safer, fairer, more sustainable world.