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Deakin Business and Law students build their networks in Canberra

In September, the Faculty of Business and Law supported three students to attend conferences in Canberra, enabling opportunities to build their professional skills and extend their networks.

Deakin Business School students Tahlia Lane and Shen Marana Gonzalez represented Deakin at the National Leadership Forum and Deakin Law School student Matthew Watson represented Deakin at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute Conference. The students returned keen to share their learnings.

National Leadership Forum 2023

‘The Forum brought together young Australians to listen to esteemed speakers including parliamentarians, executives, and leaders of local communities about what leadership meant and looks like to them,’ Shen says. ‘Along with hearing from the varied perspectives of these professionals, I challenged my own preconceptions of what leadership was and learnt that leadership did not have a universal definition.’

Shen initially raised her hand for this opportunity because she felt she had room for improvement before becoming a ‘good leader’. ‘I thought that a leader was decisive, assertive, and the person that people unexplainably gravitate towards,’ Shen says. ‘However, I soon realised that having those traits was only half the story and as Dr. Anne Aly (Cowan MP) says, “the most effective strategy [of being a good leader] is listening”. She said that listening is not only hearing people’s voices and concerns but “to listen is to also connect”.’ 

‘Having ‘connection’ to be a good leader is a concept that resonates with me,’ Shen says. ‘Especially when I reflect on the friendships I made with my ‘small group’. Along with six other delegates, our ‘small group’ was led by three facilitators who were also young leaders in their own communities.”

Tahlia Lane found the National Leadership Forum to be a transformational experience. ‘Some highlights included listening to a keynote speech from the Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, and enjoying dinner at Parliament House,’ Tahlia says. ‘We were placed into ‘small groups’ of around 8 delegates, and despite coming from diverse backgrounds these individuals instantly became my friends. A unique part of the forum was the time allocated to sharing ‘your story’ with your small group – through laughter and tears we found ourselves opening up and exploring the importance of vulnerability in leadership. 

Tahlia was inspired by the experienced leaders speaking at the conference. ‘A huge part of the dialogue centred around exploring servant leadership, and the idea that “if service is beneath you, leadership is beyond you”,’ Tahlia says. ‘A standout speaker for me was Joe Hockey, former minister, federal treasurer and Australian ambassador to the United States. Hockey spoke about the importance of doing what is right even if it isn’t popular, particularly through his controversial budget that saw a harsh response from the media. Hockey also explored the importance of risk, reiterating Theodore Roosevelts quote that it is far better to “win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure… than to rank with those poor spirits who know not victory nor defeat”. Hockey’s ability to captivate the audience is something I hope to learn from.’ 

Another high point for Tahlia was having the opportunity to speak with MP Terry Young when they broke off into their small groups. “As a Commerce Student, Young’s successful business background prior to entering politics interested me,’ Tahlia says. “Young spoke about the importance of utilising the expertise of others in both business and politics, humorously encouraging us to “always be the dumbest person in the room”. The notion of continuously learning from others has stuck with me. Young also cautioned our group that nowadays “people put charisma before character”, installing the idea that maintaining integrity and putting others ahead of yourself are the real keys to leadership.”

Australian Strategic Policy Institute Conference 2023

Matthew Watson found that there was a raft of diverse and extremely qualified speakers working in and around defence, defence industry and academia speaking at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute Conference. 

‘Featured speakers included the Defence Minister (and Deputy Prime Minister) Richard Marles MP, Defence Industry Minister Pat Conroy MP, and General Angus Campbell AO DSC, the Chief of the Australian Defence Force,’ Matthew says. 

‘The conference was held against the backdrop of the recently announced Defence Strategic Review, the planning and continued development of the AUKUS program and the forever evolving complex geopolitical climate of the Asia-Pacific region,’ Matthew says. ‘All three of these factors featured heavily during all of the conferences panels as experts, high ranking bureaucrats and military officials from Australia, the United States and several countries in our region unpacked the conference theme and the recent developments on Australia’s strategic front.’

As a student of international relations, deterrence as a form of soft power has been a frequent theme in Matthew’s academic journey. ‘The ASPI Conference put into context the practical realties of projecting deterrence, its real-world objectives and consequences as well as the challenges Australia faces in improving its deterrence posture,’ he says. ‘Chief amongst these challenges, which was also a subject of the Defence Strategic Review, is fuelling innovation and productivity. As someone who also loves economics, productivity, research and development, and innovation are all concepts that are universally important to all sectors but these are things that the Australian economy on a macrolevel has struggled with for some time now.’

‘It was really interesting hearing the panel discussions and questions from defence industry around ways in which they can be better supported and issues they see inhibiting the defence sector from driving innovation.’



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