Griffith Asia Institute Director, Professor Caitlin Byrne and Professor Ruth Bereson, Dean (Academic) Arts, Education and Law Group have recently been awarded a grant through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s Australia-ASEAN Council for their project Regionally Speaking – cultural leadership and advocacy from ASEAN to Australia.

This project builds on a unique model of engagement and capacity building that will bring 15 arts practitioners (10 from the ASEAN region and 5 from across Australia) together for 5-day workshop to explore and interrogate what it means to be a cultural leader or advocate in the Asia-Pacific region today.

The workshop program will leverage Brisbane’s distinctive cultural expertise and landscape — particularly in visual, screen and performing arts as vehicles for engagement in the Asia-Pacific. It has been timed to coincide with the 2018 Australian Performing Arts Market (APAM), and participant’s will have the opportunity to take part in inter-cultural dialogues and observe cutting edge performances as APAM delegates.

The project’s primary goals are to deepen regional connections, foster shared cultural understandings and create opportunities for diverse cultural collaborations between ASEAN and Australia.

According to Professor Byrne, “’Regionally speaking – cultural leadership and advocacy from ASEAN to Australia’ aims to build the critical capacity and connections of arts practitioners as key, though often overlooked, drivers of cultural engagement and diplomacy”.

The project will create a network of 15 influential regionally-minded ASEAN-Australian cultural leaders and advocates. This network will come away from the project with deepened understanding of each other’s cultures, the common issues they face and the collective agency and responsibility they share to promote dialogue and engagement through arts and cultural exchange within their nation and across the region.

The project will deliver a collection of narratives in various media. These narratives will present the participants’ personal journeys through the arts, their engagement in the cultural sector of their nation, and reflections on the role and relevance of the ASEAN political construct. The collective story is intended to reveal the multiple voices and experiences of ASEAN-Australian cultural landscape, highlighting complexities and drawing attention to the significance of cultural inflection. Taking place in the lead-up to the 2018 ASEAN-Australia Special Summit, the workshop and narratives produced will inform deeper understandings of ASEAN’s socio-cultural aspirations, and opportunities for Australia’s engagement in the region.