SYDNEY, Aug. 26 (Xinhua) -- The tyranny of distance separating Australia and China has proven no barrier for bilateral youth ties, as independent, grassroots movements continue to bind Sino- Australian youngsters.
This month, the Australia--China Youth Association's (ACYA) Bilateral Youth Leadership Workshop (BYLW) made the latest step forward in boosting the friendship, with youth at its core.
The BYLW, hosted by the University of Sydney, China Studies Centre, is one of ACYA's keynote annual events, part of a yearly program to nurture and liberate the idea and energies of young people from both nations.
With cyclical geo-politics influencing official bonds, bilateral youth organisations are now fortifying the fortunes and feelings of the two key trading partners here, while also ensuring the tidal ebbs and flows of politics and power plays in no way hinder the growing ties between Chinese and Australian youths. Face to Face
ACYA President, Tom Williams, told Xinhua that the key purposes of BYLW were to provide all ACYA members "with a clear understanding of ACYA's values and vision and gear them for growth and an opportunity for members from across ACYA's extensive Australia-China network to meet in person."
With the 60 BYLW delegates pouring in from as far; and with the iconic Sydney Harbor Bridge as a backdrop, the BYLW was officially opened at the offices of the Australia China Business Council, as Associate Partner of ACYA.
According to delegates, the opening ceremony - buzzing with dialects of Chinese and English - saw young Chinese and Australians from as far afield as Beijing and Perth, share stories and even try an impromptu version of China's famous dating show If You Are The One to break the ice.
Innovating ideas and leadership
The two days of intensive workshops provided an opportunity for delegates to share their ideas to facilitate leadership and organisational growth in the Australia-China space.
"Delegates will take learnings, core ideas, skillsets, and messages back to their respective university Chapters so as to ensure sustained growth at the grassroots level," commented Michael McGregor, General Manager of Projects.
"The key takeaways from this conference were the project management and portfolio specific skills. Project management is not something that many university students come into contact with, " Sam Mugford, former Chapter President of ACYA Shanghai and current Law student at the University of Adelaide, told Xinhua.
Throughout the course of the weekend, delegates also had the opportunity to speak with Professor Kerry Brown, Executive Director of the University of Sydney China Studies Centre, and Jason Wang, tech entrepreneur and reporter for Forbes.
Aimee Yi, ACYA National Careers Director and former UNSW student, told Xinhua "I believe that the conference brings together talented youths who share a profound interest and a common engagement with Australia-China relations. It is an exciting environment buzzing with innovative ideas from young people who are ready to take initiative."
Bolstered by the dearth of opportunities for cross-cultural engagement provided by universities, the ACYA was founded in 2008 as the brainchild of a group of Australian students studying in Beijing, who established the platform for students to build meaningful relationships through sharing experiences, opportunities and language.
Engaging China Project
"We want to create a new blueprint for collaboration between the two countries," said Andrea Myles, the Founder and Director of The Engaging China Project (ECP) - a national, not-for-profit initiative to increase Chinese literacy in Australia, which evolved from the fertile outcomes of the early ACYA.
"Our aim is to add depth and authenticity to secondary school children's learnings of China and the Chinese language by imparting real-world experiences and stories of our team of young China Ambassadors," Ms Myles told Xinhua.
The ECP introduces a network of China-literate university students and young professionals aged 20-35 into classrooms to share their experiences in China with high school students.
Myles told Xinhua that the ECP, "Assists the secondary school sector to engage with contemporary China in the classroom and support the implementation of the cross-curriculum priority 'Asia and Australia's engagement with Asia' in the Australian National Curriculum.
Engine for imagination
Today the ACYA has 19 Australian university chapters and overseas chapters in the major cities of Beijing, Nanjing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Taipei. It provides young people with a chance to connect with professional and educational opportunities and develop lasting international friendships.
The Australian National University ANU is a major foundational sponsor and its associate partners include Tsinghua University.
Jimmy Zeng, General Manager of ACYA in Australia, explains that ACYA offers an opening for anyone interested in Australia-China relations: "ACYA continues to play a leading role as the only not- for-profit, non-partisan, youth organization in this space run ' for members, by members'".
Learning, jobs, friendship
It is this participatory ethos -- based around ACYA's three pillars of education, careers and people-to-people exchange -- that has seen ACYA grow to over 5,000 members globally.
For Bo O'Brien, Chapter President of ACYA at the University of Sydney, ACYA provides him with an opportunity to engage in genuine cross-cultural communication.
"There are so many untold stories from China that aren't passed over to the West, which are so crucial and so enlightening and we all need to know about it. That is why I became involved with ACYA, " O'Brien said.
Twenty-five years from now, ACYA will be the hub for bilateral engagement, creating opportunities for members across the many sectors their careers take them, fostering the talent of young Australians and Chinese and bringing Australia and China closer together," The ACYA President Williams told Xinhua.
China Australia Millennium Project
The next key project for the bilateral youth movement will see Myles bring together '200 bright young minds for a five day innovation incubator' as part of the Vivid festival of ideas 2015, China Australia Millennium Project (CAMP).
"We're going to smash the bamboo ceiling," Myles said, referring to Australia's failure to seize the value of Asian-born graduates.
"The power and ideas of the next generation will determine so much, and we want to give them every opportunity to do it, and do it together." Enditem