‘In Conversation with Victoria’s Commissioners to Asia’

17 May 2019

On 7th May, IPAA Victoria’s Asia Capabilities Community of Practice partnered with Global Victoria to deliver an ‘In-Conversation’ style event between IPAA members and the Victorian Government’s Asia based Commissioners;

  • Michelle Wade - Commissioner for Victoria to India and South Asia

  • Tim Dillon - Commissioner for Victoria to Greater China

  • Brett Stevens - Commissioner for Victoria to Southeast Asia

  • Adam Cunneen - Commissioner for Victoria to North Asia

The Commissioners were able to provide the 130 IPAA members who attended, an overview of Victoria’s trade and investment agenda with the Asian region. They provided in-market insights, discussing the opportunities and challenges for Victoria as the Asian region continues to grow economically and politically, creating new patterns of global production and engagement.

They touched on the important position that Victoria now plays across the Asia region and that Victoria is a global destination for education, business, investment, and lifestyle.

The Commissioners emphasised the role that Victoria’s public service plays in leading this global outlook and the need to become more aware of and engaged with the global shift to Asia and the impacts on the State both now and into the future.

Immense opportunities in India and China

Both China and India continue to present immense opportunities as international student numbers increase, noting that maintaining standard and reputation is critical to this growth. There is a need to maintain these important markets, but the education sector is also focussing on strategies to diversify and balance enrolments as it looks to other markets that can be developed such as Japan, Korea and Southeast Asia.

The dynamic and fast-growing economies of Southeast Asia, particularly Vietnam, Indonesia and Thailand with their growing middle class and transition from agriculture to advanced manufacturing industries, are looking at Victoria for vocational education opportunities to build the capabilities of under-skilled workforces across many regions. Southeast Asia is a diverse region and Brett Stevens stated the importance of different markets needing to be approached in very different and strategic ways.

Speakers at the ‘In Conversation with Victoria’s Commissioners to Asia’ event - L-R: Brett Stevens, Michelle Wade, Adam Cuneen, Tim Dillon and Simon Phemister. (Photo credit: Sarah Heseltine/Global Victoria)

Speakers at the ‘In Conversation with Victoria’s Commissioners to Asia’ event - L-R: Brett Stevens, Michelle Wade, Adam Cuneen, Tim Dillon and Simon Phemister. (Photo credit: Sarah Heseltine/Global Victoria)

Chinese look to Victoria’s enviable lifestyle

Tim Dillon spoke about the ever-intense and exciting engagement Victoria continues to have with China on many levels. One of Tim’s key focus areas are the opportunities for infrastructure investment into Victoria, with the size and scale of planned projects attracting significant interest from Chinese investors. As well as this Tim spoke of the changing lifestyle of China’s growing middle class, with more disposable income and leisure time, they are looking now more than ever at the arts, theatre, fashion, sport, travel and nature adventures; all of which feature highly as they look to Victoria’s enviable lifestyle.

India’s start-up economy is thriving

Michelle Wade spoke of India’s young population who are hungry for innovation and education contributing to the notion that the future global workforce will be made up of one Indian for every three workers. Already, a majority of Silicon Valley companies are headed by Indians. India is today a leader in IT and the start-up eco-system is thriving. While it is a fast-changing environment, there remains strong values around family, home and education. The Victorian Government Trade and Investment office, which Michelle heads up in Bangalore, works hard to maintain the continued interest in Victoria’s education sector, but also works on a holistic approach, which has been supported by the Victorian Government’s India Strategy. This approach is to not only focus on commercial outcomes, but foster people to people, government and institutional partnerships which are significantly benefitting the relationship.

New opportunities for Victoria industries emerge in Japan and Korea

Japan and Korea are undergoing significant change, as they seek to transition from traditional and conservative markets to outward facing, global trade and investment markets. With this new outlook, Adam Cunneen with 20 years of living, working and experience in Japan, is well positioned to tap into new opportunities for Victorian industries. For example, Japan being the largest growing retail sector in Asia, presents opportunities in training for the growing hospitality workforce. Both Japan and Korea continue to be some of the most highly developed digital technology markets in the world. New energy is also a major focus for Japan and Adam will continue to work closely on the current Victoria-Japan hydrogen export project that captures carbon to create carbon-neutral fuel.

With huge responsibility, global competition and much at stake the Commissioners were asked a series of questions around ‘what makes a great Commissioner?’, ‘the importance of Asia capabilities’ and ‘what kind of skills they look for when hiring new staff’. All Commissioners reiterated the importance of having an open mind approach to new environments. The ability to understand people and form deep and meaningful relations allows a sound understanding of different mindsets and perspectives and fosters the added ability to question one’s own thinking. Language skills open new doors and makes connectivity easier. When looking for new staff Brett specifically noted the rare talent of having in-depth understanding of both the local business environment as well as what’s happening on the ground in Victoria. Understanding of both cultures and the nuances that go with it are critical skills.

While commitment, passion and in-depth cultural understanding of international markets are key attributes to have as a Commissioner, all agreed that it is the partnerships and teams they work with, both within their offices, and the teams back in Melbourne as well as a ‘Team Australia’ approach working with federal government agencies such as Austrade, DFAT and Tourism Australia and other industry bodies and international business chambers that contribute to successful and effective engagement with Asian markets. Working closely with Victorian businesses to understand their needs in market is critical to the role.

The Commissioners look forward to continuing to progress their ambitious agendas with Asia in collaboration with Victoria’s broader public service.

For more information about what Victoria is doing in Asian markets, the Commissioners encouraged IPAA Victoria members to read the Government’s following market strategies: