Australian’s new-look leadership plays well in Japan
Japan is more to Australia than simply a popular tourism destination (I know you can’t come here at the moment – it shouldn’t be too long). It is much more than a source of capital for investment in Australia. Our relationship is changing, as is Japan, so let’s get our skates on and become a bit more Japan-savvy.
Here is my wish list.
An adult, or “silver”, working holiday program for older Australians to visit and live in Japan; regular Australia-Japan climate talks, with more regional collaboration; better understanding of respective First Nations people (both Indigenous Australians and the Ainu people); an annual soccer or rugby event for men and women; and exchange programs for women in STEM.
There could also be “celebrating women in Japan” scholarships for young Japanese women to study and work in Australia, more cultural exchange and, that old chestnut, well-resourced Japanese language programs in primary and high schools.
Seize this moment
It’s time to revamp sister city relationships and get serious about our university alumni. Australian corporates, you need to get up here: start by planning a board meeting in a regional area of Japan (not in central Tokyo), and then invest in a Japan presence.
Employ interns who are studying Japanese, sponsor some scholarships, support the next generation of Australia-Japan experts and speak with the many Australians who have experience in Japan for their ideas and guidance.
We also need to work on Asian literacy in Australia. We need more Asian Australians represented on boards and in senior management, and in our parliament.
Let us not forget the wealth of knowledge and experience available from the Australian diaspora. It can be tough as an Australian overseas, so remind us why you still think we matter. And, yes, give us back our in-person voting booths next election!
I know it is not the role of the government to court all Australians living in Japan. I know how resources have been cut. But now is the time to get creative and effectively utilise the resources on the ground.
It would be remiss of us as a country not to realise the value and expertise Australians living in Japan bring to the party. We need to harness their expertise, networks and contacts.
These Australians are in Japan for the long haul. They don’t leave after their posting is up. Their corporate memory is worth the effort and investment – a simple barbecue here or there will do it sometimes.
Australia must reimagine its relationship with Japan. The timing could not be better. Let’s use the focus on Japan, the incredible goodwill created by this week’s visit, to show Japan that we are ready for the next stage. Business as usual will simply not suffice.
A Japanese friend of mine remarked on how diverse Australian leadership now seems, with a prime minister of Italian heritage and a Malaysia-born, Australian-raised female foreign minister. She has been following the stories on the evening news.
When I told her that Penny Wong was openly gay and a force behind marriage equality, and that Anthony Albanese grew up in public housing, to a single mum, she was sold on – and even envious of – our modern leadership. She said she hoped a bit of this might rub off on Japan.
Sayonara for now,