Asialink Leaders Program - Speaker Highlights

By Asialink

Asialink and Herbert Smith Freehills were proud to deliver a major Virtual Summit for the Asialink Leaders Program from 26 to 28 October, 2020. The Virtual Summit provided our 46 Asialink Leaders, from across the public, private and community sectors, with the opportunity to engage, debate and progress ideas with thought leaders from across the world on the major leadership challenges facing Australia’s engagement with the region.

The Virtual Summit addressed a range of the key opportunities and challenges in Australia’s engagement with Asia, ranging from questions of national identity and brand to strategic and defence policy, China, India and ASEAN relations, and the shape of our future economic engagement with the region. Expert speakers joined us from across Australia, Vietnam, China, India, Indonesia, United States, and Brazil, each sharing their unique experiences and insights. They included Ministers, senior officials, diplomats, corporates, academics and think-tankers, together with representatives of the community sector.

In summary, the sessions included:

A profound, thought-provoking and much appreciated Welcome to Country by Dr Lois Peeler AM.

A continued deep exploration on identity, history and ethics with a highly esteemed panel including: Lynette Wallworth, Emmy Award-winning artist and filmmaker; Philip Watkins, CEO, Desart; and Rhyan 'DOBBY' Clapham, drummer and rapper; moderated by Dr Simon Longstaff from The Ethics Centre.

A session on how Australia can learn from the success of the soft power and nation branding campaigns of the UK, New Zealand and Singapore, led by the Hon. Dame Annette King, New Zealand High Commissioner to Australia; Her Excellency Vicki Treadell, British High Commissioner to Australia; and His Excellency Mr. Kwok Fook Seng, High Commissioner of the Republic of Singapore in Canberra.


An invigorating discussion between leading industry experts in business, architecture and strategy and design, who are helping shape how Australia projects itself to the world. Led by James Pearson, CEO, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry; Ros Moriarty, Managing Director, Balarinji; and John Denton, Founding Director, Denton Corker Marshall.

Cross-sector panel discussions on challenging questions:

ASEAN – Why does it matter to Australia? With Andrew McIntyre from Monash University, Emma Connors from the Australian Financial Review, Chen Chen Lee from Asialink and Dean Garvey from Blackmores.


China – Australia's China Policy: Have we got it right? With Linda Jakobson from China Matters, Jing Han from the Australia-China Institute for Arts and Culture, Michael Wesley from The University of Melbourne and David Olsson from the Australia China Business Council.


India – Will India be an influential Indo-Pacific power? With Former Ambassador Anil Wadhwa, Priya Chacko from the University of Adelaide, V Sunil from Motherland and Indrani Bagchi from the Times of India.


Perspectives on Challenges and Opportunities for Australia in the post-pandemic Indo-Pacific, from the Hon. Alex Hawke MP, Minister for International Development and the Pacific and Assistant Defence Minister and the Hon. Penny Wong, Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs and Leader of the Opposition in the Senate;

'Virtual tours' to explore the next frontier of innovation in Asia, which invited Leaders to journey into four diverse businesses, and then meet their founders in a stimulating panel discussion:

Co-founder of Zap Surgical Systems, Mohan Bodduluri shared their world-leading non-invasive cancer treatment which is redefining the future of radiosurgery, while Felipe Aragao talked to leaders about the success and challenges of establishing one of Bangalore's largest data analytics centre, for the world's largest brewer, AB InBev.


The co-founders and executives VNG Corporation and Spokle, Abhishek Mathur and Elisabeth Yunarko, also joined the panel session and shared the opportunities and successes of leading technological innovations in Vietnam and Indonesia.

The marker for the modern leader in this era is resilience and agility, and the Asialink Leaders for 2020 demonstrate outstanding dedication as they continue to engage with Asia. Through the generosity of time and depth of thought, the Virtual Summit created a meaningful shift for the current Leaders to continue to spearhead Australia's engagement with Asia in their organisations and sectors. The 2020 Leaders also appreciated the opportunity to engage with alumni of the program through focused fireside chats, further fueling their passion for leading Australia’s engagement with the region.

In 2021 the Asialink Leaders Program will be held in locations including Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Perth. The Program will be a hybrid virtual and in-person event, with the majority of the program taking place face-to-face in state-based cohorts.

Locations will be determined based upon levels of interest as well as COVID-19 restrictions. To find out more about the Asialink Leaders Program in 2021 click here for more information.

Click here to read about the 2021 Sir Edward 'Weary' Dunlop Asialink Fellowships and their place within the Asialink Leaders Program.

Learn more about the Asialink Leaders Program