Rebecca  By Rebecca Curtis, Assistant Director, South East Asia Maritime Division

I had the opportunity to be one of the 37 delegates as part of the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) Southeast Asian Young Leaders Programme during the 2017 Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore.  The delegates in the Young Leaders Programme came from government, private sector, media and academia.

The Shangri-La dialogue has grown to be one of the biggest strategic gatherings in the world. Attending such a large conference was exciting – the energy and buzz in the room was palpable and it was amazing being part of the journey of the conference as it built a shared understanding of key themes and regional challenges.

Harry Harris Presentation

Attending such a large conference was exciting

As a young policy maker it is not often you get the chance to exchange views and ask questions of global decision makers.  My participation in this program allowed me to do just that – have a voice at the table and collaborate with a dynamic group of younger people representing the next generation of decision makers in the region.

Seeing the keynote address by the Prime Minister of Australia, the Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP, was a highlight from the programme.  The Prime Minister’s address set out Australia’s policy position that we must preserve the rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific whereby nations big and small agree to play by the rules and respect each other’s sovereignty.  This idea was woven into the fabric of discussions throughout the dialogue.  The young leaders especially enjoyed the opportunity to meet Prime Minister Turnbull during the Shangri-La dialogue and his announcement of the Australian Government’s ongoing support to the IISS Southeast Asian Young Leaders Programme.

Meeting PM Turnbull (002)

Prime Minister Turnbull meeting some of the young leaders

The young leaders had very good discussions on a wide range of issues, regional and economic.  We exchanged views on developments in the United States, South China Sea, the North Korean regime, the future of ASEAN, the role of women in international security, the challenges and opportunities of technology, non-traditional security challenges and fragile states.

The program also took us on board HMCS Winnipeg, where the Canadian Chief of Defence Staff General Jonathan Vance spoke about the importance of shared values and a common vision in the region.

On board the Canadian ship

Rebecca on board HMCS Winnipeg

Our region has a bright future with such dynamic young leaders.  All of us came away with a burst of energy to do more to address regional and global challenges in our various fields.  And importantly, new friends and connections in Southeast Asia and the Asia-Pacific region to work with in the future.

Young Leader Group

Delegates of the International Institute for Strategic Studies Southeast Asian Young Leaders Programme


Ms Curtis is Assistant Director, South East Asia Maritime Division with the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). She has also served in the International Legal Branch as well as the Afghanistan and Pakistan Branch of DFAT and the International Division of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C). Ms Curtis previously served in the Commonwealth Secretariat in London and completed a diplomatic posting in Papua New Guinea.  Ms Curtis holds a Master of Studies (International Human Rights Law) from the University of Oxford and a Bachelor of Economics (Social Science) (Honours) from the University of Sydney.

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Corporate, International relations, People-to-people, Women

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