Events 2015

12 November 2015: Mobiles and Social Media in Southeast Asia

Mobiles and Social Media

Co-hosted with Sydney Ideas

Digital technology is at the heart of social, cultural, economic, and political transformations in our neighbouring countries in the Southeast Asia region, and elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific. Used by all levels of society, mobile phones and mobile media can be found everywhere from agriculture and health, through commerce and activism, to family, friendship and romantic relationships. For its part, social media – increasingly used on mobile platforms – is a new force in everyday life, politics, education, civil society, and culture.

In this panel, five leading figures in digital technology research debated the key issues in the digital age in Southeast Asia.

4 November 2015: The Singapore Swing

The Singapore Swing

Singapore’s general elections were held in September 2015 shortly after the death of the anointed national ‘founder’ Lee Kuan Yew and during the 50th anniversary jubilee celebrations, giving the incumbent People’s Action Party (PAP) a significant advantage. Given the PAP’s relatively lacklustre electoral campaign, the PAP’s resounding electoral success took many by surprise. A panel of specialists discussed the key factors which have contributed to the PAP’s electoral resilience and the implications of the recent Singapore swing in political currents and trends in Southeast Asia.

The event also launched Dr. Yeow-Tong Chia’s book Education, Culture and the Singapore Developmental State: “World-Soul” Lost and Regained? (Palgrave Macmillan 2015).

Co-hosted by the Malaysia and Singapore Association of Australia, the Sydney Democracy Network, and the Comparative and International Education (CoInEd) Research Network.

2 November 2015: My Blue Heaven

My Blue Heaven

Film screening
Ah Boy watches a porn videotape, and it gets stuck. Bad news – his father is on the way home. A no holdʼs barred short story that encapsulates all the ugly things that the Singapore Government tries so hard to erase or suppress – porn, drugs,“aguas” (pondans), racial conflicts and the use of dialect. It’s the DirectorÊ»s love letter to his childhood days when he would 'watch-anything-he-can-grab-on-VHS'.

The film screening was followed by a Q&A with the Director, Yee-wei, a Singaporean filmmaker who has written and directed four feature length films.

1 October 2015: ASEAN Business Forum

ASEAN Business Forum

The ASEAN Business Forum was held in conjunction with the ASEAN Forum. Going beyond building a space to talk about 'opportunities' in Southeast Asia, the forum addressed the challenges of doing business in the region. Hosted in conjunction with Baker & McKenzie, the audience heard from Dr Sandra Seno-Alday; Lecturer, The University of Sydney Business School and Alexander Maron; Associate Director, PwC Consulting Asia.

1 September 2015: 1MDB and its Implications

Serious allegations of corruption and collusion are threatening the legitimacy of the Government of Malaysia, in particular the ‘1MDB’ case in which Prime Minister Najib allegedly had millions of dollars transferred from state-owned enterprises to his personal accounts.

Wong Chen, People’s Justice Party MP, discussed the latest political and economic developments in Malaysia stemming from the multi-billion 1MDB financial scandal, and the far reaching implications of such actions on Malaysia’s already fragile democracy.

12 August 2015: ASEAN Day


In collaboration with the University of Sydney Union's International Festival, ASEAN Day showcased the tastes and dances of Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.

11 August 2015: New Asia Now - A Griffith Review Forum

New Asia Now

Co-hosted with Sydney Ideas and the China Studies Centre
Three outstanding young writers provided fresh perspectives on life in Asia’s most dynamic and powerful countries. Miguel Syjuco (The Philippines), Annie Zaidi (India) and Sheng Keyi (China) delved into the many facets of their countries - the powerful and the powerless, the complexities of culture, politics and modernisation. Each described what it feels like up close and personal with an insider's eye and passion. The writers were joined by Dr Tiffany Tsao, in a panel chaired by Julianne Schultz, editor of Griffith Review.

6 August 2015: What Does Economic Integration Mean for Business? AEC vs. the EU

Co-presented with the Philippine Consulate General and the Australia Philippines Business Council (APBC), Dr Sandra Seno-Alday from the University of Sydney Business School discussed the implications and relevance of the AEC to business strategies.

The ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) is the goal of regional economic integration by 2015. The AEC envisages a highly competitive, single market full integrated into the global economy.

17 June 2015: 'I had no place to stay' - Housing Woes of Singaporean Divorcees

Seminar series

Seminar series
When marital dissolution takes place, divorcees often experience major transformations, turbulences and disorientations in different aspects of their lives. Divorcees have to construct what Dr Quah refers to as, a divorce biography, to dissolve an unsatisfying marriage, cope with the changes and consequences of divorce and make future plans. One of the most pressing problems many divorcees face is in the area of housing. As part of working out their divorce biographies, divorcees find themselves having to deal with accommodation issues and come up with post-divorce living arrangements.

In the context of Singaporean society where existing housing policies are largely catered to the state-endorsed family model (heterosexual, legally married couple, dual-parent family with children), individuals from non-normative families like divorcees face structural obstacles as they attempt to resolve housing issues. In this seminar, Dr Sharon Quah from the National University of Singapore shared her research findings on housing troubles confronting Singaporean divorcees and the strategies they developed to cope with such difficulties after the divorce.

3 June 2015: The Surprising Truth about Asian Languages

The surprising truth about Asian languages

Co-hosted with Sydney Ideas
With recent progress in research on the languages of mainland Southeast Asia, we now know more than ever about what these languages are like, who speaks them, where they have come from, and where they are going. A panel made up of experts in Southeast Asian languages spoken in countries ranging from Bhutan, to Burma, China, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia, discussed many old myths and new truths about the languages of this fascinating area of the world.

Co-hosted with Sydney Ideas, the panel discussion marked the launch of Professor Nick Enfield's book Languages of Mainland Southeast Asia: The State of the Art.

8 May 2015: Universities and Innovation in International Development in Southeast Asia

Policy roundtable

Policy roundtable
In an increasingly contested space, development agencies are searching for new tools, technologies, and approaches – what are often called innovative solutions – to the complex challenge of reducing poverty. Universities have traditionally played a strong role in driving innovation in their respective economies. In theory, this suggests that universities are well placed to be part of the new innovation agenda. In practice, however, universities have had a mixed record working with development agencies to support their objectives.

At this event, researchers and development practitioners discussed what innovation means to them and how universities can best contribute to the new innovation agenda and potential challenges in doing so. Thank you to RTI International and the ACFID University Network for supporting the event.

14 April 2015: What Thai Voters Want

Seminar series

Seminar series
Two of the most prominent forces in current Thai politics are the monarchy and protest movements. Yet, we know very little about how these two forces shape electoral politics and influence voter behaviour. In this seminar, Professor Allen Hicken from the University of Michigan presented some of the results from a unique survey experiment conducted in the days prior to the 2011 election. He answered the following questions. Do appeals to the monarch by candidates help their electoral chances? Is invoking the monarchy a winning electoral strategy? Does this differ by party, or by region? Professor Hicken also examined how candidates’ associations with either the yellow or red shirt protests affect voter evaluation of those candidates.

24 March 2015: Women and Leadership from Southeast Asia to Australia

Public forum

Public forum
Three female leaders with a connection to Southeast Asia discussed their views of leadership, the particular challenges they have faced and how they have overcome them, and what their connection to Southeast Asia means for their leadership experience. Featuring Lydia Santosa, solicitor with Nicholas George Lawyers; Jane Brock from Immigrant Women’s Speakout Association of NSW and; Angelica Casado, Director of the Australian Thai Youth Ambassadors Program, the public forum was held in conjunction with a training program that SSEAC was hosting for a group of future female NGO leaders from Indonesia.

18 March 2015: Constitutional Politics in Myanmar Going Nowhere?

Seminar series
Constitutional reform dominates political discourse about Burma/Myanmar. The milestones of the current transition to democracy have seen the constitution become a lens through which all major political and social issues are conceptualised. Outside observers often see this debate as ultimately about a single issue: will the constitutional barriers preventing Aung San Suu Kyi’s ascendancy to the presidency be lifted? But renewal of the country’s basic law has long been on the agenda for democracy activists and ethnic political groups alike, and their demands are different and diverse, touching not only on the role of the military and who can become president but also on federalism and the role of religion in politics. In this seminar, Andrew McLeod from the University of Oxford traced the origins of the current constitutional reform process and examine the prospects of constitutional change in the lead up to this year’s general elections and beyond.