Young Australians in International Affairs is run by a team of dedicated young professionals, graduates, and students. Please see below for the names and positions of our national leadership team.
We often have opportunities for people to join our team of volunteers across the country. For more information, please click below.
Chief Executive Officer
Mercedes is the founder and CEO of Young Australians in International Affairs.
Mercedes was a finalist in the 2019 Women's Agenda Leadership Awards and in 2018 was named by the Financial Review and Qantas as one of Australia's 100 Women of Influence. In 2015 she was recognised by the Foundation for Young Australians (FYA) as one of Australia's Top 50 Young Social Pioneers.
Mercedes works for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. She previously had a number of roles in the private sector and at one of Australia's leading think-tanks. She was previously a non-resident WSD-Handa Fellow and a member of the Young Leaders Program at the Pacific Forum, Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).
She currently sits on the Youth Working Group of the Global Diplomatic Forum.
Philip is the Partnerships Directors at Young Australians in International Affairs. He is a former federal government adviser to former foreign minister the Hon Julie Bishop. A position which saw him undertake a broad range political and policy portfolio responsibilities.
Philip recently concluded a year working as the aide to the Australian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom in London. The position required him to develop and foster relationships with Australian and UK businesses, think-tanks and government bodies on behalf of the High Commissioner and Post.
He is a contributor to the Sydney Morning Herald and Foreign Policy (US) on government, national security and foreign affairs matters.
Benjamin is Publications Director for Young Australians in International Affairs. He is currently a PhD student at the University of Adelaide where he researches Australian foreign policy and influence. Researching International Relations and Politics, his research interests include Australia, the US, security, norm maintenance, and influence using both critical and traditional theoretical lenses.
Ben holds a Master of Arts by research from the University of the Sunshine Coast, a Master of International Relations and a Bachelor of Government and International Relations from Griffith University, and a Graduate Diploma of Public Policy from the University of Tasmanian. He also has professional experience working in defence and national non-profit sectors.
Director, Digital Events
Elle is the Digital Events Director at Young Australian's in International Affairs. She joined the Digital Events portfolio in 2020 and strives to bring underrepresented areas of international affairs to young Australians.
Elle graduated with a Bachelor of Laws (Hons) and a Bachelor of Justice (Criminology & Policing). She is currently completing her practical legal training to become a qualified lawyer and has over four years experience at an international commercial law firm. Elle has studied abroad at Purdue University and Ritsumeikan University Law School and is also a New Colombo Plan alumni who studied in India. Having attended two United Nations conferences abroad, she is interested in furthering her knowledge of counter-terrorism, religious extremism and modern weapons. Elle also used to be a competitive cheerleader.
John is Young Australians in International Affairs' Director of Administration.
Chief Operations Officer
Kate is the Chief Operations Officer at Young Australians in International Affairs and an academic at La Trobe University and the University of Melbourne. Teaching and researching International Relations, her research expertise includes China, Australia, the Pacific Islands, the US, security, gender and outer space. Her thesis examines changing geopolitics in the Southwest Pacific, using critical and great power theories.
She has written for the Lowy Institute, China Story at the ANU, Crikey, Perth US Asia Centre and the Australian Institute of International Affairs. Interviewed by the Age, Nine Network News and Channel 31 on issues such as higher education and Australia-China relations.
Kate holds a Master of International Relations (International Security) from the University of Melbourne, Bachelor of International Relations (Asian Studies) from La Trobe University and has studied at Chongqing University in China.
Alexandra is the Communications Director at Young Australians in International Affairs and a Policy Graduate in the Australian Public Service.
Alex holds an MSc International Relations from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). Here she pursued regional specialisations in Chinese foreign and security policy, and the politics and foreign policy of the European Union. She also speaks both Mandarin and German.
Alex has professional background in international relations, research, social media and digital communications. She has experience working in Australia and overseas, not-for-profit organisations, a think tank, and in government settings.
Lauren is the Careers Director for Young Australians in International Affairs. She joined the Careers portfolio in 2019 and enjoys playing a role in equipping young Australians with the skills and resources to pursue their chosen career path. Lauren is a Master of Philosophy candidate in French Studies at the University of Adelaide. Her thesis explores how the fictional works of contemporary French authors share commentary on France’s socio-political climate.
Lauren’s professional experience spans across the public service, academia, and not-for-profit organisations. Currently working in diplomatic relations in the South Australian government, she has had the opportunity to showcase and continue developing her research, writing, and international relations skills. She is a World Economic Forum Global Shaper, an alumna of DFAT's Australia-Indonesia Youth Exchange Program (AIYEP), and a former South Australian Youth Parliamentarian. Lauren speaks English and French, and is currently learning Indonesian and Mandarin.
Director, Strategy, People and Culture
Belle is the Director of People and Culture at Young Australians in International Affairs. She is currently a Master of International Relations and Master of Peace and Conflict Studies student at the University of Queensland and Graduate Diploma in Business student at the Open Polytechnic.
Belle first became interested in joining YAIA after benefiting from the fantastic resources and digital events curated and created by YAIA volunteers. With experience in volunteer recruitment and management and a passion for young adult growth and professional development (her undergrad study was in Education and Development Studies), she was excited to join the team with the goal of supporting YAIA volunteers who contribute to making YAIA the successful platform it is.
Belle’s professional experience is diverse. Most recently she was Team Lead and Case Manager for a Covid-19 emergency response operation led by New Zealand Red Cross and funded by the New Zealand Government. Currently Belle is employed in Communications, Maritime Security and Insurance sectors.
Chief Financial Officer
Ashleigh is Young Australians in International Affairs' Chief Financial Officer.