In this article we sit down with Amelia Long, Editor of The Strategist at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), Australia's leading think-tank on defence and strategic issues.
What is your academic/professional background?
I graduated from the University of Sydney in 2014 with a Bachelor of International and Global Studies, majoring in Government & IR and American Studies. I extended my degree by six months after the spontaneous decision to take up Indonesian language classes during an academic exchange at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. After graduating, I was unsure which Masters degree to take, or even if I wanted to continue studying at all, so I looked at ways that I could build on my language skills and gain a better understanding of Australia–Indonesia relations.
I applied for a business, trade and development internship at the Altruis Foundation, an Indonesian NGO located in Sukabumi, West Java, and was successful in securing a two-month placement. I also volunteered to teach English at a local school for room and board for the extent of my stay. Living in a ‘rural’ Indonesian city like Sukabumi improved my language skills exponentially, and helped me gain an understanding of Indonesian perspectives on current affairs—like the rise of Islamic State, and President Joko Widodo’s inauguration, both of which took place while I was living there.
I also approached Backpacker International, a travel company with a Southeast Asian branch that produces a magazine bimonthly, about joining their team as an ambassador. That gave me the means to travel throughout Indonesia while I was interning, meet interesting people, and share my experiences down for an international audience in a public forum.
What is your current position? What does that role entail? I’m currently employed at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), Australia’s leading defence and security think tank, as an editor of its blog The Strategist. In my role, I liaise with potential contributors to the blog, edit their work and upload articles to the website. I also manage the Institute’s social media platforms—and conduct my own research when I have the time! How did you get your current role?
I always intended to move back to Canberra after living in Southeast Asia. A friend who was interning at the East-West Center in Washington DC suggested I apply for ASPI’s internship program, thinking that it might compliment the Masters program I’d tentatively applied for at ANU. After an interview via Skype, I found out a week later that I’d been successful.
Towards the end of my internship, there was a vacancy in The Strategist team, which I was considered for due to the work that I did for the blog as an intern, and after running my own blog in Indonesia and maintaining the website back-end for Backpacker International. I started as a full-time editor for ASPI in August.
What were your day-to-day activities as an intern?
First and foremost: research. As an ASPI intern, I was expected to quickly build knowledge in new areas. I began with writing the weekly maritime security update for ASPI’s blog, The Strategist. With no previous experience in maritime security, I had to gain an understanding of the current strategic trends and issues in that particular arena. I was also able to approach senior staff members about working on interesting projects and reports to expand my personal portfolio, any conduct my own research and analysis for individual works.
As an ASPI intern, I also worked at a number of the Institute’s events. Working at two of ASPI’s international conferences took a lot of planning and effort from a huge team beyond just the interns, and were extremely rewarding networking opportunities, as well as experiences to expand my own organisational skills.
What did you gain from the internship?
The ASPI internship is the program to apply for if you’re a young person aiming for a career in Australian strategic policy or defence. This isn’t the kind of internship where you’ll be doing coffee runs or devoting your time to office administration—you’ll make a practical contribution to the work of the organisation, and will be called upon to add your own knowledge and expertise to reports, your own writing, and in roundtable discussions with government officials, senior military members and esteemed academics. The internship saw a huge increase in my open-source research skills, which I utilised in various projects for the Institute, as well as my confidence in building networks across a diverse range of public and private sector portfolios. I also gained practical behind-the-scenes experience in running events for two of ASPI’s international conferences.
Any stand out moments?
Seeing my writing published online for the first time was a great experience for me. Getting feedback on it from industry experts was even better—the right kind of external audience was engaging with my work! Going from having university essays read solely by academic tutors to publishing content read by hundreds of people in the industry I’m passionate about was a huge jump, and one that I’ve really enjoyed.
ASPI events are also exciting. There’s always a chance to meet someone interesting before or after a publication launch or discussion, and I learned some incredibly interesting information about Australian defence industry and technology at ASPI’s two international conferences earlier this year. On top of that, I’m a huge fan of event food, so that’s never a letdown!
For the Indonesianist in me, sitting in at a formal dinner of senior government and ASPI officials after a public discussion on the future of Australia–Indonesia relations was a real highlight. It was great listening to such senior experts speak so candidly about my area of interest, and being asked to contribute my own thoughts indicated to me that I’ve chosen the right career path, and I very much look forward to seeing where it will take me.
What is your advice to young Australians looking to launch a career in the foreign policy, defence and national security space?
If your goal is to work in an industry that’s popular and has a finite number of jobs, it’s incredibly important to make your portfolio stand out when you’re applying for jobs. The two ways I’ve achieved this is through travel and through writing for diverse forums.