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2023 Young Women to Watch in International Affairs

In celebration of International Women's Day, Young Australians in International Affairs is delighted to announce our list of Young Women to Watch in International Affairs for 2023.

Every year, the list recognises, celebrates and promotes the next generation of women achieving success and making an impact in international affairs - whether that be in government, academia, think tanks, the private sector or civil society.

Despite great strides in gender equality, the international affairs field remains male-dominated. In an increasingly complex and challenging world, YAIA seeks to represent and uplift a diversity of voices that not only reflects the next generation of Australian women, but empowers them.

After a competitive shortlisting process and having received nominations from so many outstanding women in the field, we are delighted to announce this year's list of Young Women to Watch in International Affairs.

Dr Farkhondeh Akbari

Dr Farkhondeh Akbari is a postdoctoral research fellow at Monash University where she conducts research on inclusive peace, diplomatic actors, feminist foreign policy and the women, peace, and security agenda. She has recently published research papers, book chapter and journal articles focusing on the Taliban’s gender-apartheid regime in Afghanistan.

She completed her PhD in diplomatic studies at the Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs at the Australian National University. Her thesis examined the required characteristics for non-state armed actors to engage meaningfully in diplomacy for the purpose of peace settlements and studied the cases of the Taliban in Afghanistan and the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia.

She has work experience at the Department of Political Affairs at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, and the Afghanistan Independent Directorate of Local Governance.

Dr Akbari is a co-founder for Organization for Development Solutions Inc, a grassroots non-for-profit NGO taking a bottom-up approach to development and peacebuilding in Afghanistan, focusing on women empowerment. She is also an activist, using her scholarly research to advocate for women rights, inclusive peace, and the rights of Hazara people as a vulnerable ethnic group in Afghanistan.

Keilin Anderson

Keilin is an Australian public international lawyer, currently based in The Hague and serving as the Judicial Fellow to His Excellency Judge Nolte of the International Court of Justice. Keilin otherwise works as a Senior Legal Officer in the Office of International Law within the Attorney-General's Department where she advises government on a range of complex international law issues, focussing on defence and national security issues.

Keilin has previously worked for judges at the International Criminal Court, Federal Court of Australia, and Supreme Court of Queensland. Through mentoring teams of students competing in the Jessup International Law Moot, including the 2018 World Championship team, and volunteering her time on the Youth Advisory and International Humanitarian Law Committees of the Queensland and ACT branches of the Australian Red Cross, Keilin remains committed to engaging young Australians and the broader community in international law.

Her pro bono work has also focused on atrocity crime prevention, particularly in respect of Yazidi and Rohingya women, along with access to justice issues in the South Pacific. For this service she has was awarded a Pro Bono Publico and Future Leader Award by the University of Queensland and the National Council of Queensland’s Lady Justice Award. She has served on a number of international law editorial committees and her own work has been published in blogs and peer-reviewed journals. Keilin completed a Masters of International Law (with Commendation) at the ANU, a Bachelor of Laws (Hons I) and Arts (Political Science) at UQ.

Julie Ballangarry

Julie Ballangarry is a proud Gumbaynggirr/Dunghutti woman and PhD Candidate at the School of Government and International Relations, Griffith University. Prior to commencing her PhD, Julie completed a Bachelor of Education with Honours (Class 1) and spent several years working in Remote and Low SES community schools. Julie is passionate about Indigenous affairs, public policy, and how Indigenous ways of being, knowing and doing can help to strengthen policy outcomes, particularly in key areas such as foreign policy.

In 2022, Julie co-authored a paper 'Indigenous Foreign Policy: A new way forward' which was presented at a round table with Senator Penny Wong and the Australian Feminist Foreign Policy Coalition, of which she is a member. Julie has written a number of pieces about Indigenous Foreign Policy and presented on panels around the subject matter. Julie is set to submit her PhD in 2023 and looks forward to continue focusing on policy that is inclusive of Indigenous knowledges, perspectives and rights.

Rebecca Banagala

Rebecca Banagala is a Senior Consultant for Coras, offering business services and strategic advice and solutions to national security and defence clients. Her 10+ years of experience in both the private and public sectors has led her to publish multiple think pieces, including for the Australian Strategic Policy Institute's (ASPI) The Strategist.

During her time in Federal Government, she was instrumental in the design, development, and delivery of a variety of compliance, policy, and legislatively-binding programs and initiatives. Highlights include facilitating the first virtual Five Eyes Australian Heads of Intelligence (HINT) Conference in 2020, leading and designing the compliance program for the Security of Critical Infrastructure Act 2018, and supporting Defence’s handover of the Guardian Class Patrol Boat Te Kukupa II to the Cook Islands in 2022.

Rebecca is also the Founder of the not-for-profit organisation Fem Insights in Security (FIS), an online platform dedicated to advocating for Australian women in security. FIS raises the profile of leading and emerging women, and promotes opportunities and resources to women seeking to enter the field of security.

She is also a Masters student at the National Security College at the ANU, following the completion of her Bachelor of Politics and International Relations degree at the University of Canberra in 2018. Rebecca contributed to the 2021 Youth National Security Strategy as Director of Outreach and Education, and supported the ANU's Strategic and Defence Studies Centre in 2021, facilitating ANU’s undergraduate course: Honeypots and Overcoats: Australian Intelligence in the World.

Alix Biggs

Alix works in Kyiv with the Norwegian Refugee Council, managing humanitarian protection programming in the north of Ukraine as Protection Programme Manager. In her professional career she has focused on civilian protection in forced displacement contexts across Europe and the Middle East.

Formerly with the United Nations in Iraq and Saint Andrew’s Refugee Services in Egypt, Alix works to advance the rights and dignity of people forced to flee, including survivors of gender-based violence. She has a particular focus on enabling durable solutions for individuals in situations of protracted displacement. Her career has seen her operating across camps, urban displacement settings, and areas devastated by war.

While the tempo of the conflict in Ukraine remains volatile, Kyiv and other cities remain under repeated missile and drone attacks. The needs of Ukraine’s civilian population are acute, and Alix is one of many Australians contributing to the humanitarian response in the country.

In 2021 Alix was a Fellow with the Internal Displacement Research Programme at the University of London’s School of Advanced Study. She possesses a Masters in Migration Studies from the University of Oxford and a Bachelor of Arts with Honours from the Australian National University, supported through a Gowrie Scholarship and a C.A.S. Hawker Scholarship respectively. She was previously an editor with the Oxford Monitor of Forced Migration.

Hayley Channer

Hayley Channer is the Director of the Economic Security Program with the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney. Hayley has led a diverse background having worked as an Australian Government official, Ministerial adviser, think tank analyst, and represented global non-profit organisations.

Hayley is the recipient of the Fulbright Australia 2022 Coral Sea Scholarship (Business/Industry) which she undertook in Washington DC. Hayley has held Visiting Fellowships with the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre (SDSC) at the Australian National University and East West Center in Washington DC.

In addition, Hayley is an alumnus of the US State Department’s International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) and Australia-America Young Leadership Dialogue (AAYLD). Hayley also serves on two advisory boards: the Asia-Pacific Development, Diplomacy & Defence Dialogue (AP4D) and University of Western Australia’s Defence and Security Institute.

Frequently quoted in the Australian and international media, Hayley’s work has been published in Foreign Policy, the Australian Financial Review, the Sydney Morning Herald, The Diplomat Magazine, The Hill, and the Washington Examiner. She has given live television and radio interviews and presented around the world to large audiences. Hayley has a Master of International Relations from the University of Queensland and Certificate in Public Policy from the London School of Economics.

Grace Corcoran

Grace is the diplomacy project coordinator at Asialink, Australia’s leading centre for creative engagement with Asia. In this role Grace works to build vital people-to-people links to activate high quality discussion and support a prosperous and secure Indo-Pacific region.

Grace is the Program Manager of the Australia-Vietnam Leadership Dialogue which supports deep and sustainable people-to-people links between young leaders who are passionate about this bilateral relationship.

For the previous eight years, Grace has volunteered with Amnesty International Australia and is a member of their Activist Leadership Committee. In this role, Grace delivers programs and events, influences policy and advocates for human rights across the world.

Grace was also the New Colombo Plan Fellow to the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) in 2018 and has been a New Colombo Plan Alumni Ambassador in 2020 and 2023. During her scholarship, Grace organised the inaugural Pride Walk in Micronesia, worked in the Maldives supporting women’s capacity building programs to improve female representation in politics and leadership and delivered a youth empowerment project, supported health promotion programs in communities in Sri Lanka and contributed to a project in the Philippines that explored the disproportionate impact of the War on Drugs on women and people of lower socio-economic status.

Grace holds a Master of Development Studies from the University of Melbourne and a double bachelor’s degree in applied public health and global studies from the Australian Catholic University.

Isabella Currie

Following the completion of her Bachelor of International Relations at La Trobe University in 2020, Isabella then completed her Honours in 2021, for which she received the Provost’s Commendation for academic excellence. Isabella transferred into a Master of Research at La Trobe University which she completed in 2022 (awaiting conferral), and has now received two PhD offers for 2023.

Her research focuses on authoritarianism, and on tools of authoritarianism and instruments of malign influence that are used to undermine and inhibit democratisation. Her Master's project researched the intricate web of malign influence operations and networks associated with Evgenii Prigozhin and the Wagner Group, and the use of such tools in the promotion of autocracy and the pursuit of Russia’s global interests.

Isabella has dedicated the last two years to exposing the international operations and human rights abuses of Evgenii Prigozhin and the Wagner Group. She has worked collaboratively with organisations to produce reports that detail the Wagner Group’s crimes, and has supported journalistic investigations with research and commentary. After spending eight years working in digital strategy, Isabella further developed an interest in information warfare and became intrigued by the role of digital communication tools in contemporary political processes.

Isabella was the Director of Marketing for the Young Diplomats Society in 2019, before accepting the role of Vice-President (Operations) for 2020-2021. She served as a Student Representative to the Academic Board of La Trobe University, and has held several other volunteering positions across Mental Health Advocacy and Student representative bodies.

Mahealani Delaney

Mahealani grew up in Cairns and has always held a deep love and appreciation for nature. Mahealani moved to Canberra at the start of 2021 to pursue a Master in Environmental Management and Development at ANU, where she now tutors in the Fenner School of Environment & Society.

With both parents being Papua New Guinean, she's always been passionate about working on solutions to the issues affecting the Pacific region. At the Institute for Climate, Energy & Disaster Solutions, Mahealani works on communicating the findings of IPCC reports with audiences across the Pacific, and increasing Pacific Islander representation in these global reports.

She is also one of the coordinators for the Pacific Climate Warriors chapter in Canberra. She attended COP27 to observe the international negotiation process and as an advocate for climate and environmental justice. Though Mahealani's heart is in the tropics, she loves getting away and spending time in the many national parks and mountains around Canberra.

Genevieve Donnellon-May

Genevieve is a geopolitical and global strategy advisor interested in regional resource conflict and environmental governance in Asia and Africa. Currently, she is the Asia-Pacific analyst at The Red Line and a researcher at the Oxford Global Society. Genevieve is a founding member of One Million Minds and a co-founder of several non-profit startups which aim to strengthen ties between Australia and Asia.

She holds an MSc in Water Science, Policy and Management from the University of Oxford, and a Bachelor of Arts (Hons.) and a Diploma of Languages from the University of Melbourne. Genevieve is the recipient of the New Colombo Plan (2018), the Melbourne Global Award (2017) and the Chinese Government Scholarship (2014). She has held positions as the 2022 Young Australians in International Affairs Climate Fellow as well as at the Institute of Water Policy, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore, and the Asan Institute for Policy Studies, South Korea.

Baani Grewal

Baani is an Analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), which she joined in August 2021. Baani undertakes research and analysis on Indian foreign policy, India’s domestic developments in critical technology and cyber, the Quad, and India-China border tensions. She also researches broader issues of Indian Ocean security, South Asian regional dynamics and the Indo-Pacific.

At ASPI, Baani has played a key role in the establishment of a body of work on India and South Asia, culminating in the establishment of ASPI’s India Program. Baani also leads ASPI’s strategic engagement with South Asia, with a focus on India.

Prior to ASPI, Baani worked with the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade as a senior foreign policy research officer in New Delhi. In this role, she worked across a range of topics including maritime security, cyber and critical technologies, as well as contributed to Australia’s Covid-19 consular response. She was recognised for her contribution to the Australia-India relationship through the High Commissioner’s Award.

Baani is passionate about diversity and inclusion in foreign and national security policy. Before a career in foreign policy, Baani worked in international development programs supporting women and girls political and social rights in India.

Baani has a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Asian Studies and International Relations from the University of New South Wales, Sydney. She was an Observer Research Young Raisina Fellow in 2022. Baani has written and been cited in Australian, Indian and international media, including DW, Australian Financial Review and The Hindu.

Zoe Keath

Zoe is a Policy Support Officer with the Queensland Government and an Honours graduate from the Queensland University of Technology, specialising in criminology and psychology. Zoe’s honours thesis examined the role of politics and social media in the amplification and normalising of far-right extremist sentiment.

Alongside work in the public service, Zoe partakes in a range of volunteering opportunities, including as a Board Advisor with Voices of Influence Australia, a Parliamentary Officer with the Queensland Youth Parliament and as a Youth Advisor on numerous Youth Advisory Councils, including with the U.S Consulate, Queensland Family and Child Commission and Bravehearts.

In line with the world becoming more interconnected, so has Zoe’s experience. Zoe is an Ambassador with the Institute for Economics and Peace, a Global Youth Ambassador for Theirworld advocating and campaigning for inclusive and equitable education for all, and was a delegate with AASYP’s Break the Chain program and the UN’s 65th Commission of the Status of Women.

Jade Lee

Jade is a consultant at ASG Group, currently engaged at the Department of Health, Victoria. In mid 2020, she graduated from Monash University with a double degree in a Bachelor of Business and Arts, majoring in Economics and Indonesian language.

Jade has completed several internships at Hill & Associates, AIBC (Australia Indonesia Business Council) and Global Victoria, all revolving around Australia and Indonesia relations.

Since 2018, she has been an active volunteer for AIYA (Australia Indonesia Youth Association) and NAILA (National Australia Indonesia Language Awards). During her presidency for AIYA Victoria in 2021, she was given the Konjen RI Melbourne Award by the Indonesian Consulate for her dedication in promoting Indonesia in Victoria.

Jerry Nguyễn

Jerry Nguyen is in her final years of a Bachelor of Global Studies and Diploma of French at Monash University. As an immigrant, Jerry dedicates herself to amplifying youth and migrant voices in spaces where their rights are being discussed. Her work focuses on migrant rights in higher education and climate mobility.

As the recent Asia-Pacific Regional Director for the Migration Youth and Children Platform (MYCP), she was instrumental in coordinating national youth consultations for the Global Compact for Migration Asia-Pacific Regional Review. She co-designed one of the official stakeholder consultation roundtables, in key partnerships with UNICEF, UNESCO, and the Economic and Social Commission for the Asia and Pacific. She has been key in significantly growing MYCP's network of young migrants and leaders in migration policy in Asia and the Pacific. In 2021, Jerry served as MYCP’s youth representative during IOM’s International Dialogue for Migration session on youth involvement in sustainable Covid-19 recovery.

As Monash University International Affairs Society’s (MIAS) president, her work furthers the meaningful participation of youth in international affairs through innovative high-quality panel events, internship programs and mentorship programs. She strives to close the gap between students and leading diplomats through initiatives that overcome the complex accessibility barriers within international affairs.

She has also held previous roles at the Honorary Consulate of France, Monash Climate Change and Communication Research Hub, and the University of Melbourne.

She was chosen as one of UNESCO & Women@DIOR Asia-Pacific’s 2022 mentees and a two time recipient of Monash University Community Leaders Scholarships. Jerry speaks fluent Vietnamese and French.

Maria Nguyễn

Maria Nguyen is the International Education Officer at Family Planning Australia; a not-for-profit that is enhancing the reproductive and sexual health and rights of communities in Australia and in the Pacific region. She provides technical assistance to Ministries of Education and Health to implement Comprehensive Sexuality Education. Her work involves providing support for curriculum revisions, teacher training, and advocating for both formal and informal education on sexuality.

Maria is also an executive committee member of the UNESCO-supported SDG4Youth Network, a group of a hundred young education activists shaping global education policies. As a youth delegate, she presented the Youth Declaration at the second Asia-Pacific Regional Education Minister’s Conference held in Bangkok, 2022. Maria recently co-led Action Track 1 on ‘Inclusive, equitable, safe and healthy schools’ for the United Nations Transforming Education Summit held during the 77th General Assembly.

She previously worked as a primary teacher for the NSW Department of Education and has experience supporting students with learning disabilities and difficulties as an education specialist. Maria is a past recipient of the Australian Government’s New Colombo Plan Scholarship, which enabled her to study and complete her teaching practicums in Vanuatu and Singapore. She holds a Bachelor of Education (Primary Education) and a Diploma of Project Management.

Emily Pugin

Emily Pugin is a Kombumerri woman from the Gold Coast. She is an experienced diplomat, lawyer, and senior policy officer with ten years of experience representing Australia abroad across foreign policy, international development, trade, climate change, international security, and human rights issues.

Emily was Second Secretary to Vienna, Austria, from 2017-2021 where she led Australia’s negotiations at the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. She worked closely with UN Member States to reach consensus on the first resolution of its kind at the Commission on Narcotic Drugs to recognise vulnerable members of society. She also managed Australia’s bilateral relationships with Bosnia and Herzegovina, Hungary, Kosovo, and Slovakia.

Emily has represented Australia at the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the United Nations Commission for International Trade Law, and at UNFCCC negotiations – including the Paris Agreement and most recently COP27. Emily was a Sir Roland Wilson Pat Turner Scholar and holds undergraduate degrees in Laws and International Relations and a Masters of Public Policy. She enjoys long-distance running and ran a marathon to raise funds for the Australian Indigenous Education Foundation. She is currently an Assistant Director of the First Nations Taskforce at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Kyla Raby

Kyla Raby is a globally recognised anti-slavery practitioner and researcher. She has worked with survivors of human trafficking and slavery and designed anti-slavery interventions in the United Kingdom, Greece, Bangladesh and Australia where she currently works for the Australian Red Cross managing national prevention and response programs.

Kyla is a PhD candidate at the University of South Australia researching the role of the consumer in state legislative efforts to eradicate modern slavery in global supply chains. Kyla is also involved in numerous research projects related to the identification, protection and support of survivors of exploitation and her research has been published in global anti-trafficking and slavery journals.

Insights from both her research and practical experience have helped to inform anti-slavery law and policy in Australia and New Zealand. Kyla is also a member of the United Kingdom’s Modern Slavery & Human Rights Policy and Evidence Centre Peer Review College, dedicated to funding high quality and policy impact-focused research on modern slavery.

Kyla has lived and worked in over 20 countries in social service, humanitarian and philanthropic roles with government and non-government agencies and the private sector. This has included leading community development projects in Kenya, Cambodia and an earthquake recovery program in Nepal. She is a protection, gender and inclusion delegate with the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. She holds a Master of Public and International Law, a Bachelor of Journalism and a Bachelor of International Relations. Kyla is a sessional teacher with UniSA Online and RMIT Online.

Danielle Rajendram

Danielle is the Associate Director of the Advisory and Insights team at Asialink Business. In this role she leads evidence-based strategic and market insights projects to help Australian organisations capitalise on opportunities with Asia. She has a background in management consulting and government, with significant experience in enhancing Australia’s engagement with Asia.

Prior to joining Asialink Business, Danielle was a Senior Consultant at Nous Group, where she worked on a range of public policy and strategy projects for clients in government, non-government organisations and the private sector. Danielle has previously held Asia policy roles at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Department of Defence, and worked as a Research Associate at the Lowy Institute for International Policy.

Danielle has published widely on Asian strategic and economic policy, including one of the first significant analyses of the implications of the Indian government’s Asia policy under Prime Minister Modi in 2014 (India’s Asia-Pacific Strategy: Modi Acts East, Lowy Institute). She was a delegate to the Australia-India Youth Dialogue in 2014, and oversaw three iterations of the dialogue (2016 - 2018) as a member of the Dialogue’s Steering Committee.

Aarti Seksaria

Aarti Seksaria is an Indian-born young professional working as a Communications & Engagement Officer at Neoen, one of the world-leading companies producing exclusively renewable energy.

Most recently, Aarti has given opening remarks and introduced former Prime Minister Tony Abbot at an 'India' event in Sydney and been recognised as an 'Indo-Pacific Emerging Leader' by Latrobe Asia. Aarti has written for and/or worked at several Australian and Indian organisations like the ANU Energy Change Institute, The Centre for Independent Studies, IDFC Institute, China Matters, Accenture, Australian Red Cross and NDTV 24x7.

In 2019, Aarti produced Australia's first national energy research-only conference, 'State of Energy Research Conference', for the Energy Research Institutes Councils for Australia. She has also led and managed projects that helped Australian Government Departments and public sector agencies achieve their business objectives through improved communications and engagement.

Aarti brings a unique combination of skill sets through her Bachelors in Mass Media (specialising in Journalism) and Masters of International Relations (Advanced) with Honours. At ANU, Aarti was a Bruce Hall residential scholar, Vice-President of Women in Leadership society, and a Coral Bell student. She is currently volunteering for the Humanitarian Settlement Program run by the Australian Red Cross and the Australian Government Department of Home Affairs, and has previously helped MS Australia, Rotary Club (in India) and underprivileged children in Mumbai.

Tahlia Smith

Tahlia is an experienced international affairs practitioner with area expertise in Latin America and the Asia Pacific. She is passionate about bringing empathy and understanding to public policy and acting as a link between government and community as well as a bridge between Australia and the world.

Throughout her career so far, Tahlia has made meaningful contributions to the international community by working at the French Government in the education sector, the Ecuadorian Government in diplomacy and the Australian Government in the fields of counter-fraud and international trade, as well as various international NGOs.

Tahlia strongly believes in the importance of the role language and intercultural communication skills play in the conduct of International Relations. For this reason, she speaks Spanish, French and Portuguese and is also learning Mandarin and Australian Sign Language. She has used her language skills as a volunteer community translator and an interpreter for Colombian ex-guerrilla fighters and Australian university academics on the process of peace-building.

Tahlia is Queensland’s 2022 Rhodes Scholar and is studying her postgraduate degree at Oxford University, examining how inequalities in access to the outer space sector affect conceptualisations of security in developing countries. As part of her research, she represented Oxford University at the United Nations 2022 Outer Space Security Conference. Tahlia is currently working for Oxford’s Global Security Programme where she coordinates research projects that investigate security dynamics in the context of armed conflict, transitions from war to peace and responses to insecurity to provide policy briefs and recommendations to the United Nations, NGOs and government bodies.

Racheline Tantular

Racheline is a Fogarty Scholar studying Asian Studies and Music at the University of Western Australia and is completing her Honours thesis on urban redevelopment policy and shared religious spaces in Singapore after an exchange semester at the National University of Singapore.

Racheline works in the Immigration and Multiculturalism team under the Social Policy Division at the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, where she develops policy advice for the Prime Minister on immigration, multiculturalism, settlement, and humanitarian programs to achieve the best possible outcomes for new arrivals and the Australian public. She has also worked as an Analyst at Lydekker, an Asia strategy consulting and research firm.

Racheline is a recognised national-level youth leader and sought-after public speaker on Australia-Asia engagement. She is the Chief Partnerships Officer of the ASEAN-Australia Strategic Youth Partnership. In her first three years as Perth Hub Manager, she conceptualised and directed the Indo-Pacific Future Leaders Programme, led outreach and planning for the ASEAN-Australia Young Leaders Forum in Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, and online, and facilitated the Indo-Pacific Student Mobility Youth Dialogue.

Racheline enjoys giving back to the community and directed ‘Where Oceans Meet’ in 2021, a charity concert featuring traditional music of the Indo-Pacific region and music written by composers of Asian descent, with proceeds donated to the Australian Red Cross Global COVID-19 Appeal.

Racheline plays clarinet in the Western Australia Wind Symphony. She speaks Indonesian, Mandarin, and Japanese, and is excited to further her passion for languages as a New Colombo Plan Scholar.

Natasha Tioukavkin

Natasha is passionate about building people-to-people links between Australia and its Indo-Pacific neighbours. This passion motivated her to partake in the Australia-Indonesia Youth Exchange Program in 2020, which enabled her to participate in social impact projects, undertake a Global Competence Certificate and engage in purposeful discourses with her Indonesian counterparts. Furthermore, in 2020, Natasha taught legal English to over 60 students at Dagon University, Myanmar as part of a clinical legal program.

Natasha graduated from the Australian National University (ANU) with a Bachelor of International Relations and Bachelor of Law (Honours) in 2021. During her time at university, she completed a legal exchange at Maastricht University, the Netherlands, studied “Understanding Chinese Foreign Policy Making” at Peking University, China and partook in a Chinese Language and Culture course at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, as part of the New Colombo Plan Mobility Grant Program. In 2019, Natasha undertook a research internship in Taipei, Taiwan under the ANU Australian National Internships program and the Australia and New Zealand School of Government where she explored gender equality in employment in Taiwan.

Natasha currently works as a Graduate Policy Officer at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). She is also part of the department’s Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Committee. Coming from a multicultural background (Russian and Iranian), Natasha strongly believes in the important role of women and culturally and linguistically diverse individuals in diplomacy. Natasha speaks fluent Farsi, elementary Russian and is currently learning Indonesian.

Adriana Tsounis

Adriana is an Assistant Director at the Department of Home Affairs. Adriana is a subject-matter expert on transnational crime and security and leads engagement in multilateral fora such as the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). Adriana is also responsible for leading Portfolio engagement and reporting on Women, Peace and Security (WPS), a UN Security Council agenda to promote gender equality, protect the human rights of women and girls, and secure their full, equal and meaningful participation in peace and security process. Adriana recently led Australia’s preparation for the Eleventh Session of the Conference of the State Parties of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, and represented Australia at the United Nations in Vienna.

Prior to joining Home Affairs, Adriana worked in the INTERPOL/EUROPOL National Central Bureau (NCB) of the Australian Federal Police (AFP) where she drove Australia’s law enforcement response to the illicit trafficking of cultural heritage and works of art crime. Adriana represented Australia at the joint World Customs Organization (WCO)-INTERPOL ATHENA II pre-operational meeting in Singapore during her graduate year, and returned to the INTERPOL NCB between rotations for Operation ATHENA II. The operation was the first of its kind and led to the disruption of illicit cultural heritage flows into Australia. Adriana represented the AFP at formal restitution ceremonies to return objects to the governments of the Philippines and Pakistan.

Adriana holds a Bachelor of Laws and Bachelor of International Studies from the University of New South Wales, Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice from ANU and Certificate in Social Sciences and Humanities from Sciences Po. She is an admitted solicitor and speaks Greek, French and Spanish.

Cynthia Yuan

Cynthia is an Acting Director at the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s Green Economy Branch. In this role, she is responsible for providing strategic advice on issues that lie at the nexus of trade and climate policy to inform Australia’s green economy cooperation with key trade partners.

With a background in environmental law and energy policy, Cynthia has held various roles in Federal Government advising on clean energy standards and certification and environment protection and biodiversity conservation reforms. Prior to working in government, she gained experience providing transactional, legal, and policy advice to industry stakeholders in the energy sector, including mining and renewable companies.

Admitted as a solicitor to the Supreme Court of New South Wales, Cynthia holds a Bachelor of Laws (LLB) from Macquarie University and is completing her Masters of Environmental Law (LL.M) at the University of Sydney. Her research is currently being published in the Asia Pacific Journal of Environmental Law and Australia's Environment and Planning Law Journal.


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