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Career Spotlight: Renee Cremer, CEO, Young Australians in International Affairs

In this Career Spotlight, we have the pleasure of speaking with Renee Cremer, about her career in international affairs and her experience as CEO of Young Australians in International Affairs.

Originally from the Sunshine Coast, Renee Cremer is a proud Yuin woman, living in outer regional QLD. Renee is passionate about youth leadership and contributing to developing leaders of tomorrow, today.

In 2021 Renee had the honour of representing Australian youth as Australia's first ever delegate to the G7 Youth Engagement Forum (Y7). She was also a Global Voices Scholar, part of the delegation to the 2019 OECD Forum in Paris. During this time, she wrote a policy paper on improving engagement and integration outcomes for unskilled and underemployed female migrants living in regional and rural Australia.

Renee graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from Deakin University in 2021, completing a major in politics and policy studies and minors in international relations and criminology. She looks forward to developing a career in federal policy and international relations, hoping to inspire other young Indigenous women, and mothers especially, to pursue their passions with tenacity and dedication.

What motivated you to be the CEO of YAIA?

After taking some time to focus on my growing family and to complete my degree, I was looking to re-engage with my passion for international affairs and youth leadership. I was very honoured to be recognised as one of YAIA’s Young Women to Watch in 2022, so when I saw the CEO role I thought what better way to give back in a space that has inspired me for so long. Being chosen to be the first non-founding CEO of YAIA has been such a privilege and I can’t wait to see what the next 12 months holds for us.

What vision do you have for the organisation?

My vision for YAIA is that we continue to grow as the premier youth-led organisation focused on developing the next generation of young Australians who aspire to succeed in international affairs. In doing so, I hope we are able to foster a more diverse and inclusive community that demonstrates the value of fresh policy perspectives and skills that young people have to offer.

When did you realise that you wanted to pursue a career in international affairs? And what steps did you take to enter the field?

I realised I wanted to pursue a career in international affairs very early on in high school. I had a keen interest in human security and development from studying different topics in humanities classes and I had a passion for public speaking. During high school I also attended the National Schools Constitutional Convention in Canberra which inspired me to apply for a degree in government, politics and international relations.

It’s been a winding road for me since my first attempt at completing my undergraduate degree. I tried to start my studies immediately after school then ended up taking an extended break to have more financial security. Spending time in the workforce was very valuable because I gained skills and confidence, which I think helped me to succeed when I returned to study and began applying for extracurricular programs that asked for demonstrations of leadership and/or interpersonal skills.

Ultimately, focussing on developing as a leader and building transferable skills, regardless of what industry I was working in, is a key step I’ve taken to improve my chances of entering the field. As well, I have always tried to take up opportunities to gain experience, whether that be through scholarship programs, leadership training or volunteer roles like this one. All of these things demonstrate a willingness to learn and develop professionally, while creating a network with many truly wonderful people!

You have held a number of impressive roles, such as Australia’s first ever delegate to the G7 Youth Engagement Forum and a Global Voices Scholar at the 2019 OECD Forum. What has been your proudest professional achievement, and how has it benefited you in the work you do now?

My proudest professional achievement was being selected as a delegate to the OECD Forum as a Global Voices scholar. This experience pulled me back into the world of international affairs and inspired me to follow my aspirations despite the fact that I was still grappling with early parenthood. Undertaking the Global Voices program has benefited me in so many ways. From learning how to deliver an elevator pitch, refining my policy writing skills, and building the confidence to ask questions of high level professionals, the list feels never ending.

Having worked in a range of roles centred around youth engagement and leadership, what is your advice for young Australians seeking to enter international affairs?

My advice would be to prepare for many twists and turns along the way because everyone’s path is different. Be open minded on your journey. Take breaks when you need to, but never give up.

How have you juggled parenthood, being the CEO of YAIA, and your various volunteering roles? What advice do you have for mothers wanting to pursue their passions, particularly in international affairs? Along with your role as CEO of YAIA, and numerous volunteer activities, you are also a mother. What advice do you have for mothers who want to pursue their passion and enter international affairs?

Being a mum and trying to establish a career in international affairs has been challenging but also very exciting. I love being a mum and I know that the best parent I can be is one who is also focussed on pursuing my passions. With that said, I have a very supportive community of people in my life who have helped me along the way. So if I were to offer any advice for mothers who hope to enter the field, I suggest building your support network, especially while you are studying or trying to gain hands-on experience.

As a proud Indigenous woman, what changes are you hoping to see with the implementation of DFAT’s Indigenous Diplomacy Agenda which aims to develop a First Nations foreign policy?

Insofar as shaping international norms and standards to benefit Indigenous people, I hope to see more communication of Indigenous ways of knowing and doing. I believe this will be of benefit to all people, not just First Nations. Secondly, with regard to the global engagement of Indigenous Australia, I hope to see this go further than on the sporting field or in the Arts. These are important and valued fields, but First Nations people are also talented academics, leaders, scientists and have a connection to Country that can be harnessed to address some of the world's most pressing issues. A First Nation’s foreign policy has great potential and I hope it comes to fruition in such a way that it becomes embedded in Australia’s approach to international affairs, as well as domestic policy making, for generations to come.

What steps can we take to support First Nations peoples and the implementation of Indigenous-centred policies in international affairs?

There are a number of ways to support First Nations peoples and the implementation of Indigenous-centred policies in international affairs. As discussed in one of YAIA’s recent digital events, The Promise of a First Nations Foreign Policy, Australia's domestic political discourse is a significant reflection of what our actions might look like in the global political arena. Enshrining a First Nations Voice in Australia’s Constitution is a step in the right direction, I would say that the first step is to vote yes in the upcoming referendum.

Increasing representation and participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in every step of the policy process, across the whole of government, is essential to being able to implement Indigenous-centred policies in international affairs. I recognise this won’t happen overnight but I do believe that people struggle to be what they can’t see. For this reason, creating space and recognising First Nations people shining in their field of international affairs - or any other area - is of utmost importance. We must demonstrate to future generations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders that they can have a career in international affairs.

Whether it is in STEM, economics, education or taking action on the climate emergency, we need more representation of First Nations people to inspire our young people to bet on themselves and chase their dreams. Ultimately, the short answer is to enshrine a First Nations Voice in the constitution and work harder to ensure meaningful representation of First Nations people at whatever table you are sitting at.


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