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Young Women to Watch Alumni Spotlight: Renee Cremer

In this Young Women to Watch in International Affairs Alumni Spotlight, we have the pleasure of speaking with Renee Cremer about her journey from Global Voices Scholar in 2019, to 2022 Young Women to Watch Finalist, to CEO of Young Australians in International Affairs.

Originally from the Sunshine Coast, Renee Cremer is a proud Yuin woman and mother. Renee is an early career public servant living on Ngunnawal and Ngambri country.

Passionate about youth leadership and paving the way for future generations, Renee looks forward to engaging more First Nations youth in international affairs as Chief Executive Officer of Young Australians in International Affairs.

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. Renee has also spent time as a youth support and pathways coordinator in regional Queensland.

Looking back at your recognition as one of the Young Women to Watch in International Affairs in March 2022, how has it influenced your professional journey and personal growth?

Being recognised as a Young Woman to Watch in International Affairs was a truly momentous occasion for me. I consider this recognition as one of the key reasons I applied to become CEO of YAIA! This recognition gave me the confidence to continue aspiring to engage in international affairs at a time when I lacked the belief in myself to keep aspiring to succeed in the space.

My professional journey since 2022 has been heavily based on my work with YAIA. Leading a team of over 40 volunteers has taught me so much about the importance of fostering community and connection, and working toward a shared vision with such an incredible group has been beyond joyous.

What inspired you to apply for the Young Women to Watch in International Affairs list? What advice would you offer to women who are interested in applying?

I applied because I felt I had achieved great success in my position as Australia’s delegate to the G7 youth engagement forum and as a Global Voices scholar. Also, as a young Indigenous woman aspiring to succeed in international affairs I didn’t have many people like me to look up to. Ultimately, this was an opportunity for me to contribute to inspiring other young women from diverse backgrounds who may have more barriers than most to keep following their passions.

You have been the CEO of Young Australians in International Affairs since mid-2022. What are your day-to-day responsibilities, and what has been your proudest achievement so far?

My day-to-day responsibilities vary a great deal. The key part of my role at YAIA is to drive the strategic direction of the organisation over the short and long term. So I spend a lot of time talking with our volunteers about how we stay relevant and connected to international affairs, but in a way that represents the priorities of young Australians. Further to this, I spend a lot of time engaging with the international affairs community, promoting the work of YAIA, and learning from experts in the field to bring this knowledge back and continue developing our community.

My proudest achievement so far has been designing and implementing the First Nations Foreign Policy Future Leaders Series. The Future Leaders Series is our flagship program designed to engage Australia's future leaders in the critical issues affecting Australia, the Indo-Pacific region and the international system. It equips young people with the knowledge, skills and networks to respond to these challenges and shape future policy decisions. Together, we worked with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous young people from around Australia to listen and learn from First Nations experts and young people in the Pacific. We delivered an outstanding communiqué to our partners and have shared this work on our website.

What experiences or moments helped you identify your passion in foreign affairs, and how did you pursue it?

I realised I wanted to pursue a career in international affairs very early on in high school. 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 spent time in the workforce which was very valuable because I gained skills and confidence that 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.

I have pursued a career in international affairs by tailoring my study and extracurricular experiences to the field. This positioned me well to apply for a graduate program after I completed my studies, which has led me to Canberra. I hope to continue engaging in the space by being present and bringing my unique lived experiences and perspectives on foreign policy whenever opportunities to engage arise.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, particularly women, continue to experience significant underrepresentation in foreign policy and international forums. What advice would you offer to other young Indigenous women aspiring to pursue careers in this field?

Connect, connect, connect! This field is all about networking and having the courage to engage in spaces that historically we may not have felt welcome. I still look around the room at some international affairs engagements and instantly feel some creeping feelings of frustration that I may be the only Indigenous woman in the room. But I don’t let this hold me back.

I also think it is important to recognise others who you share this experience with and lift them up. Help raise the voices around you and your community wins. It goes without saying that it takes hard work and dedication to gain momentum in international affairs. However, I truly believe now is the time for young Indigenous women to engage because we hold so much valuable knowledge about caring for Country, the meaning and practice of reciprocity, and the responsibility to hold space for future generations in decision making. All of which is so important as we navigate the geopolitical arena of the 21st century.

Looking ahead, what are your goals and aspirations? What impact do you hope to make in the coming years?

I feel like I have just achieved many big goals and I’m living out my dreams, so it’ll be steady sailing for a little while as I assess my personal and professional aspirations.

In the coming years I hope to impact First Nations engagement as it relates to Australia’s approach to foreign policy. What that looks like in practice I’m not exactly sure but I believe there is a serious opportunity for Australia’s foreign policy to benefit from the knowledge and expertise of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Nominations for the 2024 Young Women to Watch List are open 1st December 2023 - 31 January 2024. Nominate yourself or somebody else!

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