2019 Asia Future Fellow, Mark Batakin reminded us recently of an old Chinese proverb: ‘He who returns from a journey is not the same as he who left’.

This proverb speaks to the transformational significance of travelling into the unknown or unfamiliar. And while Mark used it to reflect on his own journey, I suspect the sentiment holds true for many who have taken part in this unique Brisbane-Beijing program — delivered by Griffith Asia Institute (GAI) in partnership with Peking University over the past decade.

Most likely it also strikes a chord with GAI’s global interns who reach the end of their Asia internships this week and will begin their journey home.

Like the Asia Future Fellows, our global interns embody Griffith’s commitment to understanding and engaging with the nations of Asia and the Pacific.  Of course, it’s not always an easy role to play, and no doubt each of them have faced a multitude of challenges along the way. But I am confident that they’ve also experienced moments of insight, forged new friendships and exceeded what they thought possible.  And, I hope that they will return home with a better sense of our wider Asia-Pacific neighbourhood, a deeper understanding of themselves and excitement for what the future might hold.

The advice and insights that our students receive in-country from our industry and academic hosts, partners and supporters, including Australian Chambers of Commerce, Trade & Investment Queensland and Australian Embassies is simply brilliant – and we are truly thankful for it.

These programs highlight the fact that ‘partnership’ has been a driving force for GAI’s agenda through 2019.

We have continued to build on longstanding partnerships—including with the Queensland Art Gallery & Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA). Now heading into its 15th year, brings our community into key debates about the future of our region through the Perspectives: Asia series. (And, just a heads-up, we’re already working on a fabulous line-up for the 2020 series).

We’ve also forged new partnerships—both within and external to the University—that have widened the reach of our engagement including with the Brisbane City Council and Griffith Cities Institute to deliver the Asia-Pacific Cities Summit—Young Professionals’ Forum. Our inaugural Witoelar Dialogue on climate change and sustainable development held in partnership with Griffith’s Climate Change Response Program, the Australia-Indonesia Institute and Universitas Indonesia offers another example.

And, we’ve celebrated our partnerships. Two highlights for me include welcoming Dr Erna Witoelar into the academic community of Griffith University, and more recently hosting Dame Meg Taylor, Secretary-General of the Pacific Island Forum Secretariat (PIFS) as our 2019 Asia Lecture keynote. The contribution these two women have made to regional and global diplomacy and governance is extraordinary. I’m pleased we could bring their voices to the fore and look forward to working with them in the future.

Lastly, across all our activities, we’ve relied on the partnership of our members and friends, who inform and inspire our agenda through their research expertise, teaching excellence and extensive networks and connections. We are especially proud of their individual and collective successes. Though too many to note individually, they span a range of themes, disciplines and geographies—from agribusiness to central banking in the South Pacific—from human rights to ocean economies. But one feature shared across these endeavours is the aspiration for positive impact on the lives of people and communities within our region.

The year really has been one of journey and transformation. Thank you for being a part of it. I’m especially thankful to the GAI team who have been a driving force in bringing our agenda together, and I look forward to working with all our partners—students, members, friends and colleagues—as we take this agenda forward into 2020.

Caitlin Byrne