In June 24, the Australian embassy invited Lisa Qin, one of the 2013 ACYD delegates, and 2014 & 2015 ACYD organisers to speak as a representative of ACYD/ACYPI. Lisa talked about her Australia China story, as well as the importance of the networks and support she had received through ACYD. Here is her speech.
Australian Embassy Alumni Event – Speech, June 24
Just today Hockey announced Australia will be joining the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank as a founding member and the “massive new opportunities” available. Every other week it seems there’s another news article emphasizing the importance of Australia-China relations and developing Asia-literacy.
How do these events play out in our day-to-day lives? It is really our tangible experiences and connections which form the basis of our Australia-China stories. The macro policies are only the backdrop.
And in my Australia China story, for me what really weaves together the sunburnt country of my childhoodwith this often overwhelming country of China where I live today is the transformative power of education, and growing up with Australia’s egalitarian ideals.
Looking back on my family history, it seems an extraordinary stroke of luck that I’m here today. My father was one of four children that survived out of his 10 siblings because of the extreme poverty in which he grew up in rural Guizhou, still China’s poorest province today. My mother was the only girl in her family of six children when girls were not very valued. My grandmothers were illiterate, and my grandfathers had only a very basic schooling. But it was their families’ strong insistence on their children’s education that changed their lives and mine.
As a child, my dad didn’t want to study. But every time he tried to skip class, my granddad would chase him with a big stick all the way to school. And my mother always had my grandma’s support to study, because my grandmother as a child was so desperate to learn she would sneak to the local school andused to crouch under the classroom windows trying to listen in on lessons.
My parents met at university as the first in their generation to attend after the Cultural Revolution. My father then won a scholarship to study in Australia in the 80’s. I was three when my mother and I joined him in Canberra – clearly changing our futures.
If my parents had stayed in Guizhou, there is no doubt my life choices would be much more limited. Instead, even as an immigrant living initially in public housing, with parents working menial jobs, as cleaners and kitchen-hands, I was able to access a world-class public education in Australia. This gave me a platform to work as a lawyer in Hong Kong and Sydney, a teacher in Geelong, and study on a scholarship to Harvard. It’s difficult to imagine these opportunities being accessible for others in my position or background in any other country in the world.
The confluence of good fortune and my family history, as well as being able to benefit from Australia’s commitment to quality public education has also shaped my decisions to work in education, and now with UNICEF and the Asian Development Bank to improve the lives of some of the most disadvantaged children.
I’m also here because of the welcoming and supportive Australia-China community, particularly in Beijing. The friends and connections I’ve made through being a delegate and organizer of the Australia China Youth Dialogue and part of the Australia China Young Professionals Initiative have helped set me on my path today. The embassy has always been a huge supporter of these initiatives, and through them, I’ve had access to mentors, peer guidance and different learning opportunities. It’s so encouraging to see that the Australian embassy now has a specific focus on alumni. And a focus on these kinds of events is important, because they bring people physically together. There’s no substitute for face to face contact and this is where strong connections are made that can help drive the Australia China relationship further.
The Australia China space we’re all part of is really exciting place especially in this period of history. I hope we can keep hearing, sharing and learning about each other’s Australia-China stories!
Lisa Qin specialises in international education. She has lived and worked in five countries, including as an educator, corporate lawyer, and auditor in Australia, China and Hong Kong.
Lisa is passionate about improving educational outcomes for disadvantaged youth through research, entrepreneurship, and policy reform. She was born in Guizhou and grew up in Canberra.
Lisa completed an Ed.M at the Harvard Graduate School of Education as a Frank Knox Fellow. She has a BComm/LLB from the Australian National University, an M.Teach from the University of Melbourne, and studied Mandarin at Tsinghua University’s IUP program.