Welcome Message for the 2019 Australian Alumni Network Summit

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Mr Richard Sisson, Charge d'affaires – Australian Embassy in the Philippines, Rollie dela Cruz, Portfolio Manager-Economic, Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade, Milalin Javellana, Gel Ferrer, and the entire team of the Australia Awards & Alumni Engagement Program – Philippines, my fellow Australia Global Alumni, please allow me to begin my message, not with a good morning or a good day (in true and pure Australian accent), but with a THANK YOU, a thank you that comes deep from the heartstrings. We understand that your weekends are sacred but you all chose to be here – despite the early call time, the travel and distance to Antipolo.  In doing so, you chose to share your time, heart, and presence; hence, on behalf of the Australian Embassy, Australia Awards Philippines, and the 2019 Organising Committee, it is with a profound sense of gratitude that I welcome you all to the Second Australia Alumni Network Summit.

Today, we stand on the shoulders of giants as we look back to the very first alumni summit in 2018 when we were called to rekindle, re-tool, and reach out. (Play video highlights.) Building on last year's gains and success, we are delighted to present to you this sophomore summit, a day of CHANGE & INSPIRATION. We could not conceive any better theme than this because we believe that change and inspiration embody the very core and essence of the Australia Global Alumni in the Philippines. 

I am therefore overwhelmed to stand in your presence, in the company of change-makers and inspirers in your organizations, workplaces, and communities. As we gather on this occasion of learning and fellowship, not only will we share new ideas, exchange information, and spread inspiration. We will also (1) create synergy and build deeper connections among ourselves, (2) foster friendship, harmony, and understanding, and (3) deepen our people-to-people exchange. 

I must point out that at the heart of this year's Summit is innovation. That is why we assembled an exemplary roster of alumni speakers – who like you – create positive change and champion innovation in their respective professional communities. We have likewise invited a trailblazing individual whose passion to stir the Filipino entrepreneurial spirit is inspiring. Similarly, we did our best to infuse innovation into the summit design this year. Our plenary sessions are patterned after the TEDx talk which we envision to be much more engaging, insightful, and intimate. 

As a modest yet palpable manifestation of our care for the environment, we reduced our use of paper by providing you with a QR code which upon scanning prompts your devices to the digital program. 

We have also sourced external partners namely (Singapore Airlines, Chef Tony's, Meaningful Travels, Beyond Yoga – both of which are owned by our very own alum Nak Cunanan & Benedict Bernabe, respectively, V&M Naturals, Sarah's Artisanal Treats, and Terra Natura Herbals) to add some sugar, spice, and everything nice to your experience. 

As a penultimate activity, we will be engaged in meaningful conversations through a world café ably facilitated by Adrian Robles. Lastly, our Summit will culminate not in the usual ceremonial fashion but with an activity that will require brawn, brain, and most importantly, beauty. 

It is our collective hope that through the Second Australia Alumni Network Summit, we will all be inspired to build a stronger sense of community – in practice, culture, and engagement. After all, this similar sense of community was the main force that drove my fellow alumni to bring this Summit to fruition. I cannot leave this spot without paying tribute to the men and women of the Organising Committee – Marby, Amanah, Eunice, Rocel, Adrian, Jace, Jerwin, Owie, Elvie, Kring, Reyah, and all the volunteers, facilitators, and documenters whose indomitable spirit of service, selfless devotion, and unwavering volunteerism contributed to the fruition of this Summit. We are immensely grateful to the Australian Embassy – Mr Sisson and Rollie – and to Milalin, Gel, and the AAAEP team for being the wind beneath our wings.

I now wish to end my message with a question. After having done further studies and earning your Australian degree, “Do you still have a dream?” Because I do and I believe all of us still do. In fact, our desire to study and experience a life in Australia began with and was fueled by a dream. Now that we have come full circle – from mere dreamers to students & scholars to alumni – we must not stop dreaming – of a brighter future, of bigger goals, and deeper pursuits. 

And so how about we dream of an Australia Alumni Network that serves a greater, far-reaching purpose? That transcends being a sporadic network to a community with a steadier, more constant and sustainable presence? That evokes an intense feeling of belongingness and connection? How about we take our identity as Australia Global Alumni to the next level? 

My fellow alumni, if you believe that this is a dream you can share in, then dream with us – own this dream with us. Let us weave this dream, and realize it together so that we may continue to build the Philippines, strengthen the ties between our two great nations, and enable others to reach their own dreams as well.

At the end of today's gathering, perhaps we should part ways with some of the words of a classic song – We have a dream, a fantasy. To help us through reality. And our destination makes it worth the while. Pushing through the darkness still another mile. 

May our dream for the Australia Global Alumni in the Philippines take flight! Once again, welcome.

At this point, I have the honor to introduce our keynote speaker. 

Mr Richard Sisson, Charge d'affaires, Australian Embassy in the Philippines, is a senior career officer with the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. He commenced as Deputy Head of Mission at the Australian Embassy in Manila in July 2019. Prior to taking up this position, he was Assistant Secretary of the New Zealand, Polynesia and Micronesia Branch in the Office of the Pacific, DFAT.

Mr Sisson previously worked at the former Australian Agency for International Development, the former Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, the former Australian Customs Service, and the Department of Defence.

Overseas, he has served in the Australian Permanent Mission to the OECD in Paris, with responsibility for agriculture and fisheries, and related trade and environment issues, and as an Alternate Executive Director on the Board of the Asian Development Bank in Manila, representing Australia; Azerbaijan; Cambodia; Georgia; Hong Kong, China; Kiribati, the Federated States of Micronesia; Nauru; Palau; Solomon Islands and Tuvalu.

Mr Sisson has a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) from the University of Western Australia and a Master of Public Policy from the Australian National University.

We are truly edified by his presence. Ladies and gentlemen, my fellow alumni, friends, Mr Richard Sisson.

Michael Angelo E. Malicsi, LPT, MLdrshp

Summit Chair