AsiaN-Australian Leadership Summit

The 2020 Summit

COVID-19 has been more than just a health and economic crisis, it is societal, with reports of racism and a strain of nationalism on the rise worldwide – and Australia is no exception. Since the emergence of the pandemic, some Asian-Australians have been made to feel like outsiders, with some questioning their Australian-ness, identity and sense of belonging.

At this critical time, strong leadership is required, and a renewed emphasis on the importance of Asian-Australian leadership to safeguard our cohesive society and economic prosperity.  

The second Asian-Australian Leadership Summit (AALS) is convened by PwC Australia, Asialink at the University of Melbourne, Johnson Partners and the Australian National University. This year’s Summit, facilitated via an online platform, will host a diverse program of interactive sessions, with the aim of establishing new strategies, new partnerships, and identifying champions of change. The 2020 event will also reveal the results of specially commissioned research.

A focus of this year is the exploration of essential skills and knowledge to allow Asian-Australians to move from the backrooms to the boardroom and succeed in obtaining leadership positions.



monday october 26 - 9am-10am

Opening remarks

The second Asian-Australian Leadership Summit will be kicked off by Peter Yu, the inaugural Vice-President (First Nations) at the Australian National University. In his opening remarks, Peter Yu will be sharing his insights in the role of Asian-Australians and the importance of cultural diversity in reconciliation.


monday october 26 - 10-11am

AALS Keynote conversation: featuring tan le

Tan Le, Founder and CEO, EMOTIV
Moderator: Anne Myongsook Witheford, Diplomat

A conversation with one of the world’s leading and most influential Asian-Australians on how to better recognise Asian-Australian talents back home in Australia and abroad in post-COVID-19 economic and social recovery.


monday october 26 - 12Pm-1Pm

Panel discussion 1:
Why Asian-Australian leadership matters

Antoinette Lattouf, Director and Co-Founder, Media Diversity Australia
Chin Tan, Race Discrimination Commissioner, Australian Human Rights Commission
Dave Sharma MP, Federal Member for Wentworth, Parliament of Australia
Professor Brian P. Schmidt, Vice-Chancellor & President, Australian National University

Moderator: Jieh-Yung Lo, Director, Centre for Asian-Australian Leadership, Australian National University

Asian-Australians have an important role to play in restoring social cohesion and economic prosperity in Australia’s post-COVID-19 recovery. However, discrimination and stereotyping, based on cultural characteristics and norms, have contributed to the under-representation of Asian-Australians in leadership positions.  To fully leverage the capabilities of Asian-Australians, it will require a coordinated effort and commitment by stakeholders from government, industry and professional bodies, businesses, universities and the media. Led by a panel of senior leaders that represent some of Australia’s major sectors, this session will discuss the importance of Asian-Australian leadership.

monday october 26 - 4pm-5pm

Workshop 1:
Mind over matter – Leadership and the Asian paradox

Austin Chu, General Manager, MLQ Plus

Host: Wesa Chau, CEO, Cultural Intelligence

Asian-Australians are often seen to embody the values of hard work, academic talent and success at all costs. However, beneath these model minority stereotypes lie deeply ingrained cultural attitudes that shape our behaviour and place us at a leadership disadvantage. Cultural nuances in our upbringing, such as comparisons with our more ‘successful’ third cousin, continue to influence how we perceive ourselves and find meaning in leadership.

This workshop focuses on our internal attitudes and provides an evidenced-based framework to position Asian-Australians for leadership success and challenge the bamboo ceiling.


tuesday october 27 - 11am-12pm

Panel discussion two: Talent strategies to build Asia capability in government

Harinder Sidhu, Deputy Secretary, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Kathrina Lo, Public Service Commissioner, NSW Public Service Commission
Swati Dave, Managing Director and CEO, Export Finance Australia
Catherine Seaburg, Assistant Commissioner, Inclusion, Australian Public Service

Moderator: Penny Burtt, Group CEO, Asialink, The University of Melbourne

Comprised of senior leaders within the public service sector, this panel discussion will focus on how we can build a more culturally and linguistically diverse talent bench in our federal and state government agencies. What are the strategies that will make senior leaders better recognise the important skills and perspectives Asian-Australians bring to an effective engagement with Australia’s diverse society and with the countries in our region.


tuesday october 27 - 4pm-5pm

Workshop two: Communication with power and influence

Jon Yeo, Founder and Lead Speaker Coach, Brightstar Consulting and Coaching

Host: Jieh-Yung Lo, Director, Centre for Asian-Australian Leadership, Australian National University

The fundamental difference of cultural values between Asian-Australians and non-Asian-Australians often becomes apparent in their networking and communication styles. For many Asian-Australians, the natural preference to be ‘seen and not heard’ and not to interrupt others mean they often miss out on leadership opportunities.
In this workshop, participants will have the opportunity to receive guidance from an experienced communication coach and curator. The session will provide strategies for how Asian-Australians can use their natural style as a strength, and  communicate  with power and influence.


wednesday october 28 - 11am-12pm

Panel discussion three: Navigating the double whammy – gender and cultural diversity

Geraldine Chin Moody, Co-Founder and Director, 5H Values Capital
Katrina Rathie, Partner in Charge, King Wood Mallesons

Moderator: Tamerlaine Beasley, Managing Director, Beasley Intercultural

Unfortunately for Asian-Australian women, the ‘glass cultural ceiling’ means they face significant barriers to obtaining and accessing leadership positions in their workplaces and industries – a reality that is reflected by the limited numbers of Asian-Australian women in senior leadership positions.  

While efforts have increased to support greater gender diversity and equality over recent years, pathways for women from culturally diverse backgrounds remain limited. Panellists will explore how organisations can do better to recognise the skills, attributes and contribution of Asian-Australian women and identify strategies on greater inclusion of cultural diversity representation in the gender diversity debate.


wednesday october 28 - 4-5pm

Workshop three:
The Start-Up of You

Gauri Bhalla, Founder, Curious Collective

Host: Melissa Ran, Head of Community, Air Tree Ventures

We often asked ourselves: “Can you have both security and create new  opportunities, to remain relevant for both yourself and employers?” The answer is yes. By considering yourself as a start-up, this hands on session will provide a taste of practical tools from Gauri and Melissa that you can apply to open future options for yourself with a manageable level of risk. This isn’t about starting a business, but about the business of you. Are you in?


thursday october 29 - 9:30-10:30am

Panel discussion four: Understanding the board agenda

Kee Wong, Board Member, Australian Institute of Company Directors

Lisa Chung AM, Non-Executive Director

Moderator: Jason Johnson, Managing Partner, Johnson Partners

A recent study by the Governance Institute of Australia and Watermark Search International found the proportion of directors from non-Anglo-Celtic backgrounds fell from 5.4 percent to 5 percent between 2016 and 2020. While many Asian-Australians have aspirations to join a board and pursue a board career as part of their professional portfolio, only a select few have broken through.

In this panel discussion participants will hear from Asian-Australian non-executive directors and leaders on their board career journey, including insights on how to obtain relevant experience, choosing the right boards, developing relevant skills sets, exploring how to overcome barriers, and highlighting your attributes as a board candidate.


thursday october 29 - 12PM-1pm

Presentation of the
40 under 40 Most Influential Asian-Australian Awards 2020

Host: Jason Johnson, Managing Director, Johnson Partners

The 40 Under 40: Most Influential Asian-Australian Awards will recognise the achievements of young Asian-Australian leaders in their fields. The Awards are designed to celebrate the achievements of the next generation of Asian-Australians, making them more visible in the wider community and to provide a stepping stone to further leadership opportunities.

The Asian-Australian Leadership Summit convening group and members of the judging panel will be announcing an esteemed list of ‘40 under 40’, a ‘Category Winner’ for each of the nine categories, along with an ‘Overall Winner’ for 2020.


thursday october 29 - 4-5pm

Workshop four: Resilience in leadership

Christine Yeung, CEO and Principal Psychologist, Beyond Story

Host: Jieh-Yung Lo, Director, Centre for Asian-Australian Leadership, Australian National University

This workshop aims to support Asian-Australian emerging leaders to build greater resilience, lead confidently with their unique cultural strengths and influence using their own lived wisdom during a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous period. Resilience not only helps individuals effectively cope with stress, respond to disappointments and adversity, it expands capacities to continue leading with a strong voice. It also creates conditions that support our basic human qualities of generosity, humility and love, to make meaningful and positive impact.


asian-australian leadership summit


Australia has a significant and growing Asian-Australian community, at around 12 per cent of the total population. However, there is systematic under-representation of Asian-Australians in senior leadership roles in our community.

The Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) Cultural Diversity Leadership Blueprint examined the cultural backgrounds of Chief Executive Officers of ASX200 companies, federal government ministers, heads of federal and state government departments and vice-chancellors of universities. The Commission found that just 1.6 per cent of them were Asian-Australians.


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