The Vietnam Australia Centre (VAC) is a symbol of trust, a bridge of shared knowledge and experience, between Australia and Viet Nam.
By Quentin Derrick, VAC International Director and Nguyen Manh Hung, VAC National Director
In 2018, Viet Nam and Australia elevated their bilateral relationship to a Strategic Partnership. This is the first step towards the goal of a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. The Strategic Partnership included a renewed commitment to promoting peace, stability and prosperity in the region and globally, as well as a pledge to deepen ties based on respect for the United Nations Charter, international law and each other’s sovereignty, and independence. The Strategic Partnership also commits both countries to enhance mutual trust and understanding to strengthen the bilateral relationship and contribute to peace, stability and prosperity in the region.
In 2019, these commitments were put into action, with the then-Prime Ministers of Australia and Viet Nam agreeing to establish the Vietnam Australia Centre (VAC), to be hosted at the Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics in Ha Noi (HCMA).
The VAC is a symbol of trust, a bridge of shared knowledge and experience, between Australia and Viet Nam, that underpins a stronger, more resilient bilateral partnership. It enables Viet Nam and Australia to bring together influential leaders and experts to pursue policy solutions to shared regional issues, while deepening people to people and institutional links.
The fifth “Women in Leadership Journey” program held in the year 2023.
The VAC was formally launched in June 2022 during a visit to Viet Nam by Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator the Honourable Penny-Wong. It was established with five Foundational Partners: the Australian Government represented by the Australian Embassy, and the HCMA, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Party Central Committee’s Commission for External Relations and the Office of the Government representing Viet Nam.
Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong and President of the Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics Nguyen Xuan Thang with participants at the forum celebrate the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Australia and Viet Nam on August 22, 2023.
Now, after its first full year of operations, the VAC has firmly established itself as a vibrant centre of excellence, innovation and connection in the bilateral relationship. It has become a hub for education, research and dialogue that draws on Australian and Vietnamese experts to support Viet Nam’s leadership to address national and international challenges.
The VAC delivers important activities to strengthen collaboration in knowledge and innovation, including between public services, and support innovative partnerships between universities, research agencies, not for-profits and businesses, including: Coordinating and delivering training and capacity building activities for Vietnamese Government and Party officials in core domestic and international policy and decision-making competencies; Facilitating Australian experts, academics, government officials and policy makers to share their knowledge and expertise; and coordinating Australian and Vietnamese officials to will improve the leadership, come together for learning, exploration and research on topics of mutual interest to improved shared understanding and foster collaboration.
The VAC also places a priority on supporting women in leadership. VAC continues to support Women in Leadership Journey courses, a signature initiative supported by the Australian Government since 2017. By 2023 over 100 Vietnamese women leaders have already participated in courses delivered by the HCMA’s Centre for Gender Studies and Women’s Leadership (GeLEAD), Flinders University and Curtin University. Encouraging and incorporating gender equality, disability and social inclusion will remain a key focus for all VAC activities as the centre continues to evolve. In the future, activities such as Women in Diplomacy workshops, delivered by the Griffith Asia Institute, will be expanded to include a wider range of participants.
Combined, these activities will improve the leadership, strategic and analytical skills of Viet Nam leaders and officials, and enhance Viet Nam’s ability to pursue its strategic and economic interests nationally and on the international stage. The VAC is also contributing to stronger, more sustainable international linkages through which to pursue a shared vision for an Indo-Pacific region that is prosperous, resilient and shaped by global rules and norms.
Over the past year, the VAC has supported the HCMA’s Advanced Political Theory program, with piloting workshops delivered by Queensland University of Technology and RMIT Viet Nam. It also facilitated targeted capacity building for VAC foundational partners, such as research skills training delivered by the University of Queensland, and a workshop for Viet Nam’s Office of Government on strategic analysis.
HCMA’s President Nguyen Xuan Thang and Australian Minister Penny Wong pressed the button to inaugurate a portal of VAC on June 26, 2022.
One of the most exciting activities in the first year for the VAC is supporting representatives of the foundational partners to undertake study missions to Australia, to share experiences with Australian counterparts, officials and institutions and take lessons back to Viet Nam. The inaugural study mission took place in late June 2023, facilitated by the Australia and New Zealand School of Government (ANZSOG). During the visit, 18 representatives of the foundational partners participated in presentations, site visits and discussions in Canberra and Sydney, including visits to Parliament House in Canberra and Sydney, meetings with the Vietnamese Ambassador Australia, Nguyen Tat Thanh, Australian Member of Parliament, the Honourable Ms Dai Le MP, the Australian Diplomatic Academy, the Australian Public Service Commission, Australian National University and the University of Technology Syndey. The visit was very successful, and future similar missions are already in planning.
The VAC has other ambitious plans for the rest of 2023 and beyond. This includes the inaugural Viet Nam Australia forum which took place at HCMA in Hanoi in August 2023, focused on Regional Cooperation in a Changing World. Senior leaders and experts from both Australia and Viet Nam participated as guest speakers and panel participants. This was the first of many, with forums planned annually to explore topics of relevance to both countries and the region. The VAC also supported the first cohort of a flagship senior leadership certificate course, with 20 senior and emerging leaders from VAC foundational partners to commence the course in September 2023 delivered by Curtin University. In collaboration with the VAC, the University of Melbourne will also begin delivery of a higher education teaching certificate course that is focused on building capacity in lecturers from the HCMA and Diplomatic Academy of Viet Nam (DAV).
The successes of the VAC in just one year supported by ongoing high-level visits and statements of affirmation by senior representatives from both countries, prove the high regard in which the bilateral relationship is held by both countries. The VAC is, and will remain, a tangible demonstration of the strong mutual commitment to a more robust, deeper and genuine partnership between Australia and Viet Nam into the future, which rests on a solid foundation of friendship developed through the past fifty years.
Source: Special magazine on 50 years of Australia-Vietnam diplomatic relations