When the Australia China Alumni Association was launched in 2007, it was in touch with just a few hundred alumni. Today it boasts links with more than 6,500 Australian university alumni across China. Founder, Mr Edward Smith, spoke to Sophie Loras about the organisation and the benefits for Australian alumni in China.
Since launching in 2007, the Australia China Alumni Association has grown to include more than 20 Australian universities and 6,500 Australian university alumni across China. It continues to grow by 100 to 150 new alumni every month and the ACAA’s founder, Mr Edward Smith expects the organisation will have connected with a further 1000 alumni by the end of 2012 and reach nearly 10,000 alumni by the end of 2013.
Founding the organization was inspired by the returning Chinese graduates themselves, says Mr Smith.
“These people really loved their time in Australia,” Mr Smith says.
“And all have really interesting jobs. Many were very successful and wanted to somehow stay in touch or help link Australia and China, and yet there was no organization or platform to connect them to each other or back to their Australian university or to the Australian government or the broader Australian business community,” he says.
What began as an idea with no funding, no staff, and no office, quickly gained pace as Australian universities and government saw the advantages in all working together to support Australian university graduates returning to China.
The University of Newcastle was the first Australian university to come on board. Today, the ACAA has 27 Australian university partners, and a number of government and corporate partners including AEI, Austrade, AusAID, DFAT, CPA Australia, IELTS, Telstra, ANZ Bank, Mallesons Stephen Jaques, Business Events Sydney, Qantas, Oroton and AustJOBS.com.
The ACAA has a range of objectives. Firstly to help connect Alumni of Australian universities who are living in China to each other, and back to their university. It also provides a range of social and professional networking events to alumni, assistance with finding jobs in China, and keeping alumni abreast of the latest research coming out of Australian universities.
Most importantly, it aims to strengthen the people-to-people ties and the friendship between Australia and China.
“We consider each and every alumni an Ambassador for the Australia-China bilateral relationship,” says Mr Smith.
The ACAA has branches in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou and a volunteer coordinator for Shenzhen.
“We’re in touch with around 2,000 alumni in each of Beijing and Shanghai, and around 1,000 in the Pearl River Delta area (Shenzhen / Guangzhou / Hong Kong) and the rest are scattered across China in cities like Tianjin, Nanjing, Suzhou, Kunming,” says Mr Smith.
Around 80 percent of the alumni are Chinese and some 20 percent are expats, mostly from Australia, “but we are also proud to have many Malaysian and Singaporean members, as well as Swedes, Danes and others.” ■
– Introducing alumni to Prime Minister Gillard and to Governor-General Quentin Bryce during official China visits.
– The 2010 Alumni Awards which attracted 280+ attendees in Shanghai, and a finalist event for 150 alumni in the wonderful Australian Pavilion at World Expo.
– Engaging alumni such as Dr. Shi Zhengrong, founder of Suntech Solar (a UNSW alumni), Kevin Wale, President of General Motors China (a University of Melbourne alumni), Peter Pang, the former President of Bosch China (a University of Western Australia alumni) and many other terrific alumni to share their support and time with the ACAA.
– The Australia China Alumni Association Awards
– held annually. This nationwide competition celebrates the achievements of top alumni across a range of fields. Awards are given for Alumni of the Year, Entrepreneur of the Year, Young Alumni of the Year, for Women in
Leadership, for Banking & Finance, for ICT and New Media, for Research & Development and more. The awards open in May and culminate in a great Gala Dinner at a 5-star hotel in Shanghai in September.
“The Awards are a chance to celebrate and let the world know of the achievements of our alumni,” says Mr Smith.
Previous winners include Simon Chung, COO of ChinaSoft International (pictured above right), who won the Alumni of the Year Award in 2011. Simon studied maths at the University of Wollongong, before working in IT roles for the Australian Defence Department in anti-submarine warfare system, then telecoms in HK, before helping grow ChinaSoft International to its current 12,000+ employees today across several countries.