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Events 2014-2015

Entertainment and events on Southeast Asia from 2014-2015

From film screenings to professional development workshops, seminars and book launches, our public events program features local and international experts on Southeast Asia.

A look back to 2015

Seminar, co-hosted by the Malaysia and Singapore Association of Australia, the Sydney Democracy Network, and the Comparative and International Education Research Network

Singapore’s general elections were held in September 2015 shortly after the death of the anointed national ‘founder’ Lee Kuan Yew and during the 50th anniversary jubilee celebrations, giving the incumbent People’s Action Party (PAP) a significant advantage. Given the PAP’s relatively lacklustre electoral campaign, the PAP’s resounding electoral success took many by surprise. A panel of specialists discussed the key factors which have contributed to the PAP’s electoral resilience and the implications of the recent Singapore swing in political currents and trends in Southeast Asia. The event also launched Dr. Yeow-Tong Chia’s book Education, Culture and the Singapore Developmental State: “World-Soul” Lost and Regained? (Palgrave Macmillan 2015).

Film screening

Ah Boy watches a porn videotape, and it gets stuck. Bad news – his father is on the way home. A no holdʼs barred short story that encapsulates all the ugly things that the Singapore Government tries so hard to erase or suppress – porn, drugs,’aguas’ (pondans), racial conflicts and the use of dialect. It’s the Director’s love letter to his childhood days when he would 'watch-anything-he-can-grab-on-VHS'. 

Postgraduate research workshop, co-sponsored by the Faculty of Arts Collaborative Research Scheme

The University of Sydney brought together HDR students from Sydney and other Australian universities to participate in a one-day postgraduate research workshop. Students took part in discussions on how activists interface with the Government of Indonesia and whether this relationship has changed under the leadership of President Joko Widodo, and presented relevant research. It also included professional development sessions and networking opportunities. 


Serious allegations of corruption and collusion are threatening the legitimacy of the Government of Malaysia, in particular the ‘1MDB’ case in which Prime Minister Najib allegedly had millions of dollars transferred from state-owned enterprises to his personal accounts. Wong Chen, People’s Justice Party MP, discussed the latest political and economic developments in Malaysia stemming from the multi-billion 1MDB financial scandal, and the far reaching implications of such actions on Malaysia’s already fragile democracy.

International Festival

In collaboration with the University of Sydney Union's International Festival, ASEAN Day showcased the tastes and dances of Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.

Co-hosted by Sydney Ideas and the China Studies Centre

Three outstanding young writers provided fresh perspectives on life in Asia’s most dynamic and powerful countries. Miguel Syjuco (The Philippines), Annie Zaidi (India) and Sheng Keyi (China) delved into the many facets of their countries - the powerful and the powerless, the complexities of culture, politics and modernisation. Each described what it feels like up close and personal with an insider's eye and passion. The writers were joined by Dr Tiffany Tsao, in a panel chaired by Julianne Schultz, editor of Griffith Review.

Seminar, co-hosted by the Philippine Consulate General and the Australia Philippines Business Council

Dr Sandra Seno-Alday from the University of Sydney Business School discussed the implications and relevance of the AEC to business strategies. The ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) is the goal of regional economic integration by 2015. The AEC envisages a highly competitive, single market full integrated into the global economy.


When marital dissolution takes place, divorcees often experience major transformations, turbulences and disorientations in different aspects of their lives. Divorcees have to construct what Dr Quah refers to as, a divorce biography, to dissolve an unsatisfying marriage, cope with the changes and consequences of divorce and make future plans. One of the most pressing problems many divorcees face is in the area of housing. As part of working out their divorce biographies, divorcees find themselves having to deal with accommodation issues and come up with post-divorce living arrangements. In the context of Singaporean society where existing housing policies are largely catered to the state-endorsed family model (heterosexual, legally married couple, dual-parent family with children), individuals from non-normative families like divorcees face structural obstacles as they attempt to resolve housing issues. In this seminar, Dr Sharon Quah from the National University of Singapore shared her research findings on housing troubles confronting Singaporean divorcees and the strategies they developed to cope with such difficulties after the divorce.

Co-hosted by Sydney Ideas

With recent progress in research on the languages of mainland Southeast Asia, we now know more than ever about what these languages are like, who speaks them, where they have come from, and where they are going. A panel of experts in Southeast Asian languages spoken in countries ranging from Bhutan, to Burma, China, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia, discussed many old myths and new truths about the languages of this fascinating area of the world.


Two of the most prominent forces in current Thai politics are the monarchy and protest movements. Yet, we know very little about how these two forces shape electoral politics and influence voter behaviour. In this seminar, Professor Allen Hicken from the University of Michigan presented some of the results from a unique survey experiment conducted in the days prior to the 2011 election. He also examined how candidates’ associations with either the yellow or red shirt protests affect voter evaluation of those candidates.

Public forum

Three female leaders with a connection to Southeast Asia discussed their views of leadership, the particular challenges they have faced and how they have overcome them, and what their connection to Southeast Asia means for their leadership experience. Featuring Lydia Santosa, solicitor with Nicholas George Lawyers; Jane Brock from Immigrant Women’s Speakout Association of NSW and; Angelica Casado, Director of the Australian Thai Youth Ambassadors Program, the public forum was held in conjunction with a two-week short course hosted for a group of future female NGO leaders from Indonesia.


Constitutional reform dominates political discourse about Burma/Myanmar. The milestones of the current transition to democracy have seen the constitution become a lens through which all major political and social issues are conceptualised. Outside observers often see this debate as ultimately about a single issue: will the constitutional barriers preventing Aung San Suu Kyi’s ascendancy to the presidency be lifted? But renewal of the country’s basic law has long been on the agenda for democracy activists and ethnic political groups alike, and their demands are different and diverse, touching not only on the role of the military and who can become president but also on federalism and the role of religion in politics. In this seminar, Andrew McLeod from the University of Oxford traced the origins of the current constitutional reform process and examined the prospects of constitutional change in the lead up to this year’s general elections and beyond.