Meet Stephen Rowcliffe, a graduate of the Master of Asia Pacific Studies who helping Australia prepare for a century of change and build deeper and better connections with its neighbours.
Stephen Rowcliffe says he “fell into” his specialisation in Asian studies over 20 years ago, after a Japanese language course he took as part of an Associate Diploma of Business sparked his interest.
“I was a policeman from the age of 19 for seven years, and I got to a point in my career where I was considering other options, but wasn’t sure about where I wanted to go. I left the Victoria Police and moved to Canberra and commenced an Associate Diploma of Business. I undertook an intensive Japanese language program as a part of that course, which precipitated a deep interest in all things Japanese. To develop that interest further, I undertook a Bachelor of Asian Studies at ANU with majors in Japanese language and medieval Japanese history.”
After 20 subsequent years featuring stints working in Kyoto and Nara with the Japanese Ministry of Education, for Ansett Airlines and in international fisheries negotiations with the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Stephen has just finished his Master of Asia Pacific Studies, also at ANU.
The timing of Stephen’s master’s graduation couldn’t be better, coinciding with the release of the Federal Government’s white paper on Australia in the Asian Century. After originally falling into Asian studies, he says he’s ended up “landing on his feet” as a professional with postgraduate expertise in the region, at a time when they’re most in demand.
“Tied very much with the Asian century paper, there’s a desire from the Government to have 30 per cent of senior managers in the public service having some sort of deep Asian understanding, underpinned by formal qualifications in the near future.”
Stephen currently works for the Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education, providing policy advice on international education issues surrounding the Government’s engagement with multilateral organisations such as ASEAN, APEC and the East Asia Summit.
He says the Master of Asia Pacific Studies program is particularly relevant to his work.
“If you’re putting a policy perspective forward at work, it’s nice to have the theoretical rigour behind it to say, I’ve actually studied this at a fairly high level so I’ve got some sort of understanding beyond what I’m reading and the view of the government of the day and my own personal perspective. I can meld all of those things together, and give objective advice to the Government.”
Stephen sees his master’s degree as part of a career progression towards doing work he loves, and highly recommends the program to other public servants.
“If people are working in government and they’re working in the Asian context, certainly something like the Master of Asia Pacific Studies would be very relevant. They can pick a regional area, they can specialise in a language, and they can then choose to specialise in social issues, or education, or history, or international relations, or the process of engaging with governments better, to mould the degree they want in the end.
“The Government is very generous in the way they support their staff with FEE-HELP, and it’s been made so much easier, thanks to the Asian century paper, for public servants from here on in to sell the benefits of a course like this. You can tie it to the work that any Government department are doing; whether it’s about economics or trade or education, it’s all about the Asian century.”