In the heart of Canberra, from 5th to 7th December, the Australasian Aid Conference (AAC2023) brought together over 500 attendees at the Crawford School of Public Policy, The Australian National University.

Among the notable participants were key members of SMEC, each contributing unique perspectives and expertise to the discourse.


Libby Paholski, General Manager Environment & Social ASEAN & Pacific, lauded the conference’s success, noting the palpable energy and shared commitment to a better future. “It was truly heartening to witness over 500 individuals, representing diverse development disciplines and sectors, come together,” she remarked. Libby’s sentiment encapsulated the prevailing theme of unity and purpose at the conference.


Brad Bowman, International Development Director, emphasised the critical theme of locally led development as a catalyst for transformative change. “Locally led development means decision-making and power closer to and inclusive of those benefiting from it,” Brad reflected. He underlined the complexity of such approaches, requiring not only strategic thinking but also a genuine engagement of hearts and minds. “Investing in co-design at a local level ensures work that is relevant, wanted, and sustainable,” Brad added, emphasising the enduring impact of this approach.


Corin Mitchell, ASEAN & Pacific IFI Business Development Director, underscored the pivotal role of partnerships in successful development endeavors. “Partnerships are key. Without successful and human-centric partnerships, delivery weakens, and positive impacts can be close to zero,” Corin asserted. His emphasis on the importance of collaborative efforts echoed the overarching theme of unity and cooperation in international development.


Zahid Iqbal, Regional Manager Pacific, provided insights into the sessions that resonated most with the SMEC team. “A standout moment was the yarning circle on how First Nations people should take a leading role in Australia’s development program. It was inspiring to witness ideas that, if realised, could bring about meaningful change,” Zahid remarked. The team also found a presentation on integrating development approaches into carbon credit projects particularly thought-provoking, highlighting the potential for lasting sustainable benefits to communities.


Beyond the structured sessions, the SMEC team cherished the informal connections, knowledge sharing, and shared sense of purpose that permeated AAC2023.

What we all enjoyed alongside the structured sessions was the connection, knowledge sharing, and sense of purpose of hundreds of people gathered together for the AAC2023.
———— Libby Paholski, General Manager Environment & Social ASEAN & Pacific

As SMEC continues to play a pivotal role in the international development space, its participation at AAC2023 serves as a testament to its commitment to fostering collaboration, sharing insights, and contributing to sustainable development outcomes. The conference has not only deepened SMEC’s understanding of the evolving landscape but has also reinforced the importance of locally led development and impactful partnerships in shaping a better future for communities worldwide.