Students Receive Video Call from Former Australian Ambassador to Iraq, Iran

In a video call with Mr. Marc Innes-Brown, students were given the opportunity to talk to the former Australian Ambassador to Iran, applying knowledge from their social studies courses to explore current political issues and learn about the life of a diplomat. Students gathered after school in Mr. Bray’s room on Monday, Feb. 22 to prepare questions and make the call. The opportunity proved to be a valuable experience to interview a figure operating in higher level government positions, especially for students interested in foreign relations as a career.

Mr. Innes-Brown served as the Australian Ambassador to Iran from 2008 to 2013 as well as working in several other government positions prior to that. He has held the titles of Ambassador to Iraq and Iran, Head of the Iraq Task Force, Director of the Indonesia Section and East Timor Section, and First Secretary of the Australian Embassy in Washington. Mr. Innes-Brown is currently the First Assistant Secretary of the Australian Embassy in the Middle East and Africa division, and is responsible for overseeing various tasks in relation to this area. His responsibilities include developing and implementing regional policies to managing foreign relations and organizing visits from other embassies.

“With the communications revolution, countries are much more open than they were 20 or 30 years ago,” Mr. Innes-Brown said. “Things happen around the world that have a much greater impact on developments inside a country today.”

Due to increased interconnectedness in our globalized world, careers in foreign relations are more important than ever. For instance, Mr. Innes-Brown discussed Australia’s involvement in the coalition against the Islamic State, or Daesh, explaining that in the modern world security doesn’t stop at the border. Violence in the Middle East has links throughout the world and support networks in various countries, possibly including Australia. Cooperation between countries to solve problems like these is essential.

“I’m glad I had this opportunity,” Cat Lu ‘19 said, “because it’s not every day a high school student can discuss things with an Australian ambassador or an ambassador in general, and be able to talk with somebody who directly deals with issues we hear about in the news, and that shape the way our world is.”

This special video call was set up by social studies teacher Mr. Tim Bray. Mr. Bray became friends with Mr. Innes-Brown in 1992, while studying the Thai language at the Southeast Asian Summer Institute at the University of Washington in Seattle. Mr. Bray’s Pre-IB World Area Studies class recently studied political geography, and knowing that Mr. Innes-Brown had followed a career in foreign relations, Mr. Bray was able to contact his friend and set up an interview session for interested students.

“[My students] seemed really interested in political geography and some of the contemporary issues we were looking at,” Mr. Bray said. “I thought [they] might appreciate the opportunity to meet someone who makes their life trying to solve issues affecting multiple states.”

In the interview, students had the chance to ask Mr. Innes-Brown about subjects ranging from the opinion and role the Australian government plays in current events to his personal journey to becoming an ambassador. Many saw a striking correlation between what they’re learning in their Pre-IB World Area Studies classes to matters Mr. Innes-Brown touched upon, which showed the relevance and applicability of the course.

“[Mr. Innes-Brown] transitioned really easily into the vocab we were studying at school,” James Lemuel ‘19 said. “It’s cool to see how what we’re learning isn’t just something in a textbook but applicable in real life as well.”

Students who attended the video call were also able to discover more about global political affairs. In addition, they learned more about careers in foreign relations or politics, fields not widely explored at Westwood. Looking at events from perspectives explored in the interview, students were able to see recent events and political organization from a different viewpoint.

“I learned a lot about policies and how much money is shaped around it,” Shea Li Dombrowski ‘19 said. “I learned a lot about how countries want to shape or frame issues that they see.”

Each student who participated was able to take from this rare opportunity. Through discussing current affairs and foreign relations with Mr. Innes-Brown, participants benefited from a valuable experience that supplemented and expanded on knowledge gained from their studies.