Grace Underhill is the Director of Asia Pacific Week 2021. She is a Tuckwell Scholar at the Australian National University, currently in her third year of a Double bachelor's degree in Law and Arts. She majors in International Relations and minors in Asia-Pacific Politics, which has fuelled her passion for micro and macro issues facing communities in these regions. Grace was initially a delegate to APW in 2019 and was a member of the APW Committee in 2020.
Where would you like to travel in Asia and the Pacific regions?
I am an avid traveller and backpacker. A trip to the Solomon Islands three years ago and to China at the beginning of 2020 ignited my passion to travel more in both Asia and the Pacific, and to explore the less-travelled, more remote regions of these places. I had plans to travel to both Japan and the Philippines last year to fulfil this dream but obviously had to postpone due to coronavirus. I think both countries have so much natural and cultural beauty to offer, despite the fact that they are completely different in so many ways. Being able to visit and immerse myself in countries that I’ve been able to study in my degree is such an important learning experience that I hope to undertake as soon as borders open!
What issue in Asia and the Pacific regions are you most passionate about/intrigued by?
The causes and consequences of the notable absence of female political leaders who have achieved office on their own merit in Asia is a phenomenon I have more recently become aware of and conducted further research. In the vast majority of cases, each female leader (barring Tsai Ing-Wen from the Republic of China (Taiwan)) from Asia has leveraged the support and assistance from a family dynasty of which they are a member. Numerous female leaders fit this category: Corazon Aquino of the Philippines, the widow of an assassinated senator, or Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar, the daughter of its ‘founding father,’ are just two examples. Similarly, in the Pacific region women have the lowest representation in the world. I would love to see more analysis and discussion in society about why women are struggling to achieve office on their own merit. Ultimately, what needs to be done so that the manifold benefits of female leadership to the entirety of society can be realised?
What is your favourite book and why?
‘Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China’ by Jung Chang is a text that sprung to my mind as soon as I read this question. My mum gave me this book to read as a young teenager, and it was certainly one of the first that went far beyond the scope of young adult dystopian/fantasy genres that I had grown so accustomed to. The story of three female generations, who each lived through and witnessed some harsh and confronting realities, really stayed with me and opened my eyes to my passion for history.