Clayton Utz senior associate Elizabeth Pennell has this week returned from India where she provided a legal perspective on Australia-India relations as a participant in the inaugural Australia India Youth Dialogue (AIYD).
One of 15 Australian delegates attending the four-day conference held in New Delhi and Mumbai, Pennell joined 15 Indian participants in discussions aimed at promoting engagement between the two countries.
“The Governments of New South Wales and Victoria, together with the Australia India Institute and Macquarie University, decided it was important to create a level of interaction on a person-to-person basis between leaders and business people in Australia and India, below the level of management,” said Pennell.
“The idea being to promote both engagement between those individuals, and also to identify those individuals to the speakers at the conference, who were business and government leaders, as key players in the Australia-India relationship for the future.”
Nominated as one of the Australian delegates by the AIYD Steering Committee members, HWL Esbworth senior associate Sanushka Seomangal and Clayton Utz graduate Shaun Star, Pennell’s legal background, and in particular her experience with the Indian legal industry, was the key reason for her selection as a delegate.
Last year Pennell completed a six-month secondment as a consultant to Amarchand Mangaldas & Suresh A Shroff & Co in New Delhi, during which she worked closely with Australian Government representatives and leaders within the Indian business community.
“I’m one of the few Australians who have worked in any kind of legal capacity in India,” she explained. “I was a consultant to Amarchand Mangaldas, which is a top Indian law firm … Foreign lawyers aren’t allowed to practise in India, so getting into an Indian firm and seeing the way that their laws operate is quite a unique experience. That was the contribution that I was asked to make at the dialogue.”
An important issue canvassed by the AIYD, according to Pennell, was the cultural and social differences amongst Australian and Indian business communities.
“We spent two days in Mumbai being addressed by business leaders and people who are involved in either bringing Australian businesses to India or Indian businesses to Australia, talking about the challenges, cultural and socially,” she said.
“I do a lot of work with Indian clients coming into Australia. In areas like environmental protection and occupational health and safety, not only is the legislation different, but the approach to enforcement is very different. That kind of cultural translation is a vitally important role for lawyers here.”
Pennell said another key issue addressed during the AIYD, beyond the nuclear/uranium issue, was the education relationship between India and Australia.
“One of the key points was trying to redress some of the damage that was done in 2009 and 2010 following the attacks on Indian students. That was largely successful,” she said.
“A lot of the roles of the speakers at the conference in relation to education was correcting the understanding and clarifying some of the facts of the situation, as well as looking at the positive education outputs and skills that Australia is providing to India.”
To be held annually, Pennell said the AIYD is intended to be an ongoing feature of the relationship between Australia and India, to help the two countries remain engaged with each other.
The next AIYD will be held in Sydney.