Patrick Ingle: I’m in the amazing position of working on things I’d be reading about in my spare time anyway

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Patrick Ingle is Special Assistant and Advisor to the Hon. Kevin Rudd, President of the Asia Society Policy Institute in New York.

Prior to joining the Asia Society, Patrick worked for over four years in the Australian Prime Minister’s Department, where he focused on Southeast Asian political matters, Asian regional institutions and the South China Sea. He was the 2016 Michael and Deborah Thawley Scholar at the Lowy Institute for International Policy in Sydney and visiting Thawley Fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington DC.

A self-confessed “international relations nerd,” his research interests include United States and Chinese foreign policy, Chinese strategic culture, and Australian foreign and defence policy. He holds degrees in International Relations from the Australian National University and the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Interview by Molly O'Brien

How long have you been living in New York for and what initially took you there?

I’ve been in New York since January 2017 when I moved here to take up my current position as Special Assistant and Advisor to the President of the Asia Society Policy Institute. I’d visited New York a couple of times in the past and I’d been fascinated by the energy of the city and the sheer range of interesting people here. I always thought it’d be an exciting place to live!

Why is New York a strategic place for the Asia Society to be based?

New York is in many ways the centre of global diplomacy, business and philanthropy, and has a very strong pull for many people for those reasons. Given the Asia Society’s historical base in the city, and the work we currently do now, which cuts across policy, culture and education, it makes sense to be where so much of the action takes place. We also have thirteen other offices around the world as part of our global network, and we can reach all but one with a direct flight. That’s a pretty unique advantage.

What major policy challenges are you currently tackling?

We’re focused on three broad areas of work: security, trade and sustainability. US-China relations and North Korea are grabbing lots of attention these days, so a lot of my work gravitates towards those themes. We have an interesting mix here of day-to-day think tank work, such as writing reports and running public programs, and direct engagement with policymakers, where we have a chance to shape the debate. That work is amplified by our global network, which allows us to find new audiences and hear diverse perspectives that would otherwise be hard to reach.

What research interests appeal to you the most, and why? Was this always something you wanted to do?

I’m basically an international relations nerd, and within that, I’ve always been drawn to the big strategic questions, like the future of the US-China relationship. I’ve always been fascinated by global affairs and other cultures, I’m in the amazing position of working on things I’d be reading about in my spare time anyway. I spent a bit of time growing up overseas, and I’ve always wanted to live in other places and absorb as much as I can. New York seemed like a natural step in my professional and personal development.

What has been a personal or professional highlight since you’ve been based in New York?

Meeting so many of the extraordinary people we host at the Asia Society, from political leaders and dissidents, to artists and filmmakers. A particular highlight was being able to meet the Afghan rapper and activist Sonita Alizadeh, and a young Mongolian eagle hunter called Aisholpan Nurgaiv, at our Game Changers awards last year. Both are fierce and inspiring young women who really wowed the audience.

What do you think Australians do so well in New York?

I think we’re known to be hard-working and straightforward, but we can also laugh at ourselves. There’s a general friendliness and openness about Aussies that seems to gel with the enthusiasm and kindness of many Americans. There’s also a great support network of Aussies doing fascinating things around the city, whether that’s working in business, policy, the arts or academia. The great thing is we all help each other out — you need that support in a city like New York!

Outside of café culture (obviously) how do Australians influence the culture in New York?

There’s a large number of Aussies in the top cultural institutions around the city, especially in the major performing arts companies and galleries. The record of Aussies here shows that we comfortable mixnig it with the very best. All the Aussie bands I’ve seen here tend to sell out gigs pretty quickly, so I think our music scene has well and truly caught on here. We also don’t take ourselves too seriously in workplace culture, which I think is a positive contrast for a lot of New Yorkers. Bit-by-bit I’m trying to introduce more Aussie vernacular to NYC. I accidentally said ‘hospital pass’ in conversation the other day, which was met with utter confusion. I think there’s a bit of work to go still.