Sister Cities Building Diplomacy


The Taipei City Government recently succeeded in establishing a formal internship program through the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade via the New Colombo Plan. Through this arrangement Australian university students are now able to apply to serve as interns with the Taipei City Government. This is one of the only programs in the world that offers such an opportunity for foreign interns.  

One of the first applications they received was from Makaela Fehlhaber, who is studying a Bachelor of Laws (Honours)/Bachelor of International Relations (Majoring in International Diplomacy) at Bond University on the Gold Coast.  The Taipei City Government were deeply impressed by Makaela’s background in international law and strong interest in diplomacy.

A Strategic Relationship

For Makaela Taiwan’s diplomatic situation was a big attraction with the internship as it encapsulates the focus of her university studies. “Taiwan doesn’t have formal recognition from a lot of countries and wants to improve that situation, especially its ties with China, Australia and the US. By taking Australian interns into their program it can help build strategic relationships with Australia through the New Colombo Plan program.

“Throughout my international relations degree I’ve had a strong focus on Asian affairs, particularly Korea, but I’ve also looked into human rights and international law throughout the region. This is an opportunity to experience the culture there and to better understand the political climate,” Makaela says.

Positive Outcomes

While there are many diplomatic sensitivities in the region Makaela sees her internship as an opportunity for positive outcomes. “I really want to formulate some events with Australian bodies during my internship to encourage young professionals to come to Taiwan, engage with the Taipei City Government and understand the policies of the Mayor of Taipei and how he’s hoping to build relations with China.”

Makaela with former Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop

Following the completion of her internship Makaela will undertake a research project at the University of Malaya. “I plan to create two articles from my research, the first will focus on how international commercial surrogacy arrangements affect the rights of the child, while the other will look at the emergence of non-state actions in international law and attributing their conduct to the state and how international law is developing on that point.”

When asked to identify her post-graduate plans Makaela says: “A career in international law would be ideal. Long term I’d like to pursue something in public international law, like working for the UN, or the International Committee for the Red Cross focusing on human rights.”  

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