On Thursday 16 November 2023, the Australian Centre for Federalism (ACF) hosted a delegation from Brazil's New Federation Council to learn about best practices in Australian federalism.
The event was requested by the secretary of the Brazilian government's Federation Council to the Forum of Federations, an international government-sponsored research institute that organised the delegation's "Australia Study Tour" in conjunction with the Commonwealth, Victorian, and NSW governments. The Brazilians specifically asked the ACF to provide a critical perspective on some of the lessons learned on their study tour, considering the context of Brazil. This was a formal opportunity for the ACF to promote its expertise in federalism in Australia and in a comparative context, which is part of the center's founding mandate. The trip was sponsored by the Forum of Federations, which is based in Ottawa, Canada.
The guest speakers were Prof. Alan Fenna of Curtin University and Prof. William Sanders of the ANU. Both scholars are leading experts on federalism in Australia. They were invited to participate in the discussion with the Brazilian delegation to help them understand the key institutional mechanisms and factors that contribute to the high level of cooperation in Australian federalism and its intergovernmental relations. The Brazilian Embassy in Canberra also participated in the event and sent a senior delegate to observe.
This was a valuable exchange for ANU and Australian scholars to learn more about Brazilian federalism and to consider how they can help Brazil address some of its major federalism challenges through best practices in Australia. The Australian side provided valuable insights into how Australia's culture of intergovernmental relations came to be and how it is maintained. For some of the ACF's own fellows who work on non-Australian federalism research, it was also an opportunity to learn about Australian federalism from two of the country's leading scholars. The eight-member Brazilian delegation and four Australian-based scholars had a successful and productive discussion about how the federation can reform and what best practices may or may not be transferable to non-Australian federal contexts.