Ben Salling

Assistant Policy Officer at Department of Families and Justice in Sydney, Australia

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Alumnus of IGF Session 10, 2015-2016

As the IGF program was coming to an end, I was contacted by the Zionist Federation of Australia in regards to a job opportunity that became available with the Australasian Union of Jewish Students (AUJS). AUJS was in the process of establishing a new political leadership program – now known as the Susan Wakil Fellowship – and was looking for a Director to run that program. I was the successful candidate for this position and ran the program in its first year, together with the Deputy Director.

I left my position at AUJS to undertake a Research Associate position at the United States Studies Centre (USSC), University of Sydney. I later took on a position in the New South Wales (NSW) Department of Family and Community Services (FACS), now known as the Department of Communities and Justice (DCJ). 

I would not have ever become the Fellowship Director position at AUJS if not for the connections and experience I gained through IGF. I believe I was contacted and considered for this position because of the similarities between IGF and the Susan Wakil Fellowship. During my time at AUJS, I built connections with community leaders in Sydney-based Jewish community organisations such as the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, the Australia Israel and Jewish Affairs Council and the Sydney Jewish Museum. The Fellowship also included a two week political tour in the US. During our time there, I organised a networking event for Susan Wakil Fellows and Washington DC-based IGF alumni. I am also under the impression that the Director of the Innovation and Entrepreneurship research program at the USSC was interested in my application because of Israel’s reputation as the Startup Nation and because of the research focus of my IGF internship.

The IGF curriculum has given me a more sophisticated understanding of the complexities and challenges faced by Israel from a political and policy-oriented lens. IGF  has also helped shape me as a professional seeking to pursue a career in policymaking. Through my participation in IGF, I have acquired a more sophisticated understanding of geopolitics in the Middle East/North Africa region. The MENA region was not adequately covered in my International Relations degree and I am thrilled to have learnt more about this region while living in the Middle East.

I came to Israel for the very first time when I came to undertake the IGF program. Living in Israel has also helped me understand Israeli culture and society more intimately and has broadened my understanding of the diversity of Jewish identity, culture and experience on a global level. My social network has now extended to Israel and I have also developed a stronger appreciation of Israeli culture, food, film and television.  IGF is tied in with all my experiences in this country.