ASEAN summit takes over Melbourne precinct

Tight security, diplomatic protocols as Australia-ASEAN pow wow locks down Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre

STAFF at the largest convention centre in the southern hemisphere have spoken of the intense procedures required of Melbourne’s hosting of a high-level diplomatic summit to strengthen ties between Australia and Southeast Asia.

The 2024 Australia-ASEAN Special Summit at Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre (MCEC), March 4-6, took over the entire venue amid tight security as leaders and delegations from nine Southeast Asia nations and Timor-Leste gathered.

Australia prime minster Anthony Albanese, government officials, diplomats, business leaders and academics were among the attendees.

The Leaders’ Plenary on the final day of the ASEAN-Australia Special Summit 2024 in Melbourne –  Photograph by Andrew Taylor/ASEAN

MCEC event planners DJ Ploughman and Jo Bertrand, along with their team, worked closely with the ASEAN Taskforce, the Australia Government’s Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, and security agencies.

“We navigated months of detailed planning and preparation to deliver a safe and successful major event,” they said.

For Maxine McIntyre, MCEC’s project specialist for major events, the collaboration with extended to the Australian Government, local authorities and precinct partners.

“We conducted numerous pre-event site inspections and held meetings with Victoria Police and the ASEAN Taskforce to align on security goals,” McIntyre said.

– As part of the leaders’ arrival, a Welcome to Country led by an Elder of The Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung peoples of the Kulin Nation, of which MCEC is located, opened the event. The ceremony showcased traditional elements, including a Smoking Ceremony, Djirri Djirri Wurundjeri women’s dancers, and a yidaki (didgeridoo) player.

– The summit’s entertainment roster featured performances by Jessica Mauboy, the Tamara Murphy trio, and the Young Voices youth choir at the Prime Minister’s reception.

– Within the International Media Centre, guests were greeted with Australian wildlife, including koalas and quolls.

– Food and Wine Victoria showcased Victoria’s local cheeses, bread, wine, ice cream, and coffee to visiting media.

– The BBC Earth Experience became a unique dinner setting with images of nature unfolding around them.

“We established a venue-operations control centre through close collaboration with various agencies, including Victoria Police, Fire Rescue Victoria, Ambulance Victoria, the 1300 Medics paramedic service, Citywide Traffic Management and event security, providing a holistic perspective of event operations, enabling real-time triaging of event requirements and ensuring the event’s success and safety.”

Over the three days, every part of the venue provided all the necessities for a global event, from grand arrivals to high-level meetings. This extensive process was part of an 11-day tenancy, carefully planned with progressive bump-in and bump-out schedules for the shifting of equipment, material and other items needed for the event, MCEC said in a case study.

Strict accreditation protocols were applied with access strictly regulated. All attendees, staff and contractors underwent daily security screening, including metal detection and X-ray screening for bags.

Amir Asady, an operations specialist at MCEC, said: “Given the nature of the event, there were additional considerations compared to our usual operations. Managing tight bump-in and bump-out schedules and the complexity of transitioning from one 20-exhibition bay setup to another required seamless collaboration among all stakeholders.”

A separate media room was organised along with strong communications capabilities for both news broadcasting and conference presentations.

One of the various dining set-ups at the MCEC during the ASEAN Summit Photograph by Wayne Taylor/ASEAN

MCEC technology specialists Josh Bryce and Rhys Owen, played key roles in the project. “Our robust pre-installed fibre infrastructure played a pivotal role in accommodating the needs of the host broadcaster, enabling seamless broadcasting from any location within the venue,” Bryce said.

Owen added: “The reliability and quality of our Wi-Fi and internet services significantly contributed to the smooth operation of the event, enhancing the experience and allowed for efficient execution of tasks during setup and show days.

“Our onsite inventory of AV equipment and resources allowed us to promptly address any unforeseen challenges, maintaining the event’s momentum and professionalism.”

The 2024 ASEAN Commemorative Summit was not only a significant event for us at MCEC but an event that will leave a positive legacy for Australia and the world. The summit brought together leaders and experts from all over Southeast Asia. It was a complex and intricate event to plan and coordinate, but the success of the summit showcases our capabilities as a premier events venue on a global scale.”
– Natalie O’Brien, chief executive, Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre

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