Six ways the City of Melbourne builds relationships across the globe

3 July 2024

International engagement supports a strong economy, innovation, sustainability, and resilient, thriving communities.

The City of Melbourne actively builds global connections that contribute to a better future for all. Read on to explore some of our key activities, follow the links to skip to sections of interest.

Setting goals through our International Engagement Framework

Our International Engagement Framework guides our work, ensuring that international engagement activities are purposeful and aligned to goals set out in the Council Plan and Economic Development Strategy. The framework has seven key priorities:

  • promoting Melbourne as one of the world’s most innovative and multicultural cities – a great place to live, visit, study, work and do business
  • facilitating inbound and outbound missions and visits to support Council achieving its objectives.
  • establishing Melbourne as an economic hub for the Asia-Pacific, Australia’s number one city for businesses and start-ups.
  • partnering with industry to develop globally-competitive innovation ecosystems.
  • being a city leader in the Asia Pacific region in working towards the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
  • leveraging diaspora and alumni communities to facilitate relationships and investment
  • continuing engagement with important markets in Asia.

Facilitating trade and investment through Melbourne Office Tianjin

Melbourne and Tianjin in China have been sister cities since 1980. In 1998, the City of Melbourne set up a satellite office in Tianjin to help facilitate trade and investment, promote Melbourne’s capabilities and share global best-practice.

When the sister-city relationship was first being discussed in 1979, a young employee of the Tianjin Foreign Affairs Office was involved in negotiations, hosting and interpretation.

He later became the first exchange student from Tianjin at the University of Melbourne, and over the years took on leadership roles across industries, building Melbourne-China connectivity in banking, agribusiness, sustainability and green economy.

Dr Chaoyi Wei in Melbourne in the 1980s

That go-getter was Dr Chaoyi Wei, and he went on to take the helm of the Melbourne Office Tianjin for more than two decades. When he recently passed the baton to Bonnie Shao, Dr Wei reflected on his ‘fortunate and unique’ journey working between two cities.

“From early in my career I was firmly convinced – from both Tianjin and Melbourne perspectives – that the sister-city exchange and collaboration could not only enhance mutual understanding and friendship but also bring tangible benefits to both cities,” Dr Wei said.

“As Melbourne Office Tianjin Chief Representative in the past 24 years, I have had a great sense of achievement and fulfillment and have been consistently passionate about the relationship as more and more tangible benefits are delivered to both communities of Melbourne and Tianjin.”

Dr Chaoyi Wei led the Melbourne Office Tianjin for more than 20 years

Dr Wei remembers many milestone achievements over his time in the role, with two prominent highlights.

“The redevelopment of Haihe River – master-planned by Melbourne urban designers and based on the Southbank redevelopment model – has shaped the landscape of Tianjin’s CBD. Like Melbourne’s Southbank, the Haihe riverbank has become the most popular and attractive spot for leisure and tourists,” Dr Wei said.

“The other highlight is Melbourne Office Tianjin’s facilitation of visits to Melbourne by tourists, business travellers and participants of various professional training programs. As a result of these people-to-people exchanges, a large pro-Melbourne community is formed to support and to be part of civic and business engagements between the two sister cities.”

The redevelopment of Haihe River, Tianjin, was master-planned by Melbourne urban designers

Amid an ever-changing geo-political landscape, Dr Wei said city-to-city diplomacy requires a subtle and sensitive approach – but also that much opportunity awaits.

“I am convinced that the ‘large room’ for city-to-city diplomacy remains for the promotion of Melbourne’s capabilities in the key Chinese cities identified in the City of Melbourne’s International Engagement Framework,” Dr Wei said.

“A smart and innovative approach is required to tap the market potential so that substantive and tangible benefits can be delivered for the Melbourne community.”

Contact the Melbourne Office Tianjin

Melbourne Office Tianjin operates at the forefront of business development and civic engagement between Melbourne and Chinese partner cities. Over the years, the office has made great achievements in business and trade, education, culture and arts as well as people-to-people exchange. If you would like to explore the China market and seek advice, please email Bonnie Shao or phone +86 22 2313 6003.

The opening of the Melbourne Office Tianjin in 1998

Sharing and growing through sister cities and international alliances

The City of Melbourne has developed valued relationships with sister cities around the world, as well as other important international alliances and cooperative agreements.

Melbourne’s sister cities include:

  • Osaka, Japan (1978)
  • Tianjin, China (1980)
  • Thessaloniki, Greece (1984)
  • Boston, United States (1985)
  • Milan, Italy (2004)

To learn more about our oldest sister-city relationship, visit Osaka and Melbourne celebrate 45 years as sister cities.

The Port of Osaka

We also have important alliances and memorandums of understanding with many other countries around the globe including Bandung in Indonesia and the Business Partner City Network.

Through these relationships, we share and learn about topics that will improve all our cities – like sustainable urban design, liveability, water and waste management, startups, innovation and more.

A group of leaders from Chengdu, China recently visited Melbourne to renew a memorandum of understanding to strengthen cooperation in the fields of economy and investment, sustainable development, culture, tourism, and sports, technology and innovation, and higher education.

A chef preparing dishes
Chengdu master chef Zhang Fa partnered with Melbourne’s Chef David restaurant to offer a culinary experience as part of the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival.
A group of people in a Chinese museum
Delegates visiting the Chengdu cultural exhibition at Melbourne’s Museum of Chinese Australian History in Chinatown

Supporting startups to start, grow and go global through Invest Melbourne

We’re supporting local startups as they journey from prototype to global impact through our Invest Melbourne team, by equipping them with valuable networks and information.

The Invest Melbourne Advisory Board is a team of business experts who collaborate to attract great businesses to the city and make it easier for entrepreneurs to start, grow and go global with their big ideas.

Ideas like reducing emissions from city buildings, empowering urban designers to build better neighbourhoods, and running a patisserie that celebrates the limitless potential of people with disability, to name a few.

Three young professionals
Alan Haszard, Amy Yu and Edward Buijs from Ventora Medical are taking their neonatal airway pressure monitor to the world

During a recent partnership with Austrade, a team of TradeStart advisers focused on helping small and medium-sized health and technology businesses identify and secure opportunities in global markets.

Here are just a few of the game-changing medtech and biotech startups going global from Melbourne:

  • Ventora Medical is designing a neonatal airway pressure monitor to empower doctors with information to help them care for babies who experience breathing difficulties.
  • Tessara Therapeutics is creating human “mini brains” – each one-milimetre model taking us closer to finding cures for neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.
  • Smileyscope, the world’s only medical-grade virtual reality device, is making medical procedures safer and more enjoyable for patients in every children’s hospital in Australia, and in more than 40 centres in the USA.

Meet more inspiring medtech and biotech startups.

A tray of human ‘mini brains’ made by Tessara Therapeutics

“The talent, infrastructure and innovation resources in Melbourne enable entrepreneurs to be able to thrive and create sustainable businesses locally, and bring these innovations to the world.

“The TradeStart team has helped us connect to other groups locally and internationally, as well as identify resources such as grants and opportunities to raise awareness of our work. We’re grateful for their support.”

Dr Evelyn Chan, Smileyscope

Our Invest Melbourne team can help you unlock your business potential and join the many innovative and successful companies investing here in Melbourne. To learn more and start a conversation, visit Invest Melbourne.

Creating a home-away-from-home for international students

Young people from across the globe flock to Melbourne to enjoy exceptional education, career and lifestyle opportunities – bringing buzz and big ideas to our city.

Beyond their studies, international students also provide skilled workers across many industries, supercharge our startup sector, and enrich Melbourne’s vibrant multicultural communities.

Red Hong Yi, a former international student turned artist and architectural designer, poses for the cover of TIME magazine

Many international students go on to great things – like forging new paths in breast cancer genetics, launching baking empires and starring on the cover of TIME magazine.

To learn more, visit Astounding alumni: meet some of Melbourne’s most successful international students.

The City of Melbourne offers a wide range of services, events, advice and support for international students, including social outings, community spaces, career-development events and much more.

For more information, visit International students.

Melbourne ranks among the world’s top student cities

Melbourne has been named Australia’s best student city in the QS rankings for 10 years running, highlighting the city’s unparalleled education opportunities, affordability and cultural diversity. Melbourne also ranks as the world’s fifth-best student city in the world.

Sparking creativity between children across the globe

The City of Melbourne is proud to share stories from around the world through the arts – at our premier events and festivals, through our contemporary arts development programs at Arts House in North Melbourne, in our libraries and community spaces, and beyond.

A child plays with their own shadow
A child engaged in Talking with Shadows, a collaboration between ArtPlay and Korea’s Jeonju Cultural Foundation

And the focus on creativity starts young for Melburnians.

A partnership between ArtPlay – the City of Melbourne’s creative hub for children and families at Birrarung Marr – and South Korea’s Jeonju Cultural Foundation is flourishing.

Artists and children from Melbourne and Jeonju have created several joint productions since 2020, engaging diverse families and building cultural understanding across the world, and running professional-development activities for artists.

“In Talking with Shadows, the children use traditional Korean Hanji paper from Jeonju and share their cultural contexts, effectively promoting Jeonju’s cultural elements globally within the creative sector,” they said.

“This collaboration holds substantial institutional value and is considered a meaningful achievement in terms of fostering cultural diplomacy and international solidarity.”

Jeonju Cultural Foundation
Meet the Talking with Shadows team in this video

The collaboration with Korea isn’t the only way that ArtPlay shares its impact overseas.

ArtPlay has been the starting post for many acclaimed creative works that have gone on to tour internationally. And the ArtPlay model has inspired other world-class institutions like Art Ground in Singapore.

To learn more, visit Creative play connects children in Melbourne and Korea.

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