Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre (MCEC) Acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Narrm, the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung people of the Kulin Nation. We pay our respects to their Elders past and present, and to Elders of all First Nations communities that visit MCEC.


Size Matters for 2024 ASEAN-Australia Special Summit

By Bree Pagliuso |

There's no place like Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre (MCEC), and the 2024 ASEAN-Australia Special Summit proved why. As the largest venue in the Southern Hemisphere, MCEC met the unique requirements of the prestigious and global-reaching event, blending functionality with grandeur to reflect Melbourne's dynamic spirit.

With expansive spaces and innovative technology, MCEC provided a seamless flow of events, fostering productive discussions and meaningful engagements among ASEAN members.

From March 4th to 6th, the global reaching event took over the entire venue, bringing together leaders from nine Southeast Asian countries and Timor-Leste to celebrate 50 years of partnership with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Alongside them were prominent figures from business, community, and academia.

Australian Prime Minister, The Hon. Anthony Albanese MP, warmly greeted world leaders and over the three days, discussions covered a wide array of topics, including trade and investment, climate action and clean energy transition, maritime cooperation, and the cultivation of emerging leadership.


Hosting the summit showcased Melbourne's vibrant culture, world-class facilities, and renowned hospitality. To mark the occasion, nine iconic sites across Melbourne, such as Flinders Street Station, the National Gallery of Victoria, and Arts Centre Melbourne, were illuminated in honour of the ASEAN Leaders attending the summit.

"We were so proud to have hosted the 2024 ASEAN Commemorative Summit at MCEC, 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 AM, Chief Executive at MCEC

Size does matter

Over three days, MCEC underwent an extraordinary transformation to become the epicentre of the summit. Every part of the venue provided all the necessities for a global event, from grand arrivals to important meetings.

With careful planning, MCEC proved it could do more than just host events—it could adapt and cater to the diverse needs of such a significant gathering.

This extensive process was part of an 11-day tenancy, carefully planned with progressive bump-in and bump-out schedules. In the surrounding precinct, stringent security measures were enforced to provide a safe and exclusive environment for the summit.

Crucial events unfolded, including official arrivals and departures, formal hosting ceremonies for world leaders, and critical bilateral meetings between Australia and participating nations. An International Media Centre was established to facilitate comprehensive media coverage, providing a dedicated space for visiting journalists and reporters.

Event excellence

Maximising MCEC, the summit demonstrated our versatility in meeting specific event needs. Various forums, tailored to different themes, were strategically enhanced within our spaces for maximum impact.

  • The Business Track fostered connections among business leaders, small and medium-sized enterprises and industry groups from Australia, ASEAN, and Timor-Leste

  • The CEO Forum united 100 Australian and ASEAN CEOs to bolster two-way trade and investment

  • The SME Conference and Marketplace provided insights on ASEAN investment and trade opportunities to 165 Australian SMEs

  • The Climate and Clean Energy Transition Forum encouraged collaboration and investment in the region's clean energy transition

  • The Emerging Leaders' Dialogue facilitated discussions among next-generation leaders on key regional challenges

  • The Maritime Cooperation Forum addressed shared maritime challenges among officials and experts

Rooms with purpose

In close collaboration with the event organisers, MCEC was revamped, with each space tailored to match the summit's unique features using out-of-the-box ideas.

  • An arrivals hall for key leader moments, motorcades, screening, lounges, staging, and media rises

  • Establishment of an international media centre

  • A base for Summit vehicle fleet

  • Melbourne Rooms 1 & 2 hosted the main Leaders Plenary

  • Level 1 designated as the Australian Ministerial wing

  • The BBC Earth Experience transformed into an immersive dinner experience

  • Level 2 rooms were repurposed into Country and Bilateral rooms

Keeping the summit safe

Successfully executing a high-profile event demands meticulous planning and coordination. The MCEC team collaborated with the Commonwealth Government, local authorities, and precinct partners to make sure the event moved seamlessly with a focus on stakeholder engagement and detailed planning.

Chatting with Maxine McIntyre, Brooke Mitchell and Amir Asady, all integral MCEC team members working to deliver the ASEAN event, shed light on the behind-the-scenes efforts, "Our team partnered with the Commonwealth Government, local authorities, and precinct partners to ensure the event was safe and seamless for everyone involved," explains Brooke.

Maxine continued, "We conducted numerous pre-event site inspections and held meetings with Victoria Police and the ASEAN Taskforce to align on security goals. We established a venue operations control centre through close collaboration with various agencies, including Victoria Police, Fire Rescue Victoria, Ambulance Victoria, 1300 Medics, 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."

Amir, an Operations Specialist at MCEC, further highlights the unique challenges faced during execution, "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."

No accreditation, no entry

Due to the nature of the event, the summit was subject to strict accreditation protocols. Access to the venue was strictly regulated, with all staff, contractors, and attendees required to undergo pre-event accreditation screening to confirm eligibility and receive official event accreditation.

On arrival, all attendees underwent daily security screening, including metal detection and x-ray bag screening.

Like security, accessibility was considered in all areas of the event design, ensuring that any temporary builds, unique features and stages included adequate accessibility provision. Given the multicultural nature of the event, translation services were offered to provide all attendees with access to all content.

Tech triumph

MCEC's dynamic infrastructure and advanced technology were integral to the summit's success. Sharing their insights, MCEC technology specialists Josh Bryce and Rhys Owen, who played key roles in the project, offered their reflections.

Josh notes, "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."

Rhys further highlighted, "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." Adding, "Our onsite inventory of AV equipment and resources allowed us to promptly address any unforeseen challenges, maintaining the event's momentum and professionalism."

Inside the event

Entertainment and hospitality played pivotal roles throughout the summit, offering guests a vibrant experience alongside insightful discussions and engagements. From captivating performances to showcasing Victoria's culinary excellence, every aspect was carefully curated to enhance the summit's atmosphere and leave a lasting impression.

Highlights included:

  • As part of the leader's 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 took the opportunity to showcase Victoria's culinary stardom, offering an array of local cheeses, bread, wine, ice cream, and coffee to visiting media.

  • The BBC Earth Experience became a unique dinner setting, allowing delegates to enjoy great food in the stunning atmosphere of BBC Earth.

Speaking to the summit's vibrant atmosphere, Brooke shares, "Throughout the Summit, MCEC's commitment to diverse and delicious food and beverage experiences was on display, traversing cocktail parties, conference catering, across our cafés, and ongoing offerings at venue coffee and snack stations."

Beyond the summit

Australia announced comprehensive new initiatives across various sectors, worth over $500 million, aimed at deepening economic, cultural, educational, and environmental ties with Southeast Asia and ASEAN, including:

  • Launching a $2 billion Southeast Asia Investment Financing Facility, appointing senior Business Champions, establishing regional technology Landing Pads, and easing travel between Southeast Asia and Australia.

  • Establishing a dedicated ASEAN-Australia Centre, offering numerous scholarships and fellowships, and providing English-language training for Timor-Leste's ASEAN membership process.

  • Allocating significant funding to climate change initiatives, clean energy, and maritime cooperation.

  • The connections built during the summit at MCEC provided a platform for sustained cooperation in technology, business, social enterprise, and policymaking.


Reflecting on the incredible success of the summit, Brooke shares, "Behind the scenes at MCEC, the 2024 ASEAN Summit wasn't just another event; it was a significant moment for Melbourne, Victoria and Australia on the world stage. Working closely in partnership with the ASEAN Taskforce, 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",

Expanding on this, MCEC Event Planners DJ Ploughman and Jo Bertrand highlight the summit's standout moment, adding "The summit featured memorable moments, from cultural performances to immersive dining experiences, leaving a lasting impact on participants and reaffirming MCEC's unique ability to host significant world events."

Hosting the 2024 ASEAN-Australia Special Summit at MCEC wasn't just about logistics; it celebrated Melbourne's unmatched culture and innovation and cemented why MCEC continues to lead as a venue that combines grandeur with community spirit.

Explore why Melbourne/Narrm is your ideal event venue, and discover a city steeped in culture, creativity, thrilling sports, and innovation.