Opening Remarks at the 13th Australian Studies Conference


Speaker: The Hon Warwick Smith AM, Chair, Australia-China Council, E&OE

Xihua University, Chengdu, China

6 July 2012

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a pleasure to be with you today at the 13th Australian Studies Conference.

On behalf of the Australia-China Council, I would like thank our hosts and the organisers – Xihua University and the Australian Studies Association – for their hospitality and immaculate organisation of this event.

Australia-China Council is proud to be one of the founding partners and long-term supporters of the Conference.

We see it as an important platform for building relationships and sharing ideas not only among our Australian Studies Centres network, but increasingly between broad communities of Australian and Chinese educators, researchers and artists.

This conference is one of many platforms on which complimentary relations between our two countries are being built.

Complimentarity of our relations is often talked about in the context of the trade in mineral resources between Australia and China. While it is a very important part of our economic engagement with China, it is not the only complimentarity.

Australia is the third most popular study abroad destination for Chinese students with over 14% of all Chinese students overseas undertake their studies in Australia.

This makes Australia a participant in China's sweeping higher education reforms, and it makes both our countries a part of an increasingly interconnected and mutually complimentary global education system.

Engagement between Australia and China in science and research is also growing exponentially.

Last year, Australian Government established Australia-China Science and Research Fund that will support academic collaborations in the areas strategically important to our countries - food security, environmental management and renewable energy.

Our universities have established extensive research linkages with China. In 2009, Thompson Reuters ranked the University of Sydney fifth in the world in the number of joint peer-reviewed articles with Chinese co-authors in the field of science and medical research.

Mutual interest to collaborate in education and research will continue to grow creating new opportunities and niche areas of engagement.

In this interlinked global space where diplomacy has ceased to be an exclusive domain of governments, it is this complimentary and highly diverse nature of our education engagement (together with expanding business and cultural exchanges) that will influence the trajectory of Australia-China relations in the next 40 years.

The Australia-China Council is honoured to be an active participant in this engagement.

Since the establishment of the Council in 1978, it has helped to kick start hundreds of successful business, education and cultural collaborations between Australia and China.

However, we view the Australian Studies in China Program and a network of 30 Australian Studies Centres that you represent as our most important achievement and a valuable and highly effective mechanism for building understanding between our nations and introducing Australia to China.

That is why we are continuing to strengthen and expand Australian Studies in China.

This year we have officially established an independent Foundation for Australian Studies in China which brings together universities, business community and government with the shared goal to boost Australian Studies in China and strengthen a wonderful network of centres that you have built.

The Foundation will support the BHP Billiton Chair of Australian Studies in Beijing University, provide scholarships and fellowships and coordinate the efforts to attract resources for the Australian Studies initiatives in China.

I am pleased that the Foundation Chairman and my predecessor Professor Mark Wainwright and the Foundation Managing Director and Deputy Chair of the Australia-China Council, Mr Kevin Hobgood-Brown are here today. Kevin and Mark's contribution to the Program is immeasurable.

We strongly believe that through the enormous support from your universities, and Foundation and BHP Billiton Chair initiatives, Australian Studies in China Program is entering a new phase that will see it becoming an increasingly vital component of bilateral education relationship between Australia and China.

We are excited about entering this new era:

  • in the beautiful city of Chengdu, a gateway to the emerging Western region, and the city where Australia will establish its newest diplomatic mission
  • in the year when Australia and China celebrate the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I wish you intellectually stimulating and fruitful three days at the Conference and I look forward to meeting and talking to you all of you about our shared interests, new opportunities, ideas and dreams.

Last Updated: 1 November 2012