Lack of "Asia Knowledge" hurting Australia: Report

Thursday, 5 September 2002

At a time when Australia is doing more business than ever with Asia, and at a time when the need for security is at its greatest, our nation is in danger from a lack of "Asia knowledge", according to a new national report.

The report, called Maximising Australia's Asia Knowledge, is being launched in South Australia this Monday, September 9, at the University of Adelaide.

Among those attending the launch is Australia's Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Hon. Mr Alexander Downer. The University's Chancellor, Mr Robert Champion de Crespigny, will officially launch the report.

Compiled by the Asian Studies Association of Australia, the report cautions that Australia's capacity to engage with Asia is diminishing, not growing.

It says Australia's "Asia knowledge base" is in jeopardy at a time when economic globalisation and security concerns make it more vital than ever for Australians to know their neighbours.

"A worrying statistic to come from the report is that less than 5% of Australian university students learn anything about the countries of Asia, and fewer than 3% study an Asian language at any level," says the Head of the University of Adelaide's Centre for Asian Studies, Dr John Makeham. "Australia is in danger of losing the capacity to teach about Asia to sizable numbers of students and to do sophisticated research about the countries of Asia."

"This means the nation is losing, rather than gaining, knowledge of Asia at a crucial time, and this is bound to impact on our dealings with the region, our policy directions, and ultimately, our economic success."

The report says Australia has acquired an international reputation for the quality of its research on Asia.

"However, the academic specialists who established Australia's regional expertise are ageing, and those who retire are rarely being replaced," Dr Makeham says.

"If we allow our knowledge of the region to erode, Australia stands to lose much more than just academic expertise."

WHERE: Mitchell Building, foyer
University of Adelaide,
North Terrace Campus
WHEN: 6pm Monday, September 9


Contact Details

Dr John Makeham
Business: +61 8 8377 1606