Australian knowledge of Asia in jeopardy: new report

Monday, 9 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 today (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 (ASAA), 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.

"Our capacity to do original research and produce new knowledge about Asia is declining," says Professor Purnendra Jain, Professor of Japanese Studies at the University of Adelaide and a member of the Executive Committee of the ASAA.

"Australia's trade with economically recessed Japan has risen more than 40% in the last five years and we maintain a huge trade surplus with Japan. We also have vested interests in forming, nurturing and strengthening political and even defence ties with Japan. Yet there is only a couple of academics in Australia who know the language, can do original research and build knowledge of Japan on issues pertaining to its politics, foreign policy and defence/security orientation.

"The report gives several similar examples of specific countries, countries that are not just increasingly powerful nations like China, but some that will have considerable impact on Australian policy by virtue of their geographic proximity. The Indonesian example comes first to mind here.

"The report takes a proactive stance in proposing a series of concrete recommendations and makes a particularly strong case for why this field of study is important to Australia."

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


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