Australian Studies a first for Canada

by Gavin Wilson

Staff writer

A Centre for Australian Studies -- the first of its kind in Canada -- will be created at UBC in collaboration with post-secondary institutions in Australia and with the support of the private sector.

The centre is one of the university-supported APEC initiatives that will benefit students, teaching and scholarly research at UBC. Leaders of the 18 Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation economies met at UBC's Museum of Anthropology Nov. 25.

As well as creating a series of legacies, the APEC meeting is expected to strengthen UBC's position as one of Canada's leading institutions for higher learning in Asia Pacific affairs and serve to reinforce the university's links with Asia and other APEC economies.

The establishment of UBC's Centre for Australian Studies was announced Nov. 26 at a plaque unveiling held at the centre's site in the Institute of Asian Research.

The Centre for Australian Studies is a key component of an expanded program of Canada-Asia Pacific research initiatives at UBC's Institute of Asian Research, and builds on the already strong and vibrant network of academic relationships between UBC and Australian academic institutions.

Australia and Canada share many similarities, and intensive research into common issues could inform public policy choices in both countries. For example, the two nations share similar legal systems, immigration patterns, aboriginal issues, federal political systems and a reliance on primary resources. Both also face the economic and political challenges of globalization.

The UBC centre will be established in collaboration with a number of Australian post-secondary institutions. Among those expressing interest are the Australian National University, the universities of Melbourne, New South Wales, Sydney and Queensland, Bond University and Monash University.

UBC also welcomes the participation of other Australian post-secondary institutions with which it has existing agreements for the exchange of faculty and staff, including Edith Cowan University, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, the University of Adelaide and Western Australia University.

Monash University will be involved in the first initiative of the Centre for Australian Studies -- a conference to be held at UBC in the fall of 1998 that will be jointly sponsored by UBC's Institute of Asian Research, headed by Prof. Terry McGee, and the Monash Asia Institute, headed by Prof. John Mackay. The conference will examine how Canada and Australia approach their economic, social and political relations with Asia.

The centre is also receiving support and encouragement from the private sector. In Australia, North Limited, a resource management company which is now owner of the Iron Ore Company of Canada, has indicated a keen interest to be involved.

Environmental and sustainable development issues, including natural resources policy and management, are expected to be among the initial focuses of the centre.

Other research collaborations may build on existing UBC scholarship -- occurring in the faculties of Law, Arts, Education and Commerce and Business Administration -- involving the comparative study of Canada's and Australia's literature, federal systems, energy policies, legal histories, urban experiences and multiculturalism policies and practices.