Japan, Australia and the global context: Connections across languages and societies A Symposium in honour of Helen Marriott

helens-farewellOn Saturday 15th March the Japanese Studies Centre at Monash University held a one-day Symposium on the theme of Japan, Australia and the global context: Connections across languages and societies.  The Symposium marked the retirement of Associate Professor Helen Marriott, who has been a key figure at Monash since 1988, and before that headed the Japanese Program at Swinburne.  Helen was a foundation member of the Japanese Studies Centre, serving as its Director in 1983-84, but her association with Monash goes back to her student days. She commenced studying Japanese in 1968, the second year it was offered, going on to complete an Honours degree, Dip Ed, Masters of Education, Master of Arts and PhD at Monash. 

Helen has been an influential and hard-working member of both the Japanese studies and Applied linguistics communities in Australia, serving as President of the JSAA from 1987-89, and Vice-President of ALAA 2002-2004, amongst many other positions of leadership and service over more than 40 years.  In addition to her own research, one of her greatest contributions to the academic community has been in the supervision of many postgraduate students, now scattered around the globe.  She is fondly remembered by all for her strong academic guidance and warm personal support, and it was that that inspired her colleagues to organise a symposium celebrating the themes of her own research and those of her students and colleagues.

The nine presentations covered a broad range of topics. Several papers related to the teaching of English in Japan and its engagement with Asia in a globalized era.  A second broad focus was on Japanese language learners in Australia, from the training of Australian army personnel during WWII to the L2 identities and motivations of Heritage speakers and multilingual students, and language use during study abroad.  Four of the presenters had travelled from Japan for the Symposium, and one from interstate.  They included two former and two present colleagues, six former students, now employed at Universities in Australia and Japan, and two current Monash PhD students. The audience of over 40 people included interstate colleagues and many former and current students and associates of Helen during her long career, while many more well-wishers sent their greetings from around the world.

We hope that Helen will enjoy her well-deserved retirement, satisfied in the knowledge that, as the Symposium demonstrated, she leaves behind a vibrant and living legacy, spread across several continents and countries.  However, we don’t expect her to slow down, as she directs her well-known energy and enthusiasm towards her ‘second career’ as a Clivia expert and breeder, as well as various forms of community engagement. She will retain her association with Monash as an Adjunct Associate Professor.

Robyn Spence-Brown