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Scholars from China and Australia work together to solve shared problems

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Monash academics from three schools and centres in the Arts and Education faculties participated in a public research roundtable with three visiting Chinese scholars at the Chinese Museum on the evening of 16 October. They are the inaugural recipients of a fellowship offered by the China-Australia Research Network (CARN), a project of the National Centre for Australian Studies.

DSC02566Presenting their research were Dr Hong Chen, Director of the Australian Studies Centre at East China Normal University in Shanghai, researching representations of China and Australia in school textbooks; Ms Guijuan He, Lecturer in the School of Foreign Languages and Culture at Xihua University, Sichuan Province, researching ecofeminist thought and theology in China and Australia; and Dr Qinghong Yin, Lecturer in the School of Humanities at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, researching approaches to collecting and representing ‘minority’ cultures in China and cultural diversity in Australia, especially Indigenous art. Responses by Dr Dat Bao (Education), Professor Kate Rigby (Arts) and Dr Sophie Couchman (Curator, Chinese Museum) drew out key ideas from each paper, while Dr Agnieszka Sobocinska, Deputy Director of the National Centre for Australian Studies (NCAS) provided a summation. Dr Tony Moore (NCAS), who is overseeing CARN while coordinator Prof. Jenny Hocking is overseas, chaired the roundtable.DSC02599

Also in attendance were Dr Hongshi Sun, Education Consul of the Chinese Consulate-General in Melbourne and Mr David Olsson, a long-standing leader in China-Australia business and legal relationships, and a Board member of the Australia-China Council.

By staging the roundtable in a public forum, the conversation was also opened up to the scholarly audience in attendance. Many of those present had an interest in China-Australia research collaborations and were quick to approach the visiting scholars following the round table to begin discussing possibilities for collaboration during and after the scholars’ visit to Australia.

Funded by an Australia-China Council grant as a 2013 pilot, CARN’s goal is to support vibrant research exchange and cooperation between Chinese humanities scholars working in Australian Studies and Australian scholars. CARN’s Fellowships enable Chinese scholars to undertake a three-week research visit to Monash University, to work with Australian researchers and to access research collections. The research roundtable was part of the process of establishing links with local scholars, and CARN’s webpage will be used to connect Australian scholars more broadly with the 30 existing Australian Studies Centres in China for ongoing research exchange and collaboration.

Dr Tony Moore commented that the three papers were linked by an interest in the cultural connections between China and Australia, corresponding to a strong orientation in the NCAS to both understand Australia in a global context and to explore the cultural dimension of Australia’s relationships and synergies with Asia.

For Dr Agnieszka Sobocinska, the three papers pointed to the different levels on which cross-cultural research can be beneficial: firstly, the need to know about each other; secondly, the need to learn from each other, and finally, to work together to solve problems that we’re both facing in a dynamic world. Dr Sobocinska commented on the importance of looking beyond just Australia and China – of working transnationally rather than through bilateral frames.

The roundtable was supported by the Whitlam Institute at the University of Western Sydney and Melbourne’s Chinese Museum, and celebrated the 40th anniversary of Gough Whitlam’s visit to China as Prime Minister and the establishment of diplomatic relations between Australia and China. Thanks to NCAS staff Robert Kelly, Dr John Tebbutt and Dr Clare Land and Amber Orchard from Faculty for their hard work to make the Symposium a success.