The University of New England’s new Asia Pacific Centre has an important role in providing the knowledge to ensure Australia’s future prosperity and security, according to a leading academic.
Speaking at the recent launch of the Asia Pacific Centre in UNE’s School of Humanities, Professor Shahram Akbarzadeh, Professor of Asian Politics at Melbourne University and Deputy Director of the National Centre of Excellence in Islamic Studies, said there can be no question that, as a regional power, Australia’s prosperity is largely contingent on how well it engages with its neighbours.
‘With Asia’s role in Australia’s trade, culture and security rapidly growing, Australia’s proximity to Asia and the Pacific islands means that we need to know our neighbourhood, engage with it proactively and contribute to its prosperity,’ Professor Akbarzadeh said. ‘Because a prosperous Asia Pacific means a prosperous Australia.’
He added that, in the wake of the war on terror, Australia’s security concerns were an added reason to become much more informed about the social, cultural and political landscape of the Asia and the Pacific – the kind of knowledge best provided by tertiary centres of learning and scholarship such as UNE’s Asia Pacific Centre.
Professor Akbarzadeh noted that the Asia Pacific Centre would not be not starting from scratch in this endeavour but would be able to draw on the interdisciplinary research strengths the UNE had long possessed on Asia and the Pacific, as well as building on the past work of the former, highly-respected Asia Centre, which it was effectively replacing.
The new Centre’s immediate priority was ‘to map and measure the various factors that put states at risk of governmental and societal collapse and threaten the prospect of peace throughout the region.’ Professor Akbarzadeh said. ‘And that’s about everything pertaining to such issues as political stability, food security, health security, border security, terrorism, climate-change, migration (including refugees and trafficked persons), human rights, and so on.’
The Asia Pacific Centre was also committed to advancing a number of key projects – including Migration and Refugee policy, Environment and Social Impacts of Resource Development in Asia, and Islamic Studies – that the Asia Centre had earlier successfully begun. Indeed, an international conference on Refugees and People Smuggling has been scheduled for 26-27 September 2011. A Visiting Research Fellowship and Travelling Scholarship scheme for higher degree research students is also expected to be restarted in 2012.
The Asia Pacific Centre may be virtual, as many university centres are in the modern age of information technology, but Professor Akbarzadeh was confident that its ‘footprint’ in research and scholarship would ‘certainly be felt and seen’.
Picture: Professor Howard Brasted, Director of the Asia Pacific Centre