|NEWSLETTER NO. 23 SPRING 2001|
|THE EDWARD A. CLARK CENTER FOR AUSTRALIAN STUDIES|
|THE UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS AT AUSTIN|
Australians Deliberate Reconciliation With Clark Center Help
One component of the gathering was 344 voters who had participated in a random national opinion poll some weeks before and who accepted invitations to come to Canberra. But because indigenous Australians make up only about two percent of the population and, therefore, numbered only six persons in the random poll, the other component was 50 Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders who were invited from among 233 indigenous people who participated in a series of regional deliberative polls held during the two months before the event in Canberra. Many members of both groups - indigenous and non-indigenous - were making their first trip to Canberra and for several the trip involved their first airplane flights.
The Canberra deliberations enabled the participants, as well as those watching on TV, to learn about and ponder important issues. What does Reconciliation mean? What does it entail practically? What roles should governments, communities, private organizations, and individuals play? Participants spent the weekend alternating between small group and plenary sessions in the House of Representatives chamber, where panels of experts, advocates, and political leaders fielded citizens' questions and comments.
The February poll was a sequel to the highly successful deliberative poll on the republic referendum that the Clark Center helped to mount in October 1999. As on that occasion, several Center scholars and staff members traveled to Canberra to assist in the Reconciliation poll: Dr. Higley, Frances Cushing, Rhonda Evans Case and Jason Pierce, Evans Case and Pierce being Ph.D. students who also participated in the republic poll and who are writing dissertations on Australian topics. Also making the trip were Dr. James Fishkin, the inventor of the deliberative polling technique and director of UT-Austin's Center for Deliberative Polling, and Dr. Bob Luskin, a specialist in analyzing the data that these polls produce.
When the two days of Canberra discussions concluded, the Australian participants were asked the same questions that they had answered some weeks before in the national opinion poll. As one would expect when citizens have the chance to learn about and discuss complex issues, changes in opinions were marked:
- Perceptions that Reconciliation is an important issue facing the nation increased dramatically, from 31 to 60 percent;
- Perceptions that indigenous Australians are grossly disadvantaged increased from 51 to 80 percent;
- On factual questions about Reconciliation issues, 50 percent could answer these questions correctly after the discussions, whereas only 10 percent had been able to do so some weeks before.
Participants' attitudes also changed significantly:
- Readiness to acknowledge formally that European occupation occurred without the consent of indigenous Australians increased from 67 to 81 percent;
- Support for a formal apology to "the stolen generation" increased from 46 to 68 percent.
On the other hand, participants' views about the desirability of a treaty or set of agreements between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians did not change, and there was no increased support for allocating special parliamentary seats to indigenous Australians.
Jason Pierce and Rhonda Evans Case were discussion facilitators for small groups of Australians throughout the two days. Pierce gives an insider's view in this comment: "As a facilitator, I was to foster an open, honest, and respectful dialogue among the 17 members of my group. Its members were quick with opinions and generally interested in listening to others. Most non-indigenous members had never met an indigenous Australian, much less discussed Reconciliation with one. It was an emotional experience for most, giving them license to engage the Reconciliation topic in new ways. Cultural boundaries were crossed. Commonalities were affirmed and differences appreciated. Many felt compelled to engage in personal reconciliation that weekend and upon returning home. Members of my small group even continued their deliberations via e-mail weeks after the event. But my group avoided magical visions of Reconciliation and they generally recognized its inherent complexity and the challenges it presents to all Australians."
February was a particularly busy time for us at the Clark Center. First came travel to Canberra by Frances Cushing, myself, and two of our Ph.D. students to help Pam Ryan with the deliberative poll she organized on "Reconciliation: Where From Here?" (please see p. 1). While in Australia, we met a number of people who play significant roles in the Australian Studies effort, notably U.S. Ambassador Gnehm and his staff, Mark Darby at the Australia-U.S. Fulbright Commission, Peter Shannon and Sue Jorgensen in DFAT, and last but by no means least, Henry Albinski, who, at Sydney University, is preparing a major 28-30 June conference on "The Australian-U.S. Alliance in an East Asian Context" in which Ross Terrill and I will participate.
Immediately after returning to Austin we went to Washington for this year's highly successful ASANA meetings. Organized with great flair and hospitality by Dick Teare and Grace Tompkins of Georgetown University's Center for Australian and New Zealand Studies, the ASANA meetings attracted the largest participation yet, with some 90 people in the audience for Friday's panels and the bulk of them staying on for Saturday's, too. More than a score of papers were presented and everyone agreed that they and the discussions were of high quality and interest. The Clark Center was represented by five participants.
ASANA is in its best shape ever. At the annual business meeting it was agreed to meet next year at the new Centre for Australian and New Zealand Studies at U.B.C. in Vancouver (see the Call for Papers, page 4). To put ASANA on a still more secure footing, John Wells kindly issued an invitation to meet the following year at Arcadia University in Philadelphia. Hoyt Edge, from Rollins College in Florida, is ASANA's president for the next two years, replacing Kim Nossal from McMaster University. It was also agreed that the Clark and Georgetown centers will work jointly to maintain ASANA's organizational apparatus. Finally, it was noted that the ASANA-initiated workshop for social studies teachers who want to add Australian materials to their classes will take place June 1st at Texas A&M University, with several Clark Center faculty from nearby Austin making presentations.
This North American summer the Center will again send two UT-Austin political science graduate students to the A.N.U. as parliamentary interns. Four of the six previous interns are now working on dissertations dealing with Australia. À propos student movements, there are other developments worth noting. One is the proliferating exchange of law students between UT-Austin and several Australian universities, about which Prof. Roy Mersky, in our Law School writes on p. 3. The second development is the steadily increasing number of non-law UT-Austin students participating in the exchange programs we are now operating with eight Australian universities. This academic year some 30 of our students have been studying in Australia. A third and related development is discussions we're having with the New Zealand - U.S. Fulbright Commission, headed by Jennifer Gill in Wellington, about a multi-year program of scholarly exchanges that will expand the Center's activities to encompass New Zealand Studies. Student exchange programs between UT-Austin and New Zealand universities are also being pursued. I expect to say more about these New Zealand initiatives in our next Yacker.
Student exchange programs between UT-Austin's School of Law and various Australian law schools are so mutually rewarding that they are expanding rapidly.
When this program started in 1989, exchanges were possible only for UT-Austin and University of Sydney Law School students. Now, however, UT law students can choose among the Univ. of Sydney, the A.N.U., the Univ. of Melbourne, and U.N.S.W. Because these are reciprocal programs, a more diverse group of Australian students is coming to UT-Austin as well. During the current academic year 15 Australian students have been in Austin studying law.
The exchange programs offer a unique opportunity for students to enhance their understanding of international and transnational law by immersing themselves in Australia's case law and practices. Legal questions about human rights, international courts and crimes, environmental matters, refugee treatment, and resources in common territories such as the seas, the poles, and outer space are just a few of the topics that exchange students are better able to pursue.
Though law school curriculums on the two sides of the Pacific may seem similar at first glance, there is much to be learnt from the differing perspectives that Australian and American professors hold. Similarly, the emphases and tone of student discussions vary considerably across the Pacific and exposure to them broadens student perspectives. In addition, the participating law schools each offer at least one special course or program or activity that make the exchanges specially rewarding.
The main reason for the exchange programs' success is word of mouth among the students themselves. They consistently return home and recommend the exchange experience to one and all. For example, Ben Clanchy, a student at the A.N.U., found his studies in Austin last year extremely positive and he comments that "From the perspective of an Australian student, U.S.-Australia exchanges allow us to confront our stereotypes about a country that we assume we already know so much about. But I now have a better understanding of the way the United States works and how it envisions its role in the world." Clanchy obtained some excellent practical training while in Austin by working for a local law firm. In fact, he continues to work for this Austin firm back in Australia.
Prof. Roy Merksy
Director, Jamail Center for Legal Research
UT-Austin School of Law
The annual meetings of the Australian Studies Assn. of North America were held at the Center for Australian and New Zealand Studies at Georgetown University on 22-24 February. Ambassador Michael Thawley hosted a welcoming reception at his residence the evening before the meetings began.
Befitting ASANA's multidisciplinary character, the program featured diverse papers and presentations from numerous perspectives: law, history, immigration studies, political science, sociology, media studies, and literature. Special panels of Washington-based experts focused on Australia-U.S. cooperation in the multinational peacekeeping operation in East Timor, the present state of Australian-Indonesian relations, and the new free trade initiative between Australia and the U.S.
A graceful keynote address about the historical roots of Australia's engagement with Asia was delivered by David Walker, Professor of Australian Studies at Deakin University. Prof. Barry Conynham, from Southern Cross University and this year's holder of the Harvard Chair in Australian Studies, addressed the state of higher education in Australia today. In addition to these presentations, a score of papers by ASANA members were delivered. At the conference dinner, two ASANA veterans, John Wells and Lisa Murphy, were honored for their long and invaluable work on behalf of the Association.
ASANA's 2002: Call for Papers
The organizers of ASANA 2002 invite proposals for papers to be presented at next year's annual conference, which will take place at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver from 28 February to 2 March, 2002. Papers on any aspect of Australian Studies, or comparative papers dealing with Australia and North America, are welcome and should be submitted not later than 7 January 2002. Please send paper or panel proposals to Prof. Hoyt Edge, ASANA President, Rollins College, 1000 Holt Ave., Box 2659, Winter Park, FL 32789, USA. Fax: (407) 646-2517. E-mail: email@example.com
The ASANA Web Page is now being maintained through the Clark Center by Ronda Rowe, the Australian Subject Bibliographer at the Perry Castenada Library, University of Texas. It can be found at: www.utexas.edu/depts/cas/asana
John Higley and Ross Terrill will participate in a Univ. of Sydney conference on "The Australia-U.S. Alliance in the East Asia Context" 28-30 June.
John Higley will visit Wellington and Auckland for meetings 24-27 June.
Desley Deacon, co-founder of the Clark Center, will take up a position as Professor of History at the ANU's Research School of Social Sciences from 1 July.
Visitors to Clark Center this Spring
Joan London, from Perth, gave a seminar in Prof. Don Graham's course on Australian Literature before participating in the AAALS conference at Rollins College in late April. She is the author of Sister Ships (1986) and Letter to Constantine (1993) and the winner of a number of Australian awards for fiction.
Dr. Jennifer Gill, Director of the New Zealand - U.S. Fulbright Commission in Wellington, will visit on 7-8 May.
Dr. Chris Dixon, Dept. of History, Univ. of Newcastle, will visit the Center for two weeks in May to conduct research in UT-Austin's libraries.
An Adelaide-Austin Sister City delegation from Adelaide will visit as part of the Austin-Adelaide Sister City program from 23-27 April.
Faculty and Student Publications
John Higley and Rhonda Evans Case. "Review Article: The Executive Prerogative Issue." Australian Journal of Political Science 35 (November, 2000): 523-27.
Don Graham, "Michael Wilding's 'Lost Illusions': the Balzacian Underpinnings of Wildest Dreams." In Australian Writing and the City, ed. by Fran de Groen and Ken Stewart. Sydney: ASAL, 2000. Pp. 138-43.
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