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Australia India Council Annual Report 1999–2000

Australian studies

The objective of the Council’s Australian studies program is to promote in India an informed understanding of Australian society and politics. While recognising that studies of Australian literature often provide a basis for Australian studies in India, the Council seeks to broaden Australian studies in India to cover history, politics, economics, society and other areas.

The Council continued during 1999–2000 to seek to establish a strategic framework for the support of Australian studies in India. Professor Bruce Bennett, Head of the Department of English at the Australian Defence Force Academy, Canberra, visited India in January 2000 to undertake the second stage of a review of Australian studies in India, including a detailed assessment of Australian studies facilities and a report on the most appropriate ways to encourage Australian studies in India. Professor Bennett’s report built upon the earlier findings of Emeritus Professor Peter Reeves on Australian studies capabilities in Australia of relevance to India.

Group of academics

During his visit to India in January 2000 to examine Australian studies facilities, Professor Bruce Bennett AO, Head of the Department of English at the Australian Defence Force Academy, Canberra, met with Australian studies exponents from New Delhi and surrounding areas, and others involved in supporting Australian studies in India. (from left) Professor Satendra Nandan (University of Canberra), Ms Pema Eden Samdup (Indira Gandhi National Open University), Ms Jyoti Nandan, Ms Bernadette McDonald (Counsellor, Education and Training, Australian High Commission), Mrs Trish Bennett, Professor Bruce Bennett, Dr Sheel Nuna (Australian High Commission), Professor Harish Trivedi (Delhi University), Professor Santosh Sareen (Jawaharlal Nehru University), Professor Malashri Lal (Delhi University), and Professor S N Jafri and Professor Anisur Rahman (Jama Milia Islamia University).

After considering Professor Bennett’s report at its April 2000 meeting, the Council agreed in principle to allocate a substantial proportion of its funding over the next three years to the promotion and development of Australian studies in India.

Both the Reeves and Bennett reports emphasised the importance of recognising and supporting the efforts of those individuals and organisations in India already working to encourage the study of Australia. In this context, the Council provided funding for a visit to Sydney, Wollongong and Canberra in October–November 1999 by Professor Eugenie Pinto of the University of Madras to develop Australian studies curriculum material and gain a greater understanding of Australian studies facilities. Professor C T Indra, Head of the Department of English at the University of Madras, had visited Wollongong, Canberra, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth in July–October 1999 for similar purposes, as well as participating in the Association for the Study of Australian Literature (ASAL) 1999 conference in Sydney.

The Council also provided funding to Dr Philip Mead of the University of Tasmania to enable the participation of Dr Anurag Sharma of Dayanand College, Ajmer, in the ASAL conference in Hobart in July 2000. Dr Sharma, who has specialised in teaching Australian studies for some years, spoke on his published work on Australian poet Les Murray, as well as visiting Australian studies facilities in Melbourne, Canberra and Sydney.

The two Australian studies reports equally emphasised the importance of supporting visits to Indian universities by leading teachers of Australian studies. While the Council had previously supported shorter teaching visits, new ground was broken in January–February 2000 when Australian poet and professional writing lecturer Ms Judith Rodriguez of Deakin University visited the Department of English at the University of Madras for two months to teach a core course in Australian writing. Ms Rodriguez’ visit, as well as demonstrating the effectiveness of longer teaching visits in encouraging Australian studies in India, also provided useful insights for the Council in developing its Australian studies strategy. The enthusiastic response of students and academic staff at Madras University resulted in an invitation for a repeat visit by Ms Rodriguez in 2001.

Another of the central recommendations of the two Australian studies reports was support for appropriate conferences in India on Australian studies. In this context, the Council provided funding to Dr Cynthia vanden Driesen of Edith Cowan University, Perth, towards costs of a conference of the largely India-based Asia–Australasia Association for the Study of Australasia to be held at the University of Mysore in the latter half of 2000.

With funding provided by the Council to the Asialink Centre, Ms Maree Delofski of the Australian Film, Television and Radio School, Sydney, was to undertake a literature residency in India during the second half of 2000. Council support for the residency acknowledged the key role that studies of Australian literature presently play in developing Australian studies in India.

In this same context, Dr Satendra Nandan of the University of Canberra participated in a conference in Mysore and gave lectures at Australian studies facilities at universities in Mysore, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad and New Delhi during June and July 1998, supported by Council funding agreed in the previous financial year.

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Last Updated: 24 September 2014
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