Asian Studies Association of Australia Asian Currents
The Asian Studies Association of Australia's e-bulletin
July 2005 | ISSN 1449-4418 | <>

Welcome to Asian Currents

Asian Currents aims to connect Australia's academic experts on Asia with journalists, policy makers, business people, artists and other educators. Please feel free to forward this email to others you think would be interested in receiving Asian Currents. Registration is free and open to all by simply registering your email address at The e-bulletin normally appears in the third week of each month.



by Dr Abdullah Al-Madani, Professor of International Studies and Asian Studies, Bahrain University

Indonesia, one of the founding members of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), has been importing oil since 2003 and is expected to become a net oil importer very soon. This could threaten its place in OPEC as only countries which export more oil than they import are eligible for membership of the organisation. Nothing better reflects Jakarta's anxiousness about the current situation than its recent decision to establish a panel to examine a possible exit from OPEC.

Indonesia's oil problem is so serious that since 2002 it has not been able to fully meet its OPEC output quota - currently 1.425 million barrels a day. While oil and gas last year accounted for 26 per cent (AUD 16 billion) of the country's export revenues this was mainly because of soaring global oil prices. Lower output, possibly combined with lower prices, would seriously affect government revenues.

According to energy analysts, Indonesia currently has proven oil reserves of 5.14 billion barrels with probable additional reserves of 5 billion barrels, particularly beneath its territorial waters. The steady decline in production and exports over the past decade is not because of a lack of oil. Rather it is the result of:

Some analysts argue that Indonesia's OPEC status is not under serious threat because domestic oil consumption will moderate in coming years as the result of continuing high fuel prices and Jakarta's efforts to encourage alternative energy sources. Others argue, however, that notwithstanding the lack of precedent for the removal of a member state, Indonesia is at serious risk of soon becoming, at best, an OPEC observer.



by Kate van der Voort, Quest for Life Foundation.

When the tsunami hit on 26 December 2004, children all over Australia were deeply moved and disturbed by what they saw unfolding on television. Many spoke of how they felt sad and helpless at seeing children their own age lose their life or everything in it.

The Rainbow Bridge,, a project established by the Quest for Life Foundation, set out to change this feeling of helplessness. The project gave Australian children a way to make a difference by connecting with children in other parts of the worldůIndonesia and Sri Lanka in particular--while educating them about how children live in other parts of the world and some of the situations that they face in their day-to-day lives.

At the other end of the Rainbow Bridge the children received letters and pictures from Australia. This was designed to give them a focus outside of their immediate surrounds, and encouraging emotional and psychological healing over the longer term.

In May, the Rainbow Bridge project was invited by the Sri Lankan Select Parliamentary Committee for Natural Disasters to visit Sri Lanka. We went with a certain expectation of where the rebuilding would be five months after the tsunami. What we faced was a picture of contradictions, complexities, and challenges.

In Sri Lanka, the tsunami killed between 30,000 and 40,000 people, displaced another half million and fully or partially destroyed thousands of houses, schools, hospitals, hotels, public buildings, roads and rail line. Assistance flowed into the country but has not always reached those who need it most. In the north and east, for example, the conflict between the government and Tamil Tigers has complicated the distribution of aid, with both sides and NGOs being accused of corruption. Another obstacle has been opposition to the government's policy largely prohibiting reconstruction within a "buffer zone" near the water from survivors wanting to return to their land.

Seeing the situation first hand showed our Rainbow Bridge team that until the physical needs of the children were met, correspondence and communication with other children for the benefit of emotional and psychological healing, was still a luxury. We have had to reconsider our approach and, after careful examination of the issues and the most suitable responses to the post-tsunami recovery for children, have concluded that Quest for Life does not have the infrastructure and resources to make the Rainbow Bridge project what it could be. The project will cease at the end of July. But we would like to see its mission of providing education, support and understanding between the children of Australia and the children of Asia live on in some other form.

Your support and suggestions are most welcome. Please contact Kate van der Voort on 0419 289 958 or email



This month we profile Professor John Fitzgerald Director of the International Centre of Excellence in Asia-Pacific Studies and distinguished specialist in modern China studies.

Q.› When did you become interested in studying Asia and why?

A.› It was not Asia that caught my eye initially but 'civilisations' - those grand and unwieldy communities that grow crops, write things down, build impressive monuments, and pass into history. To get a wide angle on early civilisations I opted for Ancient Greek and Mediterranean archaeology, plus classical Chinese language and literature. As I was finishing my second undergraduate year it dawned on me I would need to find a job at the end of it all. I decided to refocus on modern Chinese language, history and politics.

Q.› What are your current preoccupations?

A.›My current passion has to do with Chinese community histories, as distinct from the grand narratives of state and nation-making in China, and how these extend beyond China through migration. I have also come to appreciate what a remarkably interesting place Australia is, historically speaking.

Q.› How do these fit into the contemporary scene?

A.› Chinese-Australian community histories need to be told and retold to recover memories that have been lost and to maintain an historical genealogy for Chinese Australia stretching back to the earliest years of settlement. While five or six Chinese-language newspapers were published on and off between the 1890s and the 1940s, by 1950 there were none. The general population of Australia grew many times over between the 1850s and 1950s, but the Chinese population shrank roughly five fold. This was the outcome of a deliberate and racist immigration policy, long since discarded. Today, there are again plenty of Chinese newspapers in print across Australia and the Chinese-Australian population has grown from around 12,000 people at the end of WWII to some 500,000. But few of the more recent immigrants from China, Taiwan, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Singapore have any idea of the rich histories of Chinese Australia.

Q. What are your hopes for Asian studies in Australia?

A.›First, I would like to see Asian studies benefit from a general shift in the institutional culture of Australian higher education toward one which values scholarship, learning, and trust. Asian languages and studies have much to offer general education programs designed to expand our knowledge of our world and ourselves. They are not merely aids to trade and diplomacy.

Secondly, I would like to see greater recognition of Australia's Asian communities among Asian Studies specialists and programs at all levels and in all sectors of our education system. When the ASAA began promoting Asia literacy in Australia in the 1970s, the Asia to which it referred was imagined as situated in another place and among other national peoples. This is no longer tenable. The Asian Studies profession needs to welcome the languages and cultures of Asian Australia into its field of vision-just as Australia has come to offer a hand of welcome to immigrants from Asia.

The International Centre of Excellence in Asia Pacific Studies at the Australian National University, is a Federal Government initiative which aims to raise the profile of Asia-Pacific Studies in Australia through a program of new, sustainable and collaborative activities.

Researcher of the month

Michele Ford ( first became interested in labour relations when working for an agricultural machinery company in her gap year before beginning a double degree in Engineering and Arts at UNSW in 1989. Her engagement with Indonesia began two years later when she signed up for an Indonesian language summer school in January 1991. On completion of her pass degree, Michele spent two years in Indonesia, funded by an AVCC Asian Languages scholarship. She then moved to Canberra to complete her Honours thesis on the Indonesian industrial relations system at the ANU in 1995. Michele returned to academia in mid-1998 to begin a PhD on NGOs' contribution to the Indonesian labour movement at the University of Wollongong.

In 2004 Michele was appointed to a lecturing position at Flinders University where she teaches Asian Studies and Indonesian language. She has continued her research on labour, with a focus on trade unionism, non-traditional forms of labour movement organisation and international labour migration. She is currently working on a comparative study of labour relations in Thailand and Indonesia (with Dr Andrew Brown), union and NGO engagement with foreign domestic workers in Southeast Asia (with Dr Nicola Piper), and Indonesian women's participation in trade unionism. Michele also holds an ARC Discovery grant with Dr Lenore Lyons for a project entitled 'In the Shadow of Singapore', which examines the impact of cross-border interactions between Riau Islanders and Singaporeans.

Book of the month

The State of China Atlas: Mapping the World's Fastest Growing Economy by Stephanie Hemelryk Donald and Robert Benewick, UNSW Press. The atlas maps the profound changes that are occurring in China as it becomes a market economy. It situates China's position in world economic growth, its trading patterns and partners, and looks at Chinese military power and the Chinese diaspora. Specifications: 0 86840 833 6, April 2005, UNSW Press, 128pp, 190 x 245 mm, PB, AUD $29.95. Order your copy via the web at this special link to receive 20% off the normal price

Recent article of interest

For the second month in a row, we draw your attention to an article in New Matilda in which a former senior diplomat, Rawdon Dalrymple argues the case for Australia's need for greater expertise and awareness in dealing with Asia. See

See also the expression of concern issued by the 8th biennial Conference of the Australian Society of Indonesian Language Educators (ASILE), held at Curtin University 3-5 July 2005: The statement calls on the Australian and Indonesian governments to undertake a series of measures designed to increase understanding between the two countries.

Did you know?

On 8 July 2005 the Minister for Education, Science and Training, Dr Nelson announced that the Australian Government will provide six new Endeavour Malaysia Awards, and four new Endeavour Malaysia Research Fellowships in a scholarship package worth $1.5 million over three years. The Awards will be offered to scholars of the highest academic merit whose research will enhance relationships between Australia and Malaysia, and foster Australia's ongoing understanding of Islamic culture. See

Diary dates

THIRD HERB FEITH LECTURE: 'Can Indonesia hold? Unity and diversity revisited', Melbourne, 4 August 2005. Dr Joan Hardjono will deliver this free public lecture in memory of the late Herb Feith - teacher, scholar, activist and humanitarian - at the Iwaki Auditorium, ABC Southbank Centre, corner Sturt Street and Southbank Boulevard at 6.00pm refreshments for 7.00pm start. Presented by the Centre of Southeast Asian Studies, Monash Asia Institute, and the Faculty of Arts, Monash University, in association with the Melbourne Institute of Asian Languages and Societies, University of Melbourne, and ABC Radio Australia. Please RSVP using "Herb Feith Lecture 2005" as the subject line to:

SPEAKING WITH CLOTH-INDONESIAN TEXTILES, Friday 22 April to Sunday 28 August, Melbourne. This exhibition explores contemporary life in Indonesia through personal stories, highlighting the breadth of creativity and cultural diversity in Indonesia. At the Immigration Museum, Old Customs House, 400 Flinders Street, Melbourne. See or call 03-99272700.

WORLD EXPO: March to September in Aichi, Japan. 127 countries and 6 international organisations, along with leading Japanese corporations such as Toyota, Toshiba and Mitsubishi, will take part in the Expo.› The Australian Government has committed $35 million to Australia's participation in the event, and has been joined by the Victorian, Queensland and Western Australian state governments and the private sector in preparing Australia's participation. For each month of the six months of the Expo, the business program will feature one of the following sectors: agribusiness; natural resources and energy; biotechnology; information and communications technology; automotive sector; and environmental technology. See for more information about the Australian pavilion.

SONS OF KINGS, Exhibition of Paintings, Wednesday 8 June to Sunday 4 September 2005, Sydney. Created in the Rajput courts of Rajasthan, north-west India, these paintings and drawings encapsulates the vitality and sensuality of life at the courts from the 17th to the 19th century. At the Art Gallery of NSW. See For enquiries phone (02) 9225 1744 or email:

IMPROVING POLICING FOR WOMEN IN THE ASIA PACIFIC REGION CONFERENCE, 20-23 August 2005, Darwin. Delegates from Australia, New Zealand, the Pacific Islands and Asia will explore how policing can better protect women's human rights and strategies to improve the number of women in key decision making positions within policing. For more information go to the Australasian Council of Women and Policing website at

INDONESIA UPDATE 2005, 'Indonesia, Australia and the Region', 23-24 September 2005, Canberra. This year's update will provide an opportunity to review the state of the often contentious bilateral relationship in the context of wider regional concerns and cooperation. It will be held at the Australian National University and is free of charge. Conference convenor: John Monfries, See and follow the links for the program and registration.

INDONESIA COUNCIL: OPEN CONFERENCE, Flinders University, Adelaide, 26-27 September 2005. This multi-disciplinary conference will provide a forum for innovative work on Indonesia, with particular emphasis on bringing established scholars and newer students of Indonesia together. Registration is free. To register, please send an email with your name, institutional affiliation and email address to by 1 August 2005.

EIGHTH WOMEN IN ASIA CONFERENCE, University of Technology, Sydney, 26-28 September 2005. The theme of this year's conference is 'Shadow Lines', which has to do with movement across both geographical borders as well as those of the mind. Guest speakers invited include Dr Valentine Moghadam from the University of Illinois, Dr Ananya Jahanara Kabir from the UK, Dr Ruri Ito from Japan, Carla Bianpoen and Ms Samsidar who are both working with displaced women in Aceh. See For enquiries, please email

SOUTHEAST ASIA, A GLOBAL CROSSROADS CONFERENCE, Chiang Mai, Thailand, 8-9 December 2005. Call for papers This conference will have several panels, including the New Media, Pop Cultures, In(ter) Asia Panel. Papers are invited that deal especially with new media technology (including radio, television, film, and internet), as important sites of production and consumption of popular cultures (not only the aesthetic genres like pop music or soap operas, but also sports, fashion, travels, shopping) within contemporary Southeast Asian societies. See

Call for papers MEDIA AND IDENTITY IN ASIA CONFERENCE.› 15-16 February 2006, Curtin University of Technology, Sarawak Malaysia.› This is an interdisciplinary conference jointly organised by the Media-Asia Research Group at Curtin University of Technology in Western Australia and Curtin University of Technology, Sarawak Malaysia. For more information visit

THE NEXT ASAA CONFERENCE! 26-29 June 2006, at the University of Wollongong. Call for papers Invitations are open to panel organisers and individual presenters to submit abstracts at, especially on the theme of 'Asia Reconstructed', a title that is intended to invite submissions from fields as diverse as development studies and post-colonial literatures. Contact Professor Adrian Vickers, conference convenor, at

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What would be useful for you? Human interest stories, profiles of successful graduates of Asian studies, more news about what's on, moderated discussions on topical issues? Send your ideas to

About the ASAA

The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) promotes the study of Asian languages, societies, cultures, and politics in Australia; supports teaching and research in Asian studies; and works towards an understanding of Asia in the community at large. It publishes the Asia Studies Review journal and holds a biennial conference.

The ASAA believes there is an urgent need to develop a strategy to preserve, renew and extend Australian expertise about Asia. It has called on the government to show national leadership in the promotion of Australia's Asia knowledge and skills. See Maximizing Australia's Asia Knowledge Repositioning and Renewal of a National Asset

Asian Currents is published by the Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA), thanks to a grant from the Myer Foundation made to assist the ASAA promote the study of Asia in Australia. It is edited by the ASAA's promotions agents, Francesca Beddie and Peter Rodgers.

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