Asian Studies Association of Australia Asian Currents
The Asian Studies Association of Australia's e-bulletin
September 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.


Learning the business of Islamic banking

by Peter Rodgers, Asian Studies Association of Australia,

Islamic banking is growing at about 15 per cent annually. The London-based Institute of Islamic Banking and Insurance estimates that Islamic banks now manage some $260 billion in funds around the globe, with clients throughout the Muslim and non-Muslim worlds.

The growing impact of Islamic banking has prompted the Australian Consortium for In-Country Indonesian Studies (ACICIS), based at Murdoch University in Western Australia, to introduce a course in Islamic business and economics. The semester-long program will begin in early 2006 at the Islamic University of Indonesia in Yogyakarta, Central Java.

ACICIS director, Professor David Hill, says that the course comes at a crucial time of often-negative focus on Islam in the non-Muslim world. Other experts point to the significant natural resources and growth potential of some developing Muslim nations. They argue that the next generation of Western business executives will need to know a good deal more about Muslim countries than just their GDP figures. There will need to be a good understanding of Syariah accounting and banking practice and Islamic business ethics.

Islamic banking operates on the principle of sharing profits and losses, not of offering a predetermined rate of return to investors. Instead of financing the purchase of goods, Islamic banks engage in trade. Subsequent sale on to the client at a higher price is regarded as legitimate profit because the bank has assumed the risk between purchase and resale.

The fact that the ACICIS course is being run in Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim country, should expose students to the lively debate there about applying Islamic approaches to business and finance. In 1992, the Indonesian government introduced new laws allowing the possibility of a dual banking system. In 1998, it introduced the Islamic Banking Act, after which Islamic banks grew rapidly. In the last decade, more than 2000 Islamic microfinance institutions have also emerged in Indonesia.

Proponents of the course argue that Australia's trade and economic ties with Indonesia and the wider Muslim world can only benefit from a better understanding of the growing influence of Islamic business practices. Professor Hill says Australians need to appreciate that Islamic countries are major players in the world economy. The new course, he says, 'aims to give our students, Australian and Indonesian, Muslim and non-Muslim, a sharper sense of Islamic values and Islamic laws and how these might increasingly affect the world of business'.


Improving policing for women in the Asia Pacific

by Helen McDermott, Australasian Council of Women and Policing,

Policing's role in protecting women's human rights in the Asia and Pacific region was explored at the Fourth Excellence in Policing Conference hosted by the Australasian Council of Women and Policing in Darwin from 21 to 24 August in partnership with the Northern Territory Police.

The conference attracted about 220 delegates from around the Asia and Pacific region, as well as from South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Examining policing's response to women in the region from a human rights perspective provides a useful way to critique policing for women. For that reason the conference considered issues such as trafficking in women, domestic violence, forced pregnancies, sexual assault and the threat of violence, all of which prevent women from fully participating in their communities.

Unfortunately, violence against women occurs throughout the Asia and Pacific region and women's human rights are routinely violated. While some countries have made gains in improving the policing response to such violence, many countries still do not regard women's human rights as a priority in policing. This needs to change, especially given that policing is a key gateway to the justice system and can play an important role in empowering women.

Trafficking in women is becoming a higher priority for policing in Australia. Many of the women and girls who are trafficked into Australia, especially for prostitution, come from Asian countries, including Thailand, Burma and increasingly South Korea.

Speakers at the conference - Ms Jean Enriquez from the Coalition Against Trafficking in WomenŮAsia Pacific, Ms Kathleen Maltzahn from Project Respect and former AFP detective Chris Payne - explored policing's response to this exploitive trade from both a practical policing and a human rights perspective.

Federal Agent Audrey Fagan, the Chief Police Officer of the Australian Capital Territory, examined women's leadership in reforming policing. She spoke about how women are producing changes in policing by placing greater emphasis on collaboration. She also stressed the benefits of building diverse teams which include women and their particular expertise.

The lack of gender analysis in the police reform being undertaken in the region was noted. It was also agreed there was a glaring absence of women's concerns in the current security agenda.

The papers from the conference will soon be available on the Australian Institute of Criminology website The papers from the previous Australasian Women and Policing conference series are also available here.

See also:


This month we profile the David Reeve, Associate Professor, Department of Chinese and Indonesian, School of Modern Language Studies, University of New South Wales,

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

A. I was blown into Asian studies by my employment as a diplomat. I was brought up in the western suburbs of Sydney, which had a substantial migrant population, but little to do with Asia. The most exotic subjects at school were Latin and French. I was still delighted by Europe when more forward-looking fellow students at university were studying about Asia. It left me cold. I didn't know much about anything except 19th century England and Europe. Fortunately my honours thesis on a 19th century English evangelical preacher was thought a good qualification to become an Australian diplomat. It was in External Affairs that I was asked to study Indonesian (rather than me asking). That took me to Indonesia in 1969 and, like so many others, I was hit with the Indonesian bug. The scales fell from my eyes. I was very glad I'd studied about Europe but felt with only one lifetime, studying Asia was where the future lay, for me at any rate.

Q.› What are your current preoccupations?

A.› The decline in Indonesian studies and Asian studies in Australian schools and universities; Australian-Indonesian relations; the dynamics of modern Indonesian language; writing a biography of Ong Hok Ham, the famous Indonesian (Chinese) historian, public intellectual and bohemian hedonist. And, through ACICIS, encouraging more Australian undergraduates to spend a semester or a year at Indonesian universities. Also, the future of Australian studies in Indonesia in particular, in India, and across Asia in general.

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

A.›I'm very keen for the 28 recommendations of last year's Foreign Affairs Parliamentary Sub-Committee's report on Australia's relations with Indonesia to be brought to light and acted upon. There has yet to be a formal government response to the report but I'm glad there have at least been positive signs from the Department of Education, Science and Training in regard to support for the ACICIS program, which is particularly dear to my heart. I think all of my interests also feed in to the ASAA report on the need to maximise Australia's Asia knowledge. The ASAA put such good recommendations into their budget submission earlier this year. These too deserve a positive response from the Federal Government.

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

A.›It is possible that Asian Studies will fall apart, with Chinese and Japanese Studies galloping off on their own, leaving all the rest in confusion in the stables. But I think not, especially if the government acts on what has been so cogently argued by the ASAA. The rise of India is a great new challenge for Asian studies, an exciting one to which some of my colleagues are responding. With support, their efforts will also help deepen Australia's connections with Asia.


Researcher of the month

Gregory N. Evon ( did his bachelors and masters degrees in Korean Studies at Indiana University in the United States.› In his first term, his teacher was Dr Ken Wells, an historian who had gained his PhD from the Australian National University (ANU). Within a few weeks, Gregory had decided he too wanted to do a PhD.›

About the time Gregory was completing his MA, Dr Wells (now Professor Wells) returned to the ANU. Having found Wells an inspiring teacher, Gregory decided to follow him, not wanting to start over in cultivating the teacher-student relationship and eager to research with a greater degree of freedom than the US postgraduate system allows.

Gregory came to the ANU in 1995 and finished his doctorate on Han Yongun (1879-1944), a Buddhist reformer and poet during the Japanese Colonial period, in 2000.› He says those were the best five years of his life up to that point.›He loved the collegial sense among the students at the ANU, loved Canberra and fell in love with the woman he has now married.

Gregory's main thematic interest is the relationship between religion (in particular Buddhism) and literature in the broader context of Korean history and in turn, comparative history with China and Japan.› He considers that makes him both a student of literature and an historian - in sum, an old-fashioned humanities scholar, who now lectures in Korean literature and culture, as well as Korean and Japanese Comparative Cultures at the University of New South Wales.

Gregory is also 'retooling the factory', by which he means studying many of things that intrigued him as a PhD student but which remained beyond the scope of his dissertation. These interests are related to classical Korean literature, about which much new and good Korean scholarship has been published in the last five years.

In 2004, Gregory published a study of Kim Sisup (1435-1493), an important figure in Korean Confucian and Buddhist history, who wrote the first prose fiction. He is now writing about classical poetic criticism, which has drawn him into the history of Korea's importation of Chinese 'rhyme books'. He also intends turning his PhD into a book, knowing he now has the background to do the topic justice.


Website of the month is the website of international relief worker and documentary filmmaker, Ellen Bruno. Bruno's work has won awards at international film festivals and documents human rights issues across Asia. SAMSARA: Death and Rebirth in Cambodia, for example, examines Cambodian's efforts to reconstruct a shattered society in a climate of war (to view a clip go to: and LEPER: Life Beyond Stigma offers a glimpse into a village of lepers in rural Nepal (to view a clip go to:

Recent article of interest

Regular readers of Asian Currents will have noticed that many Australian scholars of China have been studying regions well beyond China's eastern seaboard. Now these areas are also catching the eye of foreign investors. According to Tim Harcourt, Chief Economist of the Australian Trade Commission, the inland regions are keen to generate economic growth and attract infrastructure investment in airports, freeways, factories, offices and apartments for their growing populations. In Chasing China's Next Wave, he outlines some of the opportunities for Australian exporters. See,,0_S1-1_CORPXID0029-2_-3_PWB110682853-4_-5_-6_-7_,00.html

Did you know?

There are currently these opportunities for people wishing to study Asia:

Diary dates

THE POETIC MANDARIN, Chinese calligraphy from the James Hayes Collection, 23 September to 27 November 2005, Sydney. The focus of this exhibition at the Art Gallery of NSW is the cultural life of the imperial Chinese Mandarins.

RENDRA, TOUR OF AUSTRALIA, September-October 2005, Melbourne, Sydney, Canberra, Brisbane:
Interfaith forum. Prominent Indonesian poet, Rendra, and the new head of the Muhammadiyah, Din Syamsudin are among the participants in this public forum from 6pm to 7.30pm on 28 September at Basement Theatre, Sidney Myer Asia Centre, The University of Melbourne (corner of Swanston Street and Monash Road). The forum will be followed by a poetry reading with Rendra and wife Ken Zuraida, and music accompaniment by Sawung Jabo. For details contact Paul Davis, Asialink
Poetry reading, Sydney, 8 October 2005 from 3.30pm to 5pm, Downstairs Theatre, Seymour Centre, corner of City Road and Cleveland St; tickets $15/$20. For details contact Sue Piper ph. 0410 716 553 or the Seymour Centre Box Office: (02) 9351 7940
Poetry reading, Canberra 10 October from 6.00pm to 7.30pm Asia Bookroom, Unit 2, 1-3 Lawry Place, Macquarie, ACT. Tickets $10/15. Contact Sally Burdon (02) 6251 5191
THE EVOLUTION OF INDONESIA'S FUTURE, 13 October 2005, Brisbane. Rendra will speak at the Queensland Art Gallery from 6pm to 7pm. RSVP to Cassandra Van Wyk by Friday 7 October 2005 email:, (07) 3875 3730
Poetry reading, 16 October 2005, Brisbane from 3pm at Turbine Platform, Brisbane Powerhouse, New Farm. For details contact Sue Piper ph. 0410 716 553

STAMPED FOR EXPORT, 5 October 2005, Melbourne. A free Austrade seminar which offers advice on what it takes to be an exporter in the areas of business and finance; consumer goods; culture, media and entertainment; education and training; and ICT. Yarra Room, Melbourne Town Hall from 5.30pm to 7.30pm. For a registration form, click registration form (479.04kb) or contact the City of Melbourne (03) 9658 8436; Email:

LAWASIA CONFERENCE ON INTERNATIONAL TRADE LAW, 7-8 October 2005, Ho Chi Minh City. or contact:

INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY LAW AND THE PROTECTION OF INDIGENOUS TRADITIONAL KNOWLEDGE IN BIO-RESOURCES, 14 October 2005, Perth. Gary Meyers, Law and Research Fellow, will present this seminar at the Asia Research Centre 12.30pm in the Senate Room at Murdoch University. See

ARAFURA CRAFT EXCHANGE: FIBRE 2005 until 16 October 2005, Darwin. This is the first in a new triennial exhibition of Indonesian and Australian contemporary craft practice at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory. See

State Terrorism and Political Identity in Indonesia: Fatally Belonging, book launch 18 October 2005, Melbourne. Dr Robert Cribb, President of the ASAA, will launch a new book by Ariel Heryanto, of the University of Melbourne, Australia at the University of Melbourne's Bookshop, from 5pm to 7pm. RSVP by 11 October 2005, to The book, published by Routledge, investigates the profound political consequences of the mass killings in the mid-1960s in Indonesia upon public life in the subsequent decades. See

GLOBAL ECONOMY, LOCAL CONFLICT: INDONESIA AFTER SOEHARTO, 20 October 2005, Perth. Associate Professor Vedi Hadiz, National University of Singapore will present this seminar at the Asia Research Centre at 12.30 pm in the Senate Room at Murdoch University. See

ASIA RESEARCH FORUM 24 October 2005, Canberra. A free one-day seminar for library collection managers and academics on trends in Asia-based research in Australia at the National Library of Australia from 9.00 am. Bookings (02) 6262 1519

ENGINEERING THE SOUL: MARKET ANXIETIES AND CHINA'S NEW EXPERTS, 28 October 2005, Perth. Gary Sigley, Asian Studies, University of Western Australia, will present this seminar at the Asia Research Centre at 12.30 pm in the Senate Room at Murdoch University. See

CHINA STUDY TOUR, 16 November to 6 December 2005. The Australian Catholic University will lead a four-week study tour to Beijing, Shanghai, minority regions of Southwest China, Hong Kong and Macao. COST: $4,000 (ticket and domestic costs) ENQUIRIES: Dr. Andrew Papadimos, (07) 3623 7180,

SOUTHEAST ASIA, A GLOBAL CROSSROADS CONFERENCE, Chiang Mai, Thailand, 8-9 December 2005. 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

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

Call for papers AUSTRALIANS AND NEW ZEALANDERS IN CHINA, 1800-1950, 14-16 April 2006, Canberra. This conference will have a special focus on the contribution of women to ANZ-China relations. Abstracts of approximately 300 words are invited. Contributions by ANZ citizens/residents of Chinese ethnic origins are particularly welcome. Contact the convenor, Dr Ian Welch,

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 or Margaret Hanlon, at

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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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