In Memory of Professor Carol Hayes

In Memory of Professor Carol Hayes

Japanese studies and Asian Studies in Australia has lost a very special person in the field. Professor Carol Hayes passed away on 16 October 2022. She had been serving the Japanese Studies Association of Australia as an Executive Member since 2015 and a member of the Asian Studies Association of Australia for many years, serving as the secretary of the association before she fell ill in late 2021. She had bravely been fighting an aggressive brain cancer for many months, but never lost her humour, her curiosity and her involvement in the field until the end of her life. 

Carol was born in Sydney on 8 May 1962 as the youngest child and only daughter to her parents, Michael and Hilary. From a very young age Carol was exposed to different cultures and countries which may have contributed to her interest in Asia. The family lived in England and Malta before returning to Australia where her father Michael took up a post as lecturer in Mathematics at the University of Newcastle. To get back to Australia the family drove their Morris Minor Estate through Europe, across the Khyber Pass in Afghanistan and then into India, taking a ship from Bombay.

Carol studied Japanese language and literature at the University of Sydney and obtained her PhD in Modern Japanese Literature in 1996. In 1997, she married Mark Taylor, the love of her life, and they have two beautiful children: Sophie and Alasdair who are now 24 and 21 respectively. Most of her academic career was based at the Australian National University, starting as a lecturer in Japanese language from 1995, although Carol did work as a Lecturer in the Japanese Language programme at Durham University (UK) from 1998 to 2001, travelling to start work there in December 1998 when Sophie was only 6 weeks old.

She was an inspiring educator, in Japanese language and culture in particular. She received many awards and recognitions for her excellent teaching, including the OLT (Office for Learning and Teaching) National Teaching Excellence Award (2013) and the ANU VC’s Award for Teaching Excellence (2013). In recognition of her outstanding leadership and sustained exceptional performance in teaching and learning, she was appointed as one of the six inaugural ANU Distinguished Educators by the VC in 2017. Her contribution as an excellent educator within the ANU, nationally and internationally, was also reflected by the fact that she was admitted as one of the four ANU Principal Fellows at the Higher Education Academy (PFHEA) in 2021. This is a high-level recognition, not only at the ANU but also globally. There are 388 institutional members worldwide (including 28 Australians) with nearly 147,000 Fellows across the world (including nearly 4,900 in Australia), of whom less than 1% are PFHEA. Carol was one of the 132 PFHEAs in Australia. She also served as co-lead of the Australian Network for Teaching Advanced Japanese since 2020. In her teaching, she constantly incorporated the most recent technologies and innovative ideas. Her innovative Japanese language teaching, and language teaching more broadly, have inspired many people across the world. My recent experience in sitting a selection committee testifies to her influence in this field: two of the three short listed candidates referred to Carol’s ideas as an inspiration for their future language teaching during their job interviews.

She was also a creative researcher and yet very humble. She often said that she did not produce as much output as other scholars, but considering how much energy and time she put in teaching and administrative duties, her output was impressive. She carried out imaginative and inspiring work with scholars from many different disciplines, including linguistics, creative arts and mathematics. She was fascinated by Japanese needle work, Sashiko, and worked with Associate Professor Katherine Seaton to explore not only the living cultural history of the needlework but also the mathematical symmetry of the stitching. In one of our conversations after she fell ill, she said: ‘Ironically, I have been working on a piece on brain parasites with a researcher from the medical school. My part is looking at depiction of the parasites in Japanese manga (comics)’. She smiled a bit painfully, but immediately recovered her cheerful spirit. Recently, whenever I have visited a temple or shrine in Japan and see omikuji (fortune telling slip), I remember Carol because she gave a paper on ‘Poetry in Japanese Fortune-telling and Temple Counselling Practice’ at the conference ‘Interdisciplinary Perspectives On Language, Health And Wellbeing In Asia and The Pacific’ in 2020. It was the last conference in which we both participated, and we talked about how we could develop our papers together into a bigger project. Her research output covers a wide range of areas: Australia-Japan relations; poetry and wellbeing; Craft and Creative Practice Research; Japanese popular culture and Language teaching. Moreover, she also published a long list of Japanese poetry and was short-listed as translator for the 2020 Prize Nominee, Sarah Maguire Prize Anthology by the Poetry Translation Centre.

For her commitment to teaching Japanese language and to cross-cultural collaboration between Australia and Japan, she was awarded a Japanese Foreign Minister’s Commendation in 2016. On 8th November 2022, Carol was awarded with highest order of the Japanese government, the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette, ‘for her contribution to promoting academic exchanges and mutual understanding between Japan and Australia’, as the official announcement put it. The announcement, unfortunately, came too late for Carol herself to receive the Order and celebrate the recognition, but it is a testimony to her great contribution in Japanese studies and her ability to make strong personal connections across cultures and disciplines.

Carol was the best of colleagues. She was always enthusiastic and committed to every endeavour, and her ideas were inspirational. One of the things I most valued as a colleague was that she never took criticism or counter arguments personally. Even when she was stressed at times, she would try to understand the other party, was open to talk issues over, and never lost her professionalism. She was very collegial and always ready to help whenever something needed to be done, even when she fell ill during last part of her life. She was loved and respected by her colleagues, both academics and professional staff, not only because of her professional qualities but also because she had a kind and happy spirit. Inspired by her fascination and research on sashiko many of her colleagues (both male and female) made sashiko on paper and brought it to her when she was hospitalized to show that they were thinking of her. Almost all of them were doing sashiko for the first time in their life, but for Carol they were willing to do the craft, working their best wishes into the stiches. Those who did not feel up to sashiko crafting did something different, including making jewellery or writing poems. Indeed, Carol was not only a poetry lover but was also a keen glass jewellery maker. She took weekly jewellery making courses for quite a while when her children were still young and said once: ‘to take part in the course making beautiful jewellery is to have a bit of time for myself and to recharge’. She created many beautiful colourful earrings, bracelets and necklaces that she wore herself and also shared with friends.

Even the terminal illness didn’t make her lose her curiosity and positive outlook for life. She had many plans, all of them linked to the Japanese culture that she so much loved. She planned to retire from 2023, but, when we talked about Japanese popular culture, just some ten days before she departed this world, she was still saying that she ‘would be happy to give guest lectures’ in the future. One of the things that she had planned was to do a pilgrimage with her husband Mark to Buddhist temples across Japan, joining groups of Japanese pilgrims to understand what the journey meant for them, but unfortunately she could not fulfil this dream because she was hospitalized again before they could make the trip. Mark has promised to make the pilgrimage, carrying Carol’s spirit within him.

Japanese studies in Australia has lost one of its most dynamic and creative teachers and researchers.  We have lost a great colleague and friend. But her legacy will survive for years to come, just as her happy smile will remain in our memories. As American poet Maya Angelou wrote, ‘nothing can dim the light from within’. The light which shone in Carol’s smile, and in all her life, survives undimmed.

Professor Li Narangoa specialises in modern Japanese and Mongolian history and culture in the School of Culture, History and Language at the ANU.

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