Welcome by the Deputy Vice Chancellor of University of the Sunshine Coast , Professor Greg Hill    Friday 6 July 2006

Good morning and a very warm welcome to the conference and the University of the Sunshine Coast – particularly delighted to welcome His Excellency,

Teuku  Muhammad Hamzah Tayeb

the Ambassador of the Republic of Indonesia,

Initially I’d like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the country we’re meeting on today – the Guby Guby people. Recognising Australian Indigenous culture is particularly appropriate at an event like this that celebrates cultures, education and languages.

The university is extremely pleased to be host to the 2007 ASILE Conference. We have a commitment to Indonesian language studies and our involvement in the Lombok program each year is something of a feature of the teaching portfolio of this university. And over the last year it has been most gratifying to see Philip Mahnken and USC linked into the consortium that has been awarded Commonwealth funded projects to champion Indonesian language teaching in Australian universities.

And on the schools front I was talking to the Qld Minister for Education, Mr Rod Welford recently and he believes we’ve dropped the ball on languages in schools and is committed to doing something about it. And the Sunshine Coast is a pilot region for LOTE  in Qld - so there are positives.

But my conversation with the Minister had me thinking about how it could be better and how governments have to be visionary and proactive if we’re to realize the potential of cross-cultural studies in shaping our future for the better. And with regard to that sort of leadership I congratulate the Ambassador for his commitment to this conference.

I came to the USC after 10 years in the Northern Territory and there there is a much closer bond with Indonesia. When I arrived there in the mid-1990s the Territory Govt of the time had compulsory in-country Indonesian language training for all its senior departmental officers. Virtually all kids did at least some Indonesian at school and probably as many people took their annual leave in Indonesia as in southern Australia. This has changed for the worse with the threat of terrorism and the former tensions over East Timor but the pendulum is swinging back – thank goodness.

Now certainly the inhabitants of Darwin are closer to most of Indonesia than they are to any of the Australian state capitals but Australia as a whole is in a similar position when you look at global geography and our position on the globe. We’re direct neighbours and if we intend to live internationalization Indonesia has to be a priority.

During my time in Darwin a significant proportion of my research activity gravitated towards agricultural development projects in eastern Indonesia funded through the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research – West Timor, Sumba and Flores – especially work on fire management and minimizing the impact of wildfires on agriculture and forestry. Working there and enjoying friendships has become an important part of my life. So I am very supportive of the Indonesian language studies and the role educators such as yourselves play.

How do we spread the importance of your message about Indonesian? Who do we need to spread it to? How do we turn around the Australian disinterest in languages, let alone Asian languages? So enjoy your conference and I hope you come up with some answers. Thank you.

I’d now like to invite His Excellency, the Ambassador of the Republic of Indonesia, to officially open this conference.

 

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