Dear Australian Studies Institute Friends and Colleagues,
This is our final bulletin for 2020 and it provides me with an opportunity to reflect briefly on the year almost behind us.
Early in January, we took an ANU delegation comprising staff and PhD students from four different ANU Colleges to New York for our annual Winter Institute involving similar delegations from PKU, U-Tokyo and our hosts on this occasion, NYU. It was a great success and at the time seemed portentous of a wonderful 2020, working with many of you in various capacities. At the conclusion of the workshop, we welcomed a fifth partner, Universität Bonn, and set the dates for the 2021 event in Germany.
By the time we got home however it felt like the earth had shifted on its axis. In Canberra our homes were filled with choking smoke from bush-fires which engulfed thousands of square kilometres; the ANU campus and parts of our city had been smashed to pieces by a freak hailstorm (with hailstones the size of baseballs) and then the world suddenly stopped as COVID-19 reached our shores and our campus was locked down.
And, of course, we sat in horror watching our screens as our countries, cities, campuses, streets were afflicted. Our hearts go out to those of you affected.
Like many others across the globe we had to cancel or postpone in-person events during lockdown, and recalibrate our thinking about how to best deliver upon our mission. I believe our team was able to pivot successfully, adapting to working from home, publishing more news stories, greatly extending and enhancing our social media presence, recording podcasts, and launching a virtual bookcase through our regular e-bulletins, which reach an ever increasing global audience.
In addition, we dipped our toes into using the digital technology in the ‘zoom-o-sphere’ to hold our annual symposium online. It brought together academics and PhD candidates from all of our seven ANU Colleges, as well as presenters from many other universities across Australia and the world, in different time zones.
Our first face-to-face/online hybrid event was our 2020 Annual ‘Australia and the World’ Lecture: The Long Cry of Indigenous Peoples to be heard – a defining moment in Australia delivered by Pat Turner AM, to a capacity (socially distanced) in-person audience at the National Press Club and, broadcast live across the nation on television by ABC News and Sky News Australia.
Another far-reaching lecture, delivered in the new COVID style of hybrid in-person and live-streamed (and, later broadcast Australia-wide via Radio National), was Professor Mark Kenny’s 2020 Henry Parkes Oration: Why looking back is the only way forward: COVID-19, the Federation, and the chance of genuine reconciliation.
We ended the year with David Headon’s annual First-Eight Prime Minister’s lecture (on Edmund Barton) at Parliament House. This was followed a week later by the launch of Dave’s book on George Reid, the second in the series of companion monographs to the lecture series.
And, of course, Mark Kenny’s Democracy Sausage podcast continues to go from strength-to-strength, with 377,245 listens throughout 2020 (so far). This is remarkable growth from 70,000 downloads in 2019. Tune in to the final episode of 2020: The first (and possibly last) Annual Democracy Sausage Awards.
Finally, we’re delighted to announce that Professor Martin Thomas and Dr Beatrice Bijon from the Australian Studies Institute have commenced in their roles as Co-Directors of the Menzies Australia Institute at King’s College London. Watch out for big things coming from this partnership with King’s in 2021.
Next year we’re also excited to launch our new ‘Australia and the World’ book series, in partnership with ANU Press.
We’re proud of what we were able to do during this annus horribilis to continue to promote the study of Australia and the world, to help build a global community and nurture the next generation of Australian Studies scholars. Whatever 2021 brings I’m confident the team here at the Institute will adapt and continue to thrive. My personal thanks to Sally Wheeler for her support and to Jem, Fi, Mark, Shirley, Xinyuan (Cynthia), Elisa and Dave for doing all the work. And, for taking lots of photos, which give the false impression that I did it.
Thank you all for your continuing support of the ANU Australian Studies Institute.
All the best for a safe and peaceful festive season.
Professor Paul Pickering
Director, Australian Studies Institute