An appointment with Tokyo

31 July 2013

Associate Professor Catriona Elder
Associate Professor Catriona Elder

Australia's sun-bronzed association with sport and tourism may be giving way to a new wave of interest from overseas. Universities around the world are paying increasing attention to other aspects of Australian life, such as its literature, film, Indigenous people and human rights.

This growing global interest in Australian Studies has seen Catriona Elder, a sociologist from the University, appointed as a visiting professor at the University of Tokyo.

Currently based in the School of Social and Political Sciences, Associate Professor Elder will begin a 10-month research and teaching position in Japan in September.

"For local students, studying Australian history and culture can seem a bit dull," Professor Elder says, "but it is seen as something quite exotic overseas.

"My main focus will be on Indigenous cultures. With our similar histories around the removal of Indigenous children, Australia and Japan actually have more in common than meets the eye."

Robert Elder in Kure, Hiroshima
Robert Elder in Kure, Hiroshima

Since the United Nations passed the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2007, Indigenous Studies has attracted a growing network of scholars from around the world.

She says: "There's a new-found awareness that we should take other people's knowledge seriously, and I hope that when I study Australia from the outside, I can get a different perspective about it."

As a sociologist, Professor Elder hopes to discover new opportunities for collaboration between Japan and Australia.

But she also has a more personal motivation. "My father Robert was one of the troops who participated in rebuilding Japan after World War II," she says. "For most people, their dad's life is mysterious - even more so if they're from the military. My time in Japan will give me the opportunity to share my father's experience and see a world that he saw so long ago."

Contact: Richard North

Phone: 02 9351 3191

Email: 1342053a28365c561f3f0b201e22152e5426204f4f4e53187e141f