Sydney to host US Studies Centre

14 November 2006

Professor Gavin Brown (left) with Mr Malcolm Binks (centre) and Mr Rupert Murdoch
Professor Gavin Brown (left) with Mr Malcolm Binks (centre) and Mr Rupert Murdoch

The University of Sydney has been selected to host Australia's new US Studies Centre.

The new think tank, which will be Australia's leading centre for research into American political, economic and cultural issues, will be based both at the University's main campus and in the heart of Sydney's central business district.

The announcement was made tonight by Mr Malcolm Binks, chairman of the American Australian Association, at the association's inaugural dinner attended by the Prime Minister, John Howard, the chairman and chief executive of News Corporation, Rupert Murdoch, and other business, political and academic leaders.

The University of Sydney was chosen after a rigorous selection process run by the board of the American Australian Association. Submissions from the University of Melbourne and the Australian National University were also considered. All Australian universities were invited to make submissions to host the centre.

The Commonwealth Government has pledged $25 million in funding as an endowment for the establishment of the new centre and the NSW government has also committed a significant financial contribution. Additional funds have been raised from business and private individuals in Australia and the United States.

"We are very excited to be working with the University of Sydney," said Mr Binks. "The centre will make a vital contribution to the enhancement of the already outstanding relationship between our two countries."

The new centre, which will have its own Governing Board of Directors, has been established with the specific purpose of deepening the appreciation and understanding of American culture, its political climate and government, and with strengthening the relationship betweenthe twocountries.

Professor Gavin Brown, Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of Sydney, said: "This is a centre for all of Australia. The University of Sydney is honoured to host it."

As well as a strong academic program including postgraduate research studies at Masters and PhD level, the University of Sydney will run an active executive education and public outreach program which will include short courses, debates, public lectures and forums.

Among the highlights planned in the first year will be:

  • a national opinion survey measuring what Australians think about the United States;
  • a national summit on US studies which will include an academic conference and a major public forum including lectures and workshops; and
  • A classic American film festival run in cooperation with UCLA's School of Theatre, Film and Television which has the world's largest university-held collection of motion pictures and broadcast programming.

The University's submission was made after consultation with academic and business advisers in the United States and Australia who identified core themes for the centre:

  • Power and democracy, focussing on US politics, current affairs and international relations;
  • Wealth creation and rights protection, looking at US-Australian economics, finance, business, legal systems and trade; and
  • American thinking, focussing on US social, cultural and media studies.

"There's never been a more important time for Australians to develop a better understanding of the United States, its people, its government and its society," said the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Gavin Brown. "We are intent on making this Centre the focal point for the very best in both scholarly and community outreach activities."

Many of Australia's key scholars in American studies are currently at the University of Sydney.

They include:

  • Professor Shane White, one of the world's leading authorities on African-American culture and race relations in the US;
  • Professor Jennifer Hill, an expert on corporate governance and corporate law in the US;
  • Professor Helen Irving who currently holds the Harvard Chair in Australian studies;
  • Professor Ed Blakely, an urban planning expert who has advised US administrations after major disasters such as the Oakland earthquake and fire, Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and the reconstruction in New York after September 11; and
  • Professor Alan Dupont, recognised as one of Australia's foremost thinkers on international security, who heads the University's Centre for International Security Studies.

Australian expertise at the Centre will be complemented by regular international visiting fellows. The University has already secured its first sponsorship of $25,000 from Malcolm and Lucy Turnbull to bring a leading American thinker to the US Studies Centre.

Key members of the University's advisory panels include Phillip Flood, former secretaryto the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and former ambassador to Indonesia and high commissioner to the UK; Max Moore-Wilton, chair of the Sydney Airport Corporation and of Macquarie Airports; writer and journalist Geraldine Brooks, winner of the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction; and George Schultz, former US secretary of state, now chairman of the International Advisory Council for JP Morgan Chase Bank.

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