Australia’s engagement with Asia: But which Asia?

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Australia’s links with Asia have been a matter of interest and concern in both ancient and modern times. Nineteenth century British immigrants showed a distinct and harsh aversion to Asian settlers during the gold rushes and the ‘white Australia policy’ successfully kept both Asia and Asians at bay for at least the fi rst two thirds of the 20th century. For much of the rest of that century and into the 21st century, however, the tides turned. Fuelled by such diverse policies as war on the Asian mainland, the obvious economic growth and development of the region and a more liberal approach to immigration, successive Australian governments since the 1970s have sought greater engagement with Asia. The Gillard government was therefore the last in line to signal the importance of Asia. Yet the very term ‘Asia’ is problematic, except perhaps in the broadest geographic sense. In terms of histories, cultures, geographies, religions political systems and economic growth Asia can only be characterised by its diversity. If Australian schools are to engage with Asia, which Asia should that be? The Gillard government’s view is clear: it is those parts of Asia characterised by economic growth that needed to be tapped in Australia’s interests. Yet in terms of leaning opportunities this would limit young Australian’s understanding of, and empathy for, the diversity that is Asia today. This paper will argue the benefi ts to be gained from considering engagement with Asia on a much broader front for greatly enhanced learning outcomes.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2013


Kennedy, K. J. (2013, September). Australia’s engagement with Asia: But which Asia?. Paper presented at the Australian Curriculum Studies Association (ACSA) 2013 Biennial Curriculum Conference: Uncharted territory? Navigating the new Australian Curriculum, Parliament House, Darwin, Australia.


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