Australian Studies Centre opens at top-ranked Harbin Institute of Technology


PKU-BHP Billiton Chair Professor David Walker was very pleased to pay a visit to Harbin in January as his last official duty as Chair, to attend the opening of a new Australian Studies Centre at Harbin Institute of Technology (HIT) on 6 January 2016. HIT was originally established as the Harbin Sino-Russian School for Industry in 1920 and has been a leading university in China from its inception. It is now ranked in the top ten Chinese universities.

The Centre was officially opened by Professor Ren Nanqi, PVC International at HIT and also attended by Ms Kylie Lendrum, First Secretary, Australian Embassy Beijing. The Director of the new Centre is Professor Liu Kedong, Dean of the School of Foreign Languages and the Deputy Director is Professor Li Jingyan.

Several scholars at HIT have studied and undertaken research in Australia, including: Dr. JIA Xuelai who earned her doctorate from the University of Sydney; Prof. LI Jingyan who was awarded DEd by the University of Melbourne; Ms YANG Yibo a PhD candidate at Curtin University;  Prof. SONG Li, a visiting academic at the University of Sydney; Ass Prof. ZHANG Jin, visiting academic at the University of Newcastle; Ass Prof. LIU Li, visiting academic at the University of South Australia; Ass Prof. SU Juan visiting academic at the Edith Cowan University and Ms. LUAN Yan, visiting academic at Queensland University of Technology.

Other noted Professors and Centre Directors were in attendance for the opening as well as to deliver lectures: Professor Li Yao (PKU), Associate Professor Karen Walker (PKU/Monash), and Director LI Jianjun (BFSU). While in Harbin the visitors were taken to hear a performance from the Dublin Philharmonic Orchestra and were taken to see the remarkable and justly famous Snow and Ice Festival.

The new Centre will focus on life writing in Australia, an appropriate focus as many Russian and Jewish people from Harbin would later move to Australia. Prominent among the accounts of this migration is Mara Moustafine’s memoir, Secrets and Spies: The Harbin Files, which has been translated into Chinese by Professor Li Yao. As one of the great cosmopolitan cities of the twentieth century with a remarkable history of migration and occupation, Harbin is uniquely placed to host an Australian Studies Centre that will help document this history and the stories of those ‘Harbinsky’s’ who found their way to Australia.

The new ASC at HIT is well-placed to make a novel and substantial contribution to the research and teaching of Australian Studies in China.

Note: Professor Li Jingyan contributed to this article and provided the images below.

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PKU-BHP Billiton Chair Professor David Walker meets with HIT University leadership in Harbin, 6 January 2016

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Officials and audience gather for the HIT Australian Studies Center opening ceremony

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Professor David Walker presents a gift of books to HIT ASC Deputy Director Professor Li Jingyan

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HIT officials, Australian Studies academics and Australian Embassy representatives gather ahead of the opening ceremony