Erenlai - Displaying items by tag: australia
Tuesday, 17 June 2014 00:00

Volunteering Experiences in Vietnam and Taiwan

Leanne McNulty is originally from Ireland and she is currently living in Taipei where she does volunteering work besides her job as an English teacher. Since she's been residing and travelling in Asia, she's been volunteering in various places and organizations in Australia and Cambodia. Last year she spent three months in Vietnam helping first at a shelter and also at an ecological and educative center. While preparing her trip, she realized the scarcity of information in English about volunteering in Vietnam and decided to start a blog to present the main issues she encountered: Volunteer in Asia.  In the following interview she raises the problem of orphanage tourism and suggests pragmatic ways to volunteer in South East Asia while avoiding the 'gap year' cliche.

Please, visit her blog for more detailed articles on trafficking, street kids and orphanage tourism.

 

leannemcnulty-harmonyhome

In Taipei, Leanne McNulty has been involved with the Harmony Home Association, a non-profit organization that shelters and supports children and adults affected by HIV/AIDS and migrant workers. She tells us about her work there, the challenges and the way HIV is still stigmatized in Taiwan. 

For more info about the harmony Home Association, visit: http://www.harmonyhometaiwan.org/


Read Making your Time Count as a Volunteer by Leanne McNulty
http://www.erenlai.com/en/focus/2014/living-it-down-abroad-travel-as-vocation-not-vacation/item/5887-making-your-time-as-a-volunteer-count.html

 


Monday, 01 August 2011 14:06

An alternative reality? Bogans, boat people and broadcasting

In June 2011, Australia’s public multicultural broadcaster - SBS - showed a three-part reality show.  What’s surprising about that, you might ask? Australian audiences routinely lap up reality TV—home renovations, talent contests, cooking competitions, extreme weight loss—the ratings and advertising dollars are almost guaranteed to roll in. Formats change from year to year, but the concept’s popularity remains. Reality TV has been much analysed over the past decade, and while the debate is often framed in terms of ‘love it or hate it’, I suspect that for most people interest lies somewhere in between. Either way, the ‘reality’ of reality TV is not straightforward.

Of Australia’s five free-to-air broadcasters, SBS traditionally rates the lowest. Its standard fare of subtitled foreign news, art-house movies, soccer and other non-mainstream sport tends not to attract more than a niche audience.  Occasionally SBS breaks through and introduces a program that catches on with the mainstream, such as Southpark and Top Gear, but these successes are few and far between.

This year SBS once again came up with the goods, producing a controversial reality show called Go Back to Where You Came From[1]. The six participants, all of whom had strong and primarily unsympathetic views on Australia’s refugee situation, were sent on a refugee journey in reverse.

Starting in Australia with visits to resettled refugees from Iraq, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo, the participants took a boat trip to Malaysia where they stayed with Chin refugees from Burma while joining in with Malaysian authorities to hunt down and catch illegal immigrants. From Malaysia the group was split in two: one bunch was sent to Jordan and one was taken to a refugee camp in Kenya. The final destinations were Iraq and the Democratic Republic of Congo – conflict zones where many refugees start their journeys.

 

Each of the participants found the gruelling journey to be more challenging than expected, if not changing his or her perceptions of the refugee issue, then at least gaining a better understanding of it. Given the trying and confrontational circumstances in which the producers placed participants, an emotional response was to be expected. Sometimes the danger faced was simulated (the boat began to ‘sink’ on the way to Malaysia), sometimes it was real (on patrol with US troops in Iraq) and sometimes it was too difficult to tell. This is reality TV, after all. Regardless of the authenticity of the risk to participants, simulating the refugee journey made for stimulating television viewing.

Go Back to Where You Came From attracted a range of opinions in Australian media, both favourable[2] and otherwise[3], with much fiercer commentary on blogs and Youtube clips[4]. Given the political volatility generated by successive Australian governments’ refugee policies and the mixed levels of general understanding of the complexity that cloaks the issue, such a vocal public response is not unexpected. Much of the discussion is underpinned by a perceived class distinction: unsophisticated and under-educated suburban ‘bogans’ against effete and out-of-touch inner-city elites in the ‘latte belt’. In this case, racist bogan ‘refugees’ appeared to have been set up for the mirth of the educated classes watching from the comfort of home. Looking a bit deeper, we can see how Go Back to Where You Came From managed to transcend this tired social dichotomy.

The SBS producers very cleverly employed the tropes of reality TV: contrived scenarios; emotional manipulation of participants; dramatic music and editing to stimulate viewers’ senses.  It is very easy to question just how ‘real’ this reality program was – the likelihood of Australians escaping by boat to some of the most grim and dangerous places on earth, like those in the show, is so slim as to be ludicrous. But this reverse journey successfully managed to convey the dire circumstances that so many refugees are fleeing from, and the abject desperation and perilous unpredictability of their journey into the unknown.

Go Back to Where You Came From’s unexpected popularity was large enough to suggest that it had an audience more reflective of ‘mainstream Australia’ than might normally be the case for other SBS shows. Rather than gripping the edge of their seats as competitors struggled to cook the perfect duck l’orange in a Masterchef pressure test or mocking the perspiring and jiggling contestants of The Biggest Loser, viewers were given a glimpse of the multi-dimensional and tangled reality that is the global refugee situation.

Regardless of the average Australian viewer’s ideological persuasion, they would probably have witnessed at least one aspect of the debate for the first time. From Chin refugees eking out a living in the Malaysian underground economy, to disfigured victims of the Iraq war dancing in a Jordanian rehabilitation facility and the heaving refugee camps of central Africa, the messy reality of the world’s refugees was put right in front of the viewer.

Australia, like everywhere else on the planet, has to deal with refugees. This is a ‘reality’. A reality for the government, for Australians, and most certainly for the refugees scrambling for a better life. Despite popular misconception, Australia is not at risk of being ‘swamped’ by bedraggled boat people on our northern shores.  The number of boat people arriving in Australia fluctuates from year to year and was 4,940 in 2010-2011[5], higher than the yearly average as calculated since 1989. Under Australia’s Humanitarian Program for asylum seekers, approximately 13,000 asylum seekers are granted visas each year[6]. Australia has a population of 22 million people, a bit less than that of Taiwan.

Australia’s social fabric is not threatened by foreign arrivals. This is a country of migrants and our national culture/identity/neurosis (if such things actually exist) is forever mutating. Trying to pin down ‘Australian-ness’ to a static point in time is an exercise doomed to failure. Pitching downtrodden refugees as a threat to that even more so.

Boat people are sometimes stigmatised in Australia as ‘queue jumpers’, cutting ahead of legitimate asylum seekers who have applied through the appropriate channels and are patiently waiting in a refugee camp somewhere for their official invitation.  No doubt some boat people are rorting the system and fork out cash for a quicker, though extremely risky, passage to freedom. But most are fuelled by pure desperation. These are the issues that the producers of Go Back to Where You Came From were able to highlight.

Australia’s migrant intake, especially of refugees and boat people, will remain an ongoing and contentious issue in the national imagination. Tragedies such as the December 2010 boat tragedy on Christmas Island (where at least 30 boat people died attempting to reach Australian shores) polarise opinion. Recent government attempts to discourage boat people by processing them on cash-strapped Pacific islands have had varying degrees of ‘success’ in deterring boat people and discouraging the much reviled ‘people smugglers’ who charge huge sums to ferry human cargo in rickety old fishing trawlers. The current government’s ‘Malaysian solution’, where Australia has entered into an asylum-seeker trading deal with Malaysia, is dogged by opposition from both sides of the political divide. Inconveniently for the two governments, the dubious conditions faced by asylum seekers in Malaysia were plainly illuminated in Go Back to Where You Came From.

The failure to develop a sustainable solution to the refugee problem not just in Australia, but anywhere in the world, shows just how complicated the situation is. One thing remains sure, at least in Australia, the discussion needed a kick in the pants. Hopefully this is what SBS gave us.

When set against the backdrop of Australia’s ever-droning refugee debate, fuelled by conservative and paranoid commentators and mismanaged by a muddle-headed government, the stark images and conflicted emotions shown in Go Back to Where You Came From can play a useful role. Undoubtedly this glimpse of refugee anguish is a contrived scenario, all ‘reality TV’ is. But the producers managed to create a product that jolted some Australians out of seemingly entrenched stances on refugees. For the rest of the world, this is a reality that is worth taking the time to track down and watch.

 


I’m not sure if Go Back to Where You Came From will be screened internationally, but you can watch parts of it on Youtube and it will be released on DVD in August 2011.

 


[1] http://www.sbs.com.au/shows/goback

[2] http://newmatilda.com/2011/06/22/reality-tv-gets-real

[3] http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/politics/you-call-this-evenhanded-refugee-series-is-strictly-for-the-gullible-20110622-1gfav.html

[4] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hHjVTCRKLFU

[5]http://www.aph.gov.au/library/pubs/bn/sp/boatarrivals.htm#_Toc285178609

[6] http://www.immi.gov.au/media/fact-sheets/60refugee.htm


Thursday, 10 November 2011 00:00

An all-new flavour? Australia’s Asian Century

Their knowledge of China is thin. They relate to the world outside through a limited range of material symbols rather than through deep cultural engagement.[1]

To those of us following media commentary immediately after Australia’s Prime Minister Julia Gillard pronounced “we are truly already a decade into an Asian century”[2], the above statement would be familiar.

Routine sentiment appeared on the airwaves: Australian students show no interest in studying Asian languages; government funding is misdirected; there is an entrenched failure of Australians to grasp even the most basic cultural aspects of our northern neighbours. Not just China, but India, Indonesia, South Korea and the rest. Even Japan, our old mate, remains as misunderstood as ever.

Sure, Australians love a good curry and are happy to chill out on an island in southern Thailand. Aussies might even feign worldliness so far as to tattoo exotic scripts down their sunburnt and rippling biceps, but they just don’t really comprehend the place. "Asia? I’ll get back to ya on that one, mate".

But the quotation leading this article was not about Australia, it was about Hong Kong, about the professional elite in Hong Kong. A place that is as close to China as you can get—physically and politically—and a demographic whose wealth is arguably much closer tied to the palpitations of the Chinese economy than that of the average Australian is. It would appear that Australia is not alone in puzzling over a "deep cultural engagement" with the emerging Asian powers.

Now it is true that Australia, as a nation, struggles to articulate how it fits into Asia. This is nothing new. The White Australia Policy restricted immigration to Europeans and was in place for over 70 years. Politicians, both maverick (independent representative Pauline Hanson) and mainstream (former Prime Minister John Howard)[3] have expressed concern about Australia’s place in Asia. During my first year as an economic history student in 1997, I was required to read an article in The Economist that reminded us “The idea that Australia’s future belongs in Asia has been around a long time”[4]

As a former British colony, Australia’s links to England have remained, albeit less strong than in the past. While the Queen managed to generate decent crowds and cloying press coverage during her recent tour, Oprah Winfrey might well have been even more popular when she came ‘down under[5]’ last year.

Historically, or so it goes, as the British Empire waned, Australia’s alliance with the USA grew. Gillard recently gushed to a joint sitting of the US Congress, “you have a true friend down under”[6]. Hokey, yes, but an accurate reflection of Australia’s diplomatic, military and political connections. And for many of us, cultural connections too. America still exerts a strong push and pull through electronic and other media.

In this context, many eyebrows were raised in late September 2011 when Gillard announced the impending publication of a discussion paper called Australia in the Asian Century. This weighty tome is designed to uncover the risks and opportunities in a world where Europe and North America do not dominate as they have in the past. Australian government policy needs to be guided in this reoriented world and this paper will help set the bearings.

Of course, Gillard’s enthusiasm for the 'Asian Century' must be put into context. Domestically her popularity has been dire and the political conversation here is constantly bogged down by the opportunistic and oppugnant opposition leader. Insular matters such as regulating poker machines and dealing with boat people have dominated headlines. When it comes to Asia, Gillard has been hidden by the shadows of Australia’s Mandarin-speaking former PM and current foreign minister, Kevin Rudd (aka Kevin07 aka 陸克文). The ‘Asian Century’ discussion paper is a chance for her to shape Australia’s future engagement with the region and kick some domestic political goals at the same time. Tellingly, the leader of the task force, his three colleagues in the committee of cabinet, and the further three members of the external advisory panel are all economists[7]. Eminent and successful economists, of course, but economist nonetheless, and therefore likely to emphasize the broadening financial dimensions of the Australia/Asia relationship(s).

As the impact of Gillard’s announcement has settled, a range of considered opinions beyond the economic aspects have emerged. Some optimistic for the future, some mournful for missed opportunities. Australia’s national broadsheet newspaper, The Australian, has praised Sydney University’s attempt to create academic linkages with China[8]. The leading security strategist, Hugh White, has floated the sensible idea that in order to truly boost the Asian language capacity of young Australians, the government should fund 1-2 year exchanges in the region[9]. In an online (and utterly unscientific) poll, 56% of respondents supported his idea. Bloggers at the Lowy Institute (an international policy think tank) have canvassed various issues inherent in Australia’s Asian connections. From reading these exchanges, it emerges that, among other things, there is resistance among Australian students to learning Asian languages. Many high school students studying foreign languages have an ethnic connection to the particular language, either through their parents or having grown up overseas. Students without this ‘advantage’ do not wish to take these classes for fear of bleeding grades to the better-equipped students. Reflecting a sense of intimidation masquerading as ambivalence, Australians tend to think “Why bother trying in a cosmopolitan world where English is the lingua franca? Learning a language is just too bloody hard, and besides, just because you know the language doesn’t mean you know the place… right? ”.

Not necessarily. Drawing on the long-standing debate about Australia’s ‘China literacy’, Geremie Barmé affirmed at the 2011 Australian Centre on China in the World Inaugural Lecture that

Those who rely for their literacy of China on the translated, whose interests are confined to that which is relevant or useful but in the short term, whether it be in the sphere of business or diplomacy, need to appreciate the fact that whatever their Chinese contacts might say to their face about their ability to 'understand China', perhaps even calling them a 中国通, in the end they'll be considered at best a simple-minded, even malleable, friend. So long as things go well, everyone muddles through. But when they don't, there's no substitute for the ability to think about, engage within and contend with a China that is itself a world of complexity[10].


Pro-China and pro-Tibet supporters mingle with locals at the Beijing Olympic Torch relay - Canberra, April 2008 (P. Farrelly)

I doubt that any Australian (or anyone not versed in the vernacular, for that matter) could claim that they truly understood a country if the didn’t understand the ‘local lingo’. No matter how many topical books and subtitled shows the monoglot devours, he or she will always be scrambling for the full story. Fluency, or even just proficiency, in the native tongue opens a whole different dimension of experience. Walking down the street becomes a new realm of opportunity, with advertisements to interpret and chatter to overhear, goods to buy and transport systems to navigate. With language skills, business meetings, conferences and banquets become even greater opportunities to forge connections. Many businessmen/women would no doubt attest that deals are generally not made on a country-to-country or even company-to-company level, but between individuals.

In conceptualising the ‘Asian century’, a considerable dose of nuance must be applied. The linguistic, cultural and developmental differences within places such as India and China can be almost as glaring as those that separate them. How does one simultaneously understand authoritarian pariah states such as Burma and North Korea and robust democracies such as Japan and Taiwan? Lapsing into monolithic generalisations about Asia presents a genuine risk. Subtlety will be required in ‘Australia’s Asian Century’.

Australia is not alone in trying to adjust to the recalibrated world order, and this in itself is something to consider. The countries mentioned above, along with every other nation under the sun, are trying to make sense of the new global landscape. Politically, economically, militarily, linguistically and culturally, nations around the world are seeking to determine the trade-offs required to best hitch their prosperity on to the Asian high-speed train of development.

The extent to which Australia is connected with Asia is something Australians can no longer stick their heads in the sand about. Our football team, the Socceroos, are preparing to battle Thailand in a waterlogged Bangkok to inch closer to the 2014 World Cup Finals. This weekend the Korea pop juggernaut blasts into town for an arena show in Sydney[11]. These events might well have been inconceivable even just a decade ago, having been shaped by recent (but long-gestating) diplomatic and cultural evolutions. Along with curry and discount flights to tropical islands, they are but two examples of what Helen F. Siu might refer as the “limited range of material symbols” that Australians use to understand Asia. Limited, perhaps, but still signs of some sort of ongoing integration and awareness.

Prime Minister Gillard’s speech from the launch of the ‘Asian Century’ is riddled with use of the ‘new’. New powers. New investment. New strengths. New Asian middle class. New relationships. New century.

And yes, much of ‘Australia’s Asian Century’ is new, some of it strikingly so. But what if you were to ask an old Australian Digger[12] about the ‘Asian century’? Someone who fought the Japanese in Malaya in WWII, who spent time rotting away in the Changi prisoner of war camp in Singapore. Someone who then went on to do business with the Japanese, helping hitch his homeland’s economy to that of the booming one of his former, bitter enemy. The old Digger might have a different perspective. His century, the 20th, was very much an Asian one. Not just for him, but for Australia too.

How Australia deals with the ‘Asian century’ will be interesting. How Asia deals with the ‘Asian century’ will be interesting too! The team writing the government report will no doubt adroitly address the important economic issues. However, complex cultural and linguistic elements should not be deemphasised. A ‘deep cultural engagement’ with our Asian neighbours will surely benefit all.

 

[1] Helen F. Siu, “A Provincialized Middle Class in Hong Kong” in Worlding Cities: Asian Experiments and the Art of Being Global, edited by Ananya Roy and Aihwa Ong. Blackwell 2011. Page 136.

[2] http://www.pm.gov.au/press-office/speech-asialink-and-asia-society-lunch-melbourne

[3] https://digitalcollections.anu.edu.au/handle/1885/46227

[4] ‘A national identity crisis’, The Economist, 14 December 1996.

[5] ‘Down under’ refers to Australia. See this old tourism advertisement featuring Paul ‘Crocodile Dundee’ - The Wonders Down Under http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xn_CPrCS8gs

[6] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OqWO1bURJM4&t=4m18s

[7] http://news.anu.edu.au/?p=11721

[8] http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/opinion/australians-are-meeting-asian-century-challenges/story-e6frg71x-1226177742479

[9] http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/minding-our-languages-20111107-1n3pu.html

[10] http://ciw.anu.edu.au/lectures_seminars/inaugural_lecture.php

[11] http://www.anzstadium.com.au/events/EventCalendar/EventDetails.aspx?EventContentId=4a0f2cdf-21d1-4fc4-8bcd-b66b3055df49

[12] A ‘digger’ is slang for an Australian soldier


Tuesday, 30 November 2010 00:00

Transport innovation on Australia's Gold Coast... and not a surfboard in sight

Famed for its golden beaches and decent surf, the Gold Coast is one of Australia's most popular tourist destinations.  Located just north of Australia's most eastern point, it is now one of Australia's fastest growing and most dynamic cities.  While the Gold Coast's rapidly swelling population represents a challenge for the government to provide suitable infrastructure and services, it is also a fantastic opportunity for the Gold Coast authorities to lead Australia in sustainable development.
 

Anyone who has tried to drive through the middle of the Gold Coast, particularly during summer, will attest to how unsatisfying the traffic congestion can be. Successfully seizing this opportunity to reconceptualise transport on the Gold Coast will provide an example for the rest of the world as to how a city can ween itself from the toxic teet of the automobile.

Please watch Councillor Peter Young identify how the Gold Coast City Council is seeking to sensibly solve the area's transport conundrum.


Wednesday, 06 October 2010 18:13

An Expo-lent Australian Adventure

In early September I spent a day at the Shanghai Expo.  Bracing myself for crowds of up to 300,000 jostling queue-jumpers, I was relieved that the venue was not too packed. Most pavilions (especially later in the day) did not require any considerable time lining up.  The vast number of unused crowd barriers snaking around entrances that I bypassed at various stages of the day were testament to just how bad the queues might have been.  That said, there were still a hell of a lot of people there.

Arriving a little too late to snap up the special tickets required for China’s gargantuan pavilion (a great design actually, and one that I hope primary school kids around the world can mimic with Paddle Pop sticks), I had to settle for some of the less grandiose pavilions.

The South Korea pavilion had a great mix of 3D and interactive technology, all set to an infectious K-Pop soundtrack.  The hosts remained unflinchingly gracious in the face of relentless questioning (“Are you really Korean? REALLY? But how can you possibly speak such good Chinese?”), even managing to diffuse a vicious brawl between two frazzled and possibly queued-out ladies in the theatrette.

The India pavilion offered a snapshot of Indian civilisation from ancient times through to the recent period of economic development, but my lasting memory was of the handicraft bazaar and the tantalising smells from the curry kitchen that seduced guests meandering around the venue.

The Singapore pavilion was slick, if somewhat forgettable, and the Denmark pavilion had the actual Little Mermaid statue, shipped all the way over to China, and some bikes for visitors to cruise around on.

All good stuff but in spite of the smorgasbord of global morsels that were at my finger tips, the one pavilion I really itched to visit was that of the land of my birth – Australia.  Not just to reconnect, but to see how Australia had decided to pitch itself to what former Prime Minster Kevin Rudd famously called it’s “true friend (zhēngyǒu)”.

pf_shanghai_expo_1Upon arriving at the giant undulating pavilion, which looks a bit like a corrugated tin off-cut left to rust in a paddock, I was able to breeze in through the door, unhindered by any queue. Here I was greeted by a friendly Akubra-clad avuncular type with “G’day! When watching the movie, you might wanna sit at the back so you can see the subtitles”.  Thanks for the tip, mate.

Spiralling up a ramp around the inside of the pavilion I was treated to a potted history of Australia in series of cute dioramas. Unsurprisingly, there was an emphasis on the relationship between Australia and China.  If you were looking for any information about Aboriginal Australians, you had to wait for the last section, where the landmark 2008 apology to ‘the stolen generations’ was highlighted.

Australia’s first inhabitants were excluded from the diorama of when the English landed in Australia.  Instead of Aboriginals, as are normally included in such stylised versions of this event, the pompous-looking Englishmen were confronted with a stick-waving Koala and a stern Kangaroo with crossed arms.  Crikey!  Look at claws on that one!

While there were brief explanations of the diorama scenes, no one really seemed to be paying much attention to them. Unlike the other more hi-tech pavilions I visited, there were certainly no snazzy gizmos here to keep the punters entertained.  The crowd hurriedly snapped photos of each of the dioramas and then barrelled on up the ramp, to where though, no one seemed to know.

pf_shanghai_expo_3As it turned out, at the top of the ramp was the theatrette, where we were rounded up like cattle (how very Australian).  Once in the proverbial cattle yard, some burly Aussie bloke did his best to keep us placated until the next screening, cracking jokes in Chinese and exhorting us to be orderly “for your own safety”.  I found this guy to be pretty funny, but the people around me seemed mainly to be sniggering at his pronunciation.  Perhaps something was lost in translation.  I’m not sure how well the average Chinese person understands the Australian sense of humour.  Some didn’t seem to understand his safety instructions either, with a couple of people trying to push through the queue, even though there was a closed door at the end of it and we had been told that there were enough seats in the theatre for everyone.  The queues at the Expo were generally much more orderly than I expected based on my previous experiences lining up at various Chinese train stations and tourist venues. Nevertheless, some people still found the need to fruitlessly try to push through, only succeeding in pissing everyone else off. I’m surprised that I didn’t see more fights on the day.

The Australian movie was passable, but nowhere near the level of South Korea’s all singing, all dancing, roller coaster ride. Not that the crowd, many of whom were quite young, cared.  They all seemed very happy to be there.  The spritely attendant even managed to cajole them into chanting a mangled version of the dire Sydney Olympics-era chant “Aussie! Aussie! Aussie!”.

My favourite image from the movie was towards the beginning. Just after the characters had been introduced and the audience subjected to a montage of dodgy computer graphics, the side of an open-cut mine was spectacularly blown up.  This led in to a sequence of heavy machinery carting rocks out of the ground and onto the marketplace.  The market of course, as Australia’s recent recession-proof prosperity might testify to, is China.  What better symbol to represent Australia and China’s current relationship.  I loved it.

After the movie, we were herded down the ramp, out of the theatre and into the gift shop.  There was also some dinky-di Aussie tucker – meat pies, fish and chips, beer and other imported delicacies.  Despite my strong urge for a pie and sauce, it was all a bit pricey for me, so I skedaddled out the door and to find something a bit cheaper and possibly more tasty.

pf_shanghai_expo_4Judging by the chirpy crowds hanging around in the foyer and checking out the tacky merchandise for sale, I think the organisers had a done a good job.  The primarily Chinese guests seemed happy.  However, the Australian government wants to do more than just flog off a couple of overpriced fluffy kangaroos and tinnies of VB.  The real impact of the pavilion will be felt in the years to come, as Chinese students head to Australian universities or Chinese and Australian companies enter into business deals.

While appearing to be solid, Australia's relationship with China is not without hiccups. The level of China-awareness among the Australian public is low and at times paranoid.  My only lasting memory of China from my childhood education is of the prospectors who came out to Australia in the Gold Rush of the 1850s.  A reciprocal Chinese pavilion in downtown Sydney or Melbourne might help raise the general level of awareness of our looming northern neighbour.  You wouldn't get the full story on China, that's for sure, but at least it would be a start.  However, it is not only the Chinese government that emphasises some aspects of the country at the expense of others in order to paint an attractive picture.

Staging the Australian Expo pavilion in China means pitching the message to a Chinese audience.  If the 2010 Expo was being held in Australia, the pavilion would undoubtedly be significantly different. Australians can be very sensitive about how the nation broadcasts itself to foreign nations.  Witness the  domestic controversy generated by each new iteration of advertisements selling our wide brown land to the global tourist market.  Some Australians wish to entice foreigners with our cosmpolitan metropolises and sophisticated urban lifestyle, while others think that the beaches/bikinis/kangaroos/koalas model sells the nation best.  Given this unfortunate and out-dated dichotomy, those Australians affected by the dreaded  ‘cultural cringe’ would be best served by staying well away from the Australia pavilion.  Do yourself a favour and go to the South Korea pavilion instead.

{rokbox album=|myalbum|}images/stories/pf_shanghai_expo/*{/rokbox}

 


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