The BHP Billiton Chair of Australian Studies at Peking University in Beijing, Professor David Walker, visited Melbourne on Tuesday as part of the A$5 million partnership aimed at raising the profile and understanding of Australia in China.
The company contributes A$1.1 million per annum to fund the program, working in partnership with the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs’ Australia-China Council, the Foundation for Australian studies in China, Peking University, Universities Australia and the Commonwealth Department of Education.
Professor Walker’s appointment as Chair announced late last year is the first high-profile, privately-funded Australian professorial position in China, and is a reflection of growing academic engagement between the two countries.
As Chair, Professor Walker provides academic leadership to a network of over 30 Australian Studies Centres in metropolitan and regional Chinese universities, which has been supported by the Australia-China Council for two decades.
During his visit to Australia, he was keen to encourage Australian students to look to Asia as their future.
“The creation of the BHP Billiton Chair of Australian Studies at Peking University is a very important educational initiative,” Professor Walker said.
According to the professor, the program sends the clearest possible signal to the already large and growing Australian Studies community in China that Australia is serious about wanting to know the country better across a wide spectrum of research fields and interests.
“There are no better or more enduring ways of doing this than through strong educational links that permit sustained intellectual, cultural and social engagement. ”
“The scholarship program will bring the best and brightest of our two societies together. This is a very practical way of strengthening ties between our two societies,” he said.
BHP Billiton CEO Andrew Mackenzie said the Company was delighted to support this important partnership which aims to enhance research and education opportunities between Australia and China.
Mackenzie congratulated Professor Walker and said his experience is a great asset to Peking University and in building two-way exchanges of people and ideas.
“As BHP Billiton’s business with China continues to grow, we are pleased to develop closer relations across a range of areas, including education.”
“We hope the partnership fosters a deeper relationship between Australia and China, strengthening mutual understanding of social, political and economic issues,” he said.
According to BHP’s news release, Professor Walker will be in Australia throughout October.