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Dr Carol Hayes, Deputy Director of ANU Japan Institute, and Dr Peter Hendriks, ANU Deputy Dean of Students, have recently been awarded the Japanese Foreign Minister's Commendations for 2016.
Mr Yoshihide Miwa from the Embassy of Japan said the award is an important acknowledgement of strong cross-cultural collaboration between Australia and Japan.
“This is a Special Commendation for the 40th Anniversary of the 1976 Basic Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation between Japan and Australia, and both Dr Hendriks and Dr Hayes have been awarded for their contribution to the promotion of mutual understanding between Japan and Australia, including their long-term contribution to the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program” said Mr Miwa.
Dr Hayes first went to the Japan when she was 17. During this trip she developed a deep passion for Japanese culture and language.
Now, years later, she inspires the next generation of Japan specialists. Through the MEXT (Monbukagakusho) Scholarship program – she has supported ANU students forge strong cultural and professional ties to Japan.
“A recent alumnus of the program ran a contemporary Japanese textile exhibition – there are such diverse ways students can express their cultural knowledge, and I’m proud to nurture that positive energy and curiosity” said Dr Hayes.
“Sharing Japanese culture is very important to Peter and me. This award isn’t linked to one particular project but is an accumulation of all the different things we’re involved in. It’s about the contribution we’ve made in building a community of Japan-enthusiasts.
Dr Hendriks believes projects like the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program are instrumental in building these communities.
“The JET Program sends young Australians to Japan to assist in the teaching of English in Japanese schools and generally facilitates grass-roots exchange” said Dr Hendriks.
Both agree that soft diplomacy has an important role to play in postive relations between the two countries.
“This award is representative of Japan and Australia having a long-standing and very positive relationship with each other. To allow us to continue to engage with Japan and the Japanese people on all levels — cultural, economic, political and personal — we need to know and understand them, even if we do not necessarily agree on some things. This is how it works with all one’s friends — whether they live down the street or across the ocean” said Dr Hendriks.
“I am honoured to have been considered for this award, and humbled to know that there are people who would go out of their way to nominate me for it” said Dr Hendriks.
This story was first published on the College of Asia and the Pacific website