The students at the Kioloa Coastal Campus

Forming cross-cultural links through cultural landscapes

26th February 2018

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In February a group of students from ANU and the University of Tokyo studied in Japan and Australia as part of a four-week summer course called Cultural Landscapes and Environmental Change, offered by the School of Culture, History and Language in the College of Asia and the Pacific.

The Australian students were assisted by the New Colombo Plan, an Australian Government initiative that provides opportunities for Australian undergraduate students to undertake semester-based study and internships or mentorships in 40 participating Indo-Pacific locations. Students spent two weeks in Japan, hosted by leading researchers at the University of Tokyo, followed by a two-week study tour of Canberra and the South Coast of NSW, led by one of the ANU College of Asia and the Pacific’s top researchers, Paleoecologist Professor Simon Haberle.

‘This course provides the opportunity to discuss cultural and environmental issues with leading researchers, institutional experts and indigenous communities,’ said Professor Haberle. ‘Students emerge with a deeper understanding and the practical skills to engage in current issues that span the sciences and humanities.’

‘The course asks the fundamental questions, "How do we explain the remarkably abrupt changes that sometimes occur in nature and society?" and "What can knowledge of the past tell us about our future?" Much of what we know of the deeper past comes from natural archives of changing cultural landscapes and environment,’ Professor Haberle said.

In Japan, the students studied at the University of Tokyo and the Mt Fuji region, while in Australia they visited the Kioloa Coastal Campus, an Indigenous rock art site in the Brindabellas, and Weereewa, also known as Lake George. They explored the linkages between the scientific and cultural significances of each site.

Anneka Atley and Jessica Im are both ANU Arts/Law students majoring in history. ‘I’m really interested in environmental history and particularly the connections between history and other disciplines, especially the natural sciences,’ said Anneka. ‘This course covers those connections in ways I hadn’t even anticipated.’

Jessica was similarly enthusiastic about the experience. ‘It’s been so much better than just learning all the content from a computer or just doing readings,’ she said. ‘It’s been great actually talking to people, not just the academics, but also the other students. Immersing myself in Japanese culture and showing the Japanese students our culture has been the best part of the course for me.’

The course provided students with an opportunity to explore the hidden histories in the landscapes.

‘Looking at the Indigenous Australian perspective has really opened my eyes. The whole course has asked us to consider what perspectives have been omitted from history. In the Australian field trips we have been thinking about women’s perspectives, indigenous perspectives, things that we don’t learn about much. I think it’s important as an Australian to educate yourself on these things,’ Jessica explained.

The students also spent time at the National Gallery of Australia, where they heard a lecture by Brenda Croft, a Gurindji woman artist, former Curator of Indigenous art the National Gallery of Australia, and Lecturer at the Centre for Art History and Theory at ANU. Croft discussed her art practice and personal history, which also includes Chinese, German and Anglo-Irish heritage.

Croft also spoke about the ‘radical oral historian’ Minoru Hokari, author of Gurindji Journey, an ANU researcher who learned the Gurindji language and culture and is still remembered by Croft’s family. Hokari, who died tragically young, is memorialised at the ANU through the Minoru Hokari Memorial Scholarship.

Isamu Moriai is a first year student from the University of Tokyo. ‘It’s difficult to say what has been the best thing about this course, everything has been great,’ he said. ‘But I really liked going the beach. And I tried kangaroo meat and I liked it. Everyone here has been very nice. I’ve loved going to the Art Gallery. I didn’t do that in Japan. I had no idea art could have so much information in it. Mind blowing.’

College of Asia and the Pacific students are guaranteed funding to travel in Asia as part of their program of study. Students from other colleges may also be eligible to apply for funding for courses such as Cultural Landscapes and Environmental Change (ARCH2022/6022). For more information contact the CAP Student Centre.

Updated:  7 July 2017/Responsible Officer:  Director, Culture, History & Language/Page Contact:  CHL webmaster