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Eugene Chew, a Master of Asia Pacific Studies student (2017) has won the Anthony Reid Prize in Southeast Asian Studies.
The prize encourages scholarly interest in Southeast Asian studies; and rewards outstanding academic performance in Southeast Asian studies.
The prize has been generously provided by Emeritus Professor Anthony Reid, the university's first full professor of Southeast Asian History (1989-99), as well as founding director of the Asia Research Institute of NUS, Singapore (2002-7).
Among his many achievements are the Fukuoka Prize in 2002, and the Life Achievement Award of the Association of Asian Studies in 2011.
Eugene was thrilled to win the prize. "Anthony Reid is a giant in Southeast Asian studies. I am honoured to be awarded a prize that is named after him," he said.
Eugene Chew graduated in December 2017 with a Master of Asia Pacific Studies.
He chose the ANU for its researchers' reputation. Having worked in the Singaporean Department of Defence for six years, he wanted to gain expertise in South East Asian studies.
'One of the things that I liked about this course is its flexibility. Apart from a few core modules you can mix and match to customise your program,'
'Most of the papers I wrote focused on South East Asia: Myanmar, Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia. Those countries are my area of interest and I was able to spend a lot more time on them,' he said.
'I am interested in contemporary politics - the actors, institutions and system. I am a political scientist by training. I came here because I wanted to dig deeper into history, culture and religion to complement my knowledge of contemporary politics,' explained Eugene.
'I have been working on South East Asia for quite a while but I found out more about the people and issues that I have not really understood well.
'In the Master of Asia Pacific Studies program I could draw upon the research, guidance and expertise of academics, such as Jane Ferguson and Matt Tomlinson.
'I wrote a paper on the Rohingya people with the aim of tracing the historical roots of their current predicament, which ordinarily I would not have time to do. I've had a chance to go beyond the headlines and look at the deeper roots of the issues.'
Coming from Singapore to Canberra was surprisingly easy for Eugene.
'On a practical level, I really like Canberra. Of course Canberra and Singapore have a very different pace of life, I didn't know at first whether I would get used to it. But in the end it was very easy and I enjoyed it very much. It's quiet, you get to see the hills and the bush, you don't need to go very far to be in out in nature.'
Eugene appreciated the rigor and intensity of the course, and the access to the teaching staff.
'The way the course is structured means you address key themes across the Asia Pacific.
Also, the lecturers really give you a lot of personal contact time. They allow you to take the courses that best suit your personal development.'
Professor Reid remains passionate about the field of Southeast Asian Studies. "One of the reasons ANU was established in 1948 was to fill the great gap in understanding of the countries to our near north, into which Australia had been dragged by war. The need is no less great today to keep abreast of the world's most dynamic region," he explained.
"Despite (and partly because of) ANU's unrivalled accumulation of expertise spread around many departments and programs such as MAPS, ANU has never quite managed a flagship to advertise itself in the field now recognised as Southeast Asian Studies,
"I hope that this prize will focus some attention on this field in which ANU has great things to offer."