Our bonds with Asia grow stronger

By Vice Chancellor Professor Ian O’Connor

Our Griffith alumni have been front of mind in recent weeks.


In Toronto on 12 September, Griffith’s annual alumni reunion was combined with a special ceremony to recognise some of our recent graduates from the Arts, Education and Law Group and the Griffith Business School. Over 240 guests attended the event with 55 graduates, 100 of their family and friends, and approximately 85 of our most loyal supporters — our Toronto alumni. This network of alumni is stronger and more active than ever before with three alumni events held this year already, and the next get-together planned for Australia Day in 2013.

Hong Kong

In Hong Kong, Chancellor Leneen Forde AC and I had the great pleasure of hosting an alumni reunion on Saturday 15 September and a graduation ceremony on Sunday 16 September. The reunion brought together about 70 alumni with a number of special guests including Ms Angela To, Trade and Investment Queensland; Daniel Lai, Government Chief Information Officer at The Government of Hong Kong Administrative Region (and a 1995 Griffith Master in Technology Management graduate); and Griffith students Ethan Bowering and Alison Atkinson who are studying in Hong Kong as recipients of 2012 Prime Minister’s Endeavour Awards. The graduation ceremony, which was held at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), attracted over 300 guests, including 157 graduates, Distinguished Griffith alumni Cathryn Hlavka, Minister Counsellor (Education and Research), Beijing, delivered an inspiring occasional address to a very appreciative audience.


Later in September, I had the privilege of hosting two Chinese alumni events — one in Beijing on 22 September and the other in Guangzhou on 23 September. At the Beijing event, guests enjoyed an entertaining speech by fellow alumnus Ms Coco Ma. Coco, who completed both a Master of Arts with first class honours in Film and TV Studies and a PhD at Griffith, works as Senior Consultant at the Motion Picture Association of America in Beijing. I am always impressed by the loyalty of our alumni and this quality was brought home to me yet again when I met Lewis Horne at the Beijing reunion. Lewis – a Bachelor of International Business graduate and a winner of the Griffith Innovation Challenge in 2010 – and his wife Maria took time off their honeymoon to celebrate with us (surely the first ‘honeymoon’ couple to attend such an event. Maria completed the Griffith Innovation Challenge with Lewis during her visit to the University in 2010. This is how they met ).


The two reunions in China provided an ideal opportunity to announce the seven winners of our inaugural Alumnus of the Decade competition. We received many outstanding entries from our alumni who are doing extraordinary things with their Griffith qualifications. I was delighted to present each of the winners with a certificate of recognition and a special prize of a return trip to Brisbane and the Gold Coast including 5 nights’ accommodation. The University is proud to recognise the significant contributions that our alumni are making to their communities and we look forward to continuing the Alumnus of the Decade competition in future years.

Griffith secured four finalists in this year’s Australia China Alumni Awards. Given the high calibre of our 2012 nominations, it was very satisfying to hear that Dr Xiaochuan Pan had been awarded the “AusAID Scholarships Australia China Alumni Award”. This award is a well-deserved recognition of Dr Pan’s significant contributions to research on environmental health and climate change. Dr Pan completed an Australian Leadership Award (ALA) fellowship at Griffith where his work in priority areas such as climate change and health played an important role in advancing regional policy objectives and in increasing institutional capacity of Australian partner countries such as China. The Australia China Alumni Awards were established in 2009 and recognise the wide-ranging achievements of graduates of Australian universities that are currently based in China, both local and expatriate.

Australia-China Future Dialogues

On Monday 24 September, I joined Professor Zhou Qifeng, President of Peking University, in hosting the Australia-China Future Dialogues Second Track Dialogue in Beijing. The theme of this year’s event was ‘The Australia-China Relationship at 40: Building a Pathway to the Future’. The two day program saw Chinese and Australian experts working hand-in-hand to explore pathways to promote closer bilateral relations across a range of critical policy spheres, including higher education, economic relations, science partnerships and engagement, and disaster management responses. The 2012 Second Track event began with the Annual Leader’s Lecture delivered by Frances Adamson, Australian Ambassador to China. Ambassador Adamson gave a compelling speech on her vision for enhancing the relationship between Australia and China as we approach the 2020 horizon. My thanks to Professor Andrew O’Neil and his team from the Griffith Asia Institute, as well as all our colleagues from Peking University, for their splendid work in organising this highly successful event.

Formal partnerships

Griffith is committed to internationalisation and to the development of collaborative relationships with high quality partners with strong international reputations. In September I participated in a number of MOU signings to further strengthen our ties with prestigious Chinese institutions including:

  • MOU with School of Environment, Tsinghua University to explore a four-way collaboration in water science research through the Asia Pacific Center for Water Security (which is jointly hosted by Tsinghua and Peking Universities in collaboration with the Asian Development Bank and the Ministry of Finance, China)
  • MOU establishing the Australia-China Joint Laboratory for Energy and Environmental Materials which will assist Griffith in building strategic long-term research partnerships with leading Chinese scientists and research institutions.
  • MOU with Beijing Union University to promote co-operation in a range of areas particularly tourism.
  • MOU with Shandong University’s Climate Change and Health Centre to focus collaboration on public health research and education with Griffith’s Centre for Environmental and Population Health.