Human rights and international law expert Professor Hilary Charlesworth, says that Australia's appointment to the UN Human Rights Council gives the country an opportunity to examine its own human rights record.
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An Australia India Institute will be established at the University of Melbourne with the help of $8.106 million in Commonwealth Government funding.
Announcing the funding today, Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard said the Institute will help to strengthen and sustain bilateral relationships between Australia and India.
The announcement came during the visit to Australia by India's Minister for External Affairs, Mr S M Krishna, who today met with the Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd at the Pacific Islands Forum.
The funding has been provided under the Commonwealth Government’s Diversity and Structural Adjustment Fund. The University of Melbourne and partners, the University of New South Wales and La Trobe University, will invest around $2 million in the Institute bringing the total cost of the project to more than $10 million over three years.
In October 2008, the University of Melbourne made a strategic decision to establish a world-class Australia India Institute. The University aspires to be acknowledged for its regional leadership in research, graduate training, executive briefings, policy advice and knowledge transfer for the benefit of both countries and the broader Asia Pacific region.
University of Melbourne Vice-Chancellor Professor Glyn Davis says the Institute reflects the University’s recognition of India’s growing importance in world affairs. “There is no doubt that India, along with China, is a key emerging economy and a major influence in our region.
““It has never been more important for Australia to know, understand and work together with India. and this significant Commonwealth Government contribution will help us make this Institute a key focus for postgraduate training, for collaborative research around priority areas, and in building India knowledge in the Australian government, business and general communities.”
Deputy Director of the Institute, Professor John Webb, says the Institute will operate as a national epicentre of information on India. It will also provide consultancies on issues of national priority, and host international conferences, community engagement and cultural dialogues.
Professor Webb says the Institute will support Australia’s need to continue, and indeed, strengthen its engagement with India through research, professional links and cooperation.
Several areas of priority research of interest to both countries have been identified. These include:
• The environment, issues of food and water security, resources and climate change
• Health, particularly public health and bio-pharmaceutics
• Regional relationships through trade, investment, diplomacy and policy
• Education, with major reforms underway in both countries.
The Institute will work with partners in Australia and India to achieve these goals. It also works closely with the Australia India Business Council to strengthen and support mutual trade and investment
Professor Webb says that a ‘stocktake’ at the University of Melbourne has revealed well over 100 staff with strong research or professional links to India, across all faculties, from medicine to music, often supported by substantial external funding.