22 October 2014

Liz Walker. The wave (close up)The University of South Australia’s new Hawke European Union Centre for Mobilities, Migrations and Cultural Transformations will be officially launched by former Prime Minister Bob Hawke this month to focus research on global social challenges in what is shaping up to be an uncertain century.

The launch will be held at UniSA’s Samstag Museum on October 27 from 2 pm and new Director of the EU Centre, Associate Professor Jennifer Rutherford says the impetus to research current global challenges has never been more urgent.

She says the sheer volume of human displacement worldwide is unprecedented and the consequences of that displacement are far reaching.

"We are confronting a new phenomenon in human history - a century where there are tens of millions of people displaced by wars, famines and intolerance,” she says, “and the future suggested by climate change and increasing violence and hatred in the world means this mass movement will only continue and increase.

“The European Union is investing heavily in the kind of global research that will map trends, build resilience and provide much needed understandings of our future challenges.”

In collaboration with UniSA the EU has funded the new Centre at the Hawke Research Institute to study how to maintain cultural change and community cohesion in times of great uncertainty, ensuring that Australia's expertise and experience with large scale immigration and social change is considered in developing a global response.

"The Hawke EU Centre will promote new research, debate policy choices, and promote cultural initiatives to protect human rights, to counter discrimination and to develop humane responses to migration and the rising numbers of displaced peoples globally,” Prof Rutherford says. 

“We’ll be working closely with our European colleagues and developing a multi-disciplinary approach across UniSA to tackle these issues.”

An acclaimed sociologist and literary theorist, Prof Rutherford says a core consequence of global instability is the mobility of people.

“We are already living in an environment where more people are travelling and more quickly than at any other time in history,” Prof Rutherford says.

“Coupled with global pressures from terrorism and counter-terrorism, disease and economic hardship and today we have more than 50 million people on the move worldwide - refugees, asylum seekers or internally displaced people.

“Our remit is to look at what pressures that instability and movement causes – the impacts on social cohesion, human rights, cultural development and change, nationhood and citizenship and how those terms may be redefined, and ultimately how these cracks and shifts in global communities affect peace and stability.

“These are vital issues and ones that can usefully be researched in Australia, a community which has a great diversity in its national character and a nation that is geographically and economically connected to Asia and yet has deep cultural and historical ties to every European country through the multicultural origins of its people.” 

Prof Rutherford says the Centre will promote key research, policy debates, dialogues and cultural initiatives to explore the defence of human rights, to ensure data protection and privacy in the digital age, to defend against all forms of discrimination based on race and sex, and to seek new humane responses to the crises of displacement, migration and the rise of displaced peoples.

She says as an EU Centre, the Hawke will forge collaborations across disciplines at UniSA and also with key research partners around the world including the Trinity College Dublin Long Room Hub; the Glasgow Refugee, Asylum and Migration Network; the Normandie Maison de la Recherche en Sciences Humaines; and a range of other university research groups and EU Research Centres.

The official launch of the new Hawke EU Centre for Mobilities, Migrations and Cultural Transformations will be held on Monday October 27 from 2 pm in UniSA’s Anne and Gordon Samstag Museum of Art, City West campus. 

The EU Ambassador for Australian and New Zealand HE Mr Sem Fabrizi will be in attendance at the launch.

Media contact: Michèle Nardelli office: +61 8 8302 0966 mobile: 0418 823 673 email: Michele.nardelli@unisa.edu.au 

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