Confucius Institute Director Maggie Jiang

Confucius Institute Director Maggie Jiang

As spring approaches and Western Australia’s famous wildflowers begin to show their faces once again, we feel very fortunate that colour and life is also returning to our streets and university campuses here in the West.

Like many others in this University and across the world, the Confucius Institute had to pivot its operations for the first half of the year, embracing online models of delivery where possible and coming up with new initiatives to stay true to our role of being a cultural bridge between Western Australia and China.

These are challenging times for Australia-China relations, making it especially important to focus on building bridges. I’m pleased to report that things have been going well for us given this environment and COVID-19. Our language class enrolment is looking good, we have strong demand from schools and new requests for cultural training.

We’d like to let you know a bit more about what we have been doing this year, and invite you to connect with us as we continue to grow understanding of Chinese language and culture in the Western Australian community.

The Confucius Institute at UWA is the longest running Confucius Institute in Australia, established in 2005 as a way to help the University foster global partnerships and build community connections. Over the last 15 years, thousands of people have learnt Chinese in our popular language classes, attended our cultural training sessions and public talks, and enjoyed our performances and exhibitions featuring Chinese artists.

We host a team volunteers from China that support Chinese language teachers in Perth schools and offer workshops in Chinese cultural activities. We also provide business facilitation services to assist education and business professionals to connect with counterparts and future collaborators in China. Our tertiary partner is the prestigious Zhejiang University in Hangzhou. We are always open to exploring new collaborations, so please don’t hesitate to get in touch to discuss how we might be able to assist with your China-related projects.

Maggie Ying Jiang

COVID-19 Response

In February our partnership with Perth Festival to present a Chinese Konghou Harp performance in Perth for the first time was put on hold as Covid-19 impacted travel from China. We were pleased to be able to support the Bunbury Chinese New Year Festival with performances and workshops on 7 March, before joining the rest of the University in moving to online services. Our language classes and school support program were all quickly transitioned to virtual models.

Once physical distancing measures were in place, we increased our social media engagement as a way to stay connected with the community. We helped people get to know our Chinese staff with individual stories and posted regular pieces explaining Chinese idioms and festivals.

In March we filmed video messages from Perth schools, and from UWA professors Barry Marshall and Professor Kadambot Sidique, expressing support for people in China affected by COVID19. These videos were subtitled in Chinese and shared with partners in China, and gratefully received. This support was returned once lockdowns began in Australia, and the Institute was pleased to become a conduit for people in China to send their best wishes to Western Australia.

Recent Events

Free Lessons for Kids During the Holiday Lockdown

To support parents during the April school holiday lockdown, we devised a program of free online Chinese lessons for children, and trained our volunteers to present these in a fun and interesting way. The initiative was incredibly popular: 60 sessions booked out within one hour and a second release of 60 booked out within 10 minutes!

Australia-China War Collaboration Remembered on ANZAC Day

Earlier this year the Institute was contacted by the family of Mr Yao Chao Liang, a 95-year-old Chinese citizen with a fascinating tale of how he and about 2000 other Chinese seafarers that were stranded in Australia during World War II ended up serving in the Australian army. Mr Yao had served in Fremantle. We were glad to work with The Fremantle Herald and UWA's media team to bring this little known story of Chinese-Australian cooperation to light. We also liaised with the Department of Veterans’ Affairs to get a copy of Mr Yao’s service record sent to him in China.

Dragon Boat Festival – 25 June

For Dragon Boat Festival on 25 June, we presented an interactive live cooking show via Zoom, discussing the origins and customs of this celebration and demonstrating how to make the traditional festival fare of sticky rice dumplings (Zongzi). Strong participation from across WA and very positive feedback means that we will offer similar online events in the future, in addition to our regular in-person activities.

Webinar on Cultural Literacy in Business – 30 June

On 30 June we partnered with the Australia China Business Council to present a Webinar titled: Culture Shock! How important are cultural literacy skills in business? CI Director Maggie Jiang presented alongside Philip Kirchlechner Chair of the ACBC Investment Committee and Damian Johnston, President of China Administration Company.

2020 Chinese Bridge Language Competition – 24 July, 8 August

Chinese Bridge is the largest Chinese Proficiency Competition in the world. This year our Institute successfully hosted two Australian Regional Finals: for university students and secondary students. These events were delivered online for the first time, with new processes being developed to assess a written test, Chinese speech and cultural performance by contestants in different locations across four states. The winners compete for the opportunity to represent Australia in the Global Finals and win university scholarships in China.

Supporting Engagement with China

In August we delivered a comprehensive Cross-cultural Awareness Guide to Woodside. The Guide included detailed observations and explanations of the differences that might be encountered by Australians living and working in China, aiming to lower the risk of culture shock as much as possible and foster successful international collaborations.