New research centre established to foster collaboration across the Indo-Pacific

Associate Professor Rochelle Spencer on a research trip to Africa

The Indo-Pacific Research Centre has been launched at Murdoch University to raise awareness of the critical issues facing the region and foster collaborations to address them.

“Across Australia there is a striking absence of Indo-Pacific research concentration, despite the demand by major government and multi-lateral agencies for understanding the region and its significance for development, governance, and security,” said Associate Professor Rochelle Spencer.

“We’re well positioned to tackle important questions of socio-economic development, geo-strategic governance and human security in the region.”

The Centre consolidates the research strengths within Murdoch’s Humanities and Social Sciences disciplines as well more broadly across the University to address these significant challenges.

It builds upon the formative Asia Research Centre’s international reputation for high impact research and training and draws in research expertise from the Africa Research Group and the Centre for Responsible Citizenship and Sustainability.

“The Indo-Pacific is home to over 4.3 billion people, including some of the world’s most populous nations and cities, with densely populated coastal regions and low-lying island nations,” said Dr Spencer.

As a result, this “confluence of two seas”, as Shinzo Abe observed, is uniquely vulnerable to climate change with acute impacts to food security, infrastructure, public health, and migration.

“It is also likely to be the arena in which great power conflict between China and the US will play out, with implications for Australia and her neighbours’ political, security, development and climate strategies in the region.”

These dynamics pose important opportunities and challenges for policymakers, businesses, and multi-lateral aid agencies in the region.

The Centre has already attracted significant funding, with Dr Spencer part of a team awarded a $600k ARC Discovery grant for her project exploring infrastructure in East Africa and the Western Indian Ocean to understand its economic, socio-political, cultural and public health impacts.

This the first African and first ever Development Studies project to be funded by an ARC Discovery grant in the field of Human Society research.

This fits into the Centre’s broad range of research questions, including:

  • How will Australia, and with it, Western Australia, carve out our role in the region?
  • What values will underpin national and multi-lateral governance in the Indo-Pacific? 
  • As environmental crises unfold, how will our institutions grapple with core issues of human security and socio-economic development? 
  • How will the region’s precarious resources be organised? What kinds of political conflicts and transformations will take place? 
  • As the Indo-Pacific’s tertiary sector rises, how will Australia’s universities find new ways to engage and collaborate?

“These questions underscore the relevance of a dynamic, multidisciplinary, and cutting-edge research agenda that seeks to collaborate and engage on core issues pertaining to governance, public policy, security, and sustainable development of our region.”

The vision for the Indo-Pacific Research Centre is to be the leading centre of research expertise in the region that responds to key challenges of the 21st century arising from transformations in the Indo-Pacific — environmental, political, cultural, social and economic.

There will be an official launch and reception for the Centre in early 2023 with a panel of distinguished speakers on issues pertaining to development, security, and governance of the Indo-Pacific region.

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Posted on:

29 Nov 2022

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