There is considerable debate about whether Mahatma Gandhi ever said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world”.
If he did say it, you can imagine that he might have added a further note that any such effort must be collective rather than individual. Gandhi did not simply argue for transforming the world through individual ‘be the change’, his focus was also, indeed more so, on the construction of social relationships, including relationships across boundaries.
Relationships are at the heart of the work of the Australia India Institute. At the Aii this year we have built new relationships, for example through supporting the trips of Chancellor of the University, Mr Allan Myers AC QC, the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Duncan Maskell, and the Minister of Education, Hon. Dan Tehan, to India. We have done so, too, through the New Generation Network retreats we held with our network of post-doctoral researchers and via the fourth Australia India Leadership Dialogue held in December, and co-chaired by Mr Ross Fitzgerald and Professor Amitabh Mattoo. Relationship-building across boundaries was also the theme of our third India Week in Melbourne, which included the screening of award-winning documentary ‘Spirit’ by Dr Jane Dyson, the launch of Saurabh Mishra’s new book ‘My Wednesdays’, and a panel discussion on Indian artistic practice with Asialink. A highlight of 2020 was also the appointment at the Aii of a specialist in the building of relationships, Ms Tanya Spisbah, a career diplomat with the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, who is now leading the Aii@Delhi.
Among other high points: we have partnered with the Group of Eight Universities on two workshops on India’s new National Education Policy, collaborated with the Melbourne School of Government on roundtables on the future of elections, worked with Sid Myer and UWA on forums on the Indian Ocean, and teamed up with Asialink and Australian National University’s Australia Council for Security Cooperation in the Asia Pacific on a forum on the Australia-India relationship. At the Aii and Aii@Delhi combined we have hosted tens of international speakers and over a hundred researchers.
We placed Victorian students into internship positions, supervised PhD students, taught undergraduates, developed new academic subjects, held seminars, and launched books. We have done all this while also collaborating with our founding partners, UNSW and La Trobe, UWA, and five other universities that have sponsored New Generation Network scholar positions. When Gandhi’s granddaughter visited Australia in 2015 she said that she had always admired the idea of ‘being the change’ – it was a philosophy she lived by. But she also mentioned, while opening the Mahatma Gandhi Inspiration bridge near Brisbane, “My grandfather loved bridges”.
The Aii thanks all those who have helped build bridges this year. We wish you a wonderful 2020.