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Public forum “Face to Face with China” held to discuss retrospect and prospect for Sino-Australia cultural exchange

Cultural exchange has played a prominent role in enhancing mutual understanding and building stronger ties of friendship between Australia and China over the past 45 years since the diplomatic relationship established.

To discuss on the theme of retrospect and prospect for Cultural Exchange, a public forum hosted by Australia-China Institute for Arts and Culture Foundation of the Western Sydney University, entitled “Face to Face with China” was held on May 25, 2017 at China Cultural Centre (Sydney). The Forum provides a communication platform, chaired by Vice Chancellor of Western University Mr. Barney Glover, together with keynote speakers including Director of ACIAC Professor Jocelyn Chey, former Ambassador Mr. Geoff Raby,Director of China Cultural Centre (Sydney) Madame Zhao Li, and Senior Program Manager City of Sydney, Mr. Stephen Gilby, each shared their distinctive insights around subjects “How we got to where we are today”,“The Chinese Contemporary Art Scene and How It has been Affected by Exchanges with Australia”, “Cultural Exchange makes us different” and “The Development of Chinese New Year events in Sydney”, respectively.

At the forum, the audience were greeted and warmly welcomed by Mr Barney Glover. In his opening remarks he noted that Western Sydney University has established cordial relationship with China Cultural Centre (Sydney) and many other local Chinese and other ethnic communities. 

Following the opening remark, the forum was unfolded in the form of honoured guests presented their own research and practical experience in fostering the cultural connections and shared their development proposal.

Professor Jocelyn Chey first gave a keynote speech using some of her past stories as examples to point out the three principles she considered that are fundamental to the direction of further development. First, people should be prepare to take risks. Second, those in charge of exchanges must accomodate the cultural expectations of the audience. Third, avoid political considerations when making programming decisions. She concluded the speech by reminding the audience “nothing is worth doing and nothing will be effective unless it comes from the heart, the cultural exchanges between Australia and China will continue to develop from person to person and from heart to heart. “

Dr Geoff Raby’s speech emphasised on how the development of different phases of Chinese Contemporary Art influenced cultural exchanges between Australia and China. He described the early phase from the late 1970s to late 1980s as innocent and experimental. Stepping into the 1990s Chinese Contemporary Art gained international recognition and their artworks are collected by major galleries around the world. Throughout this period Australia diplomats actively interacted and supported many Chinese contemporary artists. He considered the present phase as the mature phase, as many of the Chinese Contemporary Artist returned to China became world-renowed, they still maintained a strong connection with Australia.

Mme Zhao Li delivered her speech in three main sections. First her gave a definition to cultural exchange “It is a broad definition given to any mutual sharing of information, usually cultural between two or more species for the purpose of improving friendship, and understanding between each other. “ She gave some stories in her past ten years of experience with local authorities as evidence to support her second viewpoint: cultural exchange is important to us and our society. Lastly, she pointed out that cultural exchanges enabled us to understand and learn from the excellent cultural achievements of each nation, as a result it creates connections with others and cultivates mutual respect, reduces cultural misunderstanding and further enhances friendship, thereby it makes us different individually and socially.

Mr Stephen Gilby described the development of Chinese New Year celebration programs by the City of Sydney in the past 21 years. “The festival began in 1996 and attracted about 50,000 people, in 2017 it attracted nearly 1.4 million people.” he said, “In Sydney now, Chinese New Year is celebrated by people of all backgrounds, and I think that is a really exciting change.” He added: ”For the future, as the Chinese New Year Festival continues to grow, so does that opportunity for cultural exchange.”

The forum is then wrapped up with a discussion session which allows a free flow of questions from audience to have a more in-depth discussion with each individual keynote speaker. 

The forum gathered a crowd of a hundred experts and scholars from all sectors of the community and it was a great success, full of information and inspiration as speakers shared learnings, discussed important ideas and offered meaningful opinions.

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