Australia and the United States share over two hundred years of history and traditions, a common language and culture, and a firm commitment to democratic institutions. The two countries have also entered into a mutual defense arrangement and benefit from interdependent economies. These shared backgrounds and national interests have created a strong relationship.
Parallels even more striking may be drawn between Australia and Texas. Their populations are almost the same size, their climates and topographies alike in many respects. Their frontier experiences are relatively recent, their political and social traditions markedly egalitarian, and both their economies today rely on agriculture, minerals, and high technology. To recognize these national and regional affinities, and to commemorate Australia’s Bicentenary in 1988, the University of Texas at Austin established the Edward A. Clark Center for Australian Studies.
The Center owes its existence to the efforts of its founding Co-Directors, Dr. John Higley and Dr. Desley Deacon. Named for the illustrious Texan who served as United States Ambassador to Australia during the 1960s, the Clark Center was inaugurated when the Hon. R.L.J. “Bob” Hawke, Prime Minister of Australia, visited the campus in June 1988. The Australian Prime Minister presented an Aboriginal bark painting to the University at a gala dinner that marked the inauguration of the Center. Formally receiving the gift were William H. Cunningham, President of the University, and Jack Blanton, former Chairman of the Board of Regents. In 2001, the Center was renamed the Edward A. Clark Center for Australian and New Zealand Studies in order to reflect the ever-expanding importance of the region. The New Zealand Ambassador to the U.S. and former Prime Minister James Bolger visited the Center in November of that same year and presented a New Zealand Māori war club to mark the occasion. Funded by a special endowment, the Center serves as a focal point for academic, artistic, and public interchanges involving the US, Australia, and New Zealand.
Upon Dr. Higley’s retirement in 2012, Dr. Rhonda Evans took over as the Center’s Director on an interim basis. She officially resigned her position as an Associate Professor in East Carolina University’s Department of Political Science two years later to become the Center’s Director. Dr. Evans holds an appointment as a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Government, and she teaches a course on Australian Society and Politics. Under her leadership, the Clark Center launched new research initiatives, established an Undergraduate Research and Mentorship Program, and started the Small Grants Programs to facilitate cross-disciplinary research on issues concerning Australia and New Zealand.
The Center's Endowment
Generous donations by several individuals and corporations have enabled The University of Texas at Austin to establish an endowment for the Center. At present, income from the endowment constitutes approximately a third of what the University estimates is needed to fund the Center's activities. Increasing this endowment is, therefore, a primary goal.
In 1996, after the successful visit of the former Prime Minister of Australia, the Hon. R.L.J. “Bob” Hawke, and his wife, Blanche d'Alpuget, the Center initiated a "Friends of the Clark Center" fund for local people interested in supporting the Center's activities. If you’re interested in supporting the Clark Center’s mission, please contact the Director, Rhonda Evans, or you can donate here.