Australia's Peril

Planning for Asianisation

In August 1980, approximately 120 of "Australia's top young opinion-leaders" from a range of backgrounds (business and commerce, law, unions, education, politics, etc.) were gathered together in Melbourne for the Future Directions Conference, to discuss "the options facing Australia in the future".(69)

The five-day residential conference was held at LaTrobe University, and its main sponsors were: David Syme & Co. (which includes The Age newspaper, which heavily reported the event), the Commonwealth Government, the Commonwealth Fund of New York, and La Trobe University. Politicians from all of the major political parties attended.(70)

At the end of the Conference, The Age reported that "There was widespread agreement that there should be... closer links with Asia" and that "The conference drew attention to the growing importance of Australia's relations with Asia". The conference discussions produced "three significant and connected strands", one of which "was called Asianisation, the need for Australia to become much more [part] of its region" (the other two strands of thought were "feminisation" and "Aboriginalisation").(71)

During the conference, it was suggested that Australia be re-named "Austrasia", for such time as "Australia becomes part of Asia" - while "the assumption behind changing Australia into Austrasia was that, by 1990, 10 per cent of the Australian population would be Asian in origin" - and that "There is a further assumption that a multi-cultural Asianised Australian society, with a growing, diversified economy which takes account of regional needs, is preferred despite the stresses which will accompany its emergence".(72)

This conference would not have been the first time that politicians, business people, academics, or "fellow travellers" had spoken of a desire to give Australia an "Asian Future"; although it was one of the first times that such Establishment figures spoke openly of plans or desires for such an "Asian Destiny" - or of the possibility of Australia being "Asianised", or subject to the process of "Asianisation".

Such talk from Establishment figures - about aims and/or plans for an Asianised Australia - increased in the 1980s and 1990s.