A team of academics from the Sichuan province of China visited the Narrandera Fisheries Centre on Monday as part of a practical component of a three week tour of Australia to learn about agriculture and aquaculture.
Australia has long been a country of exports – coal, iron ore, beef and grain – but universities are increasingly looking to export something a little more valuable: knowledge.
“This is university teaching staff from a Chinese university, it’s called Nei Jiang Normal University in Sichuan province. So these are all academic staff in either the agriculture or aquaculture areas, from lecturer to associate professor to professor,” said Chloe Cai, from Sydney University.
“I’m from the office of global engagement, so we’re engaged with other universities in the world, as well as other government bodies and organisations. We have a small unit in the office of global engagement, so the three of us facilitate a lot of programs to our area. It’s very busy! They send us a request if they want to study in a particular area, for instance transport, agriculture, aquaculture, sustainability.”
Ms Cai’s little office of three people are acting as a conduit for incredible change. Within a short space of time, the academics on tour will be able to pass on Australian methods of agriculture and aquaculture to their students, educating generations in sustainable practices.
“I think they’re pretty excited to learn the area and what you produce here,” Ms Cai said. “Australia does very good in some ways, like in sustainability and recirculating and conservation farming. It’s becoming a fairly important issue in China, environment problems and pollution and safety, so they want to learn from us.
“They came to Sydney for three weeks time to study a program. So our university has conducted a two week program in the city, and in this final week we’ve collaborated to have an aquaculture and agriculture tour in the area. And today is our first day here.
“During the course in Sydney they did mention that the key part of protecting the environment and sustainability is education because you have to teach people when they are young, so that they will bring up the concept with them.
“We are here to help them to learn something different. So these are all teachers, and hopefully they will bring a new concept into China and teach their students and hopefully they will change something.”
Ms Cai has no time to rest on her laurels, as she is already preparing for the next crop of young hopefuls.
“Next month we will have a student group coming here to learn about the pharmaceutical industry. It’s a pretty developed industry in Australia; I hope they can gain some knowledge here.”