Author, intellectual and social scientist Professor Anthony Elliott is the new Director of Adelaide’s Hawke Research Institute where he hopes to develop a more intensive global outlook for the largest Australian centre of social science research.
"I’ve been struck by the fact that the Hawke has always been very Adelaide-centric, and yes, it’s located in Adelaide but what I haven’t quite grasped is why our activities for the most part have been mostly only in Adelaide,” Professor Elliott, who was appointed in October, explains.
The Hawke Research Institute is the research body of the University of South Australia’s Hawke Centre, a community-focused body devoted to generating ideas and solutions to achieve cohesive, sustainable societies. “This Institute is now going to take Adelaide, as it were, around Australia for all the major events that we’re running from 2013 onwards. They will happen in Adelaide but they will go to other capital cities and they’ll start happening in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane and we’ll be co-badging these elsewhere. We will be seeking to bring, for instance, some of the best and the brightest. We’re launching early next year wih tvisiting speakers from Yale University, we’re bringing them here and there will be master classes and public lectures in Adelaide but then we take that to Sydney, still under the Hawke, to try and expand the operation.”
A former Chair of Sociology at Flinders University, Professor Elliott is the author of more than 25 books (including The New Individualism and Making the Cut) and was based in the UK where he gained his PhD from Cambridge and became Professor of Sociology at the University of Kent. “The Hawke has always been about vibrant, academic social science contributing to the public that it’s meant to serve,” Elliott says. “That is what my understanding of not only what the Hawke Centre, which of course has done so much in terms of promoting debate in Adelaide over the years with all of its high profile events not just public speaking, but the Hawke Centre is geared towards sponsoring and running exhibitions. The Institute is really meant to be about putting the latest, cutting edge social science and researc from the humanities back into engagement with the public. That agenda, I think, slipped for a period, so what my directorship is about is trying to not only, in a sense, reconnect to that and to reinvigorate it but to actually try and lift the whole thing to another level.”
Professor Elliott says the Hawke will be focussed on improving the quality of public debate in Adelaide.
“This isn’t to say Adelaide needs any help with its public debate because, of course, it has been a city that is well recognised for its staging of events and it’s the festival city. I know there have been various debates about its status in terms of culture and where it ranks against the other states, but I think where the Hawke can hopefully make a difference is in the types of debates we’re going to have. For instance, next year we’re joining forces with the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia, which is arguably the most prestigious and central body of social science research in this country and we’re going to run a national asylum summit. You can’t get a bigger political issue; you can’t get a more fraught and difficult political issue at the moment than asylum. So often it’s a debate that gets reduced too quickly to what’s called Australia’s border protection security. The Hawke is about trying to engineer a more sophisticated debate. We will be bringing people (not only people from all around the country) to Adelaide in June of next year for this debate, we will also be bringing international speakers from North America, Europe and Asia, because, of course, it’s a global debate. We want to make sure that we get a kind of space for the different political positions to be there and to connect it to the latest research in social science, to contribute back to what’s actually happening at the level of public debate.”