The early years of this century were defined by the terrorist attacks against the United States. Invoking ANZUS for the first time, Prime Minister John Howard stood resolutely with our ally as the United States went to war in Afghanistan in 2001, and then Iraq in 2003.
They were brave, difficult, and controversial decisions – especially the latter. As one should expect in an open, democratic society, the national conversation turned to America, its place in the world, and the future of the Alliance.
The Australian Government endorsed an American Australian Association (AAA) initiative and entered into an agreement with it on 27 June 2006 to establish the United States Studies Centre (USSC). The AAA, formed in 1948, is the leading privately funded organisation devoted to deepening understanding and cooperation between the institutions and peoples of our two countries. The AAA needed to work expeditiously and on 10 November 2006 selected the University of Sydney as the host of the USSC. The Centre formally began its work as an independent entity in February 2007.
Within a few years, the USSC became the primary source of balanced information and expert views on domestic developments in the United States, its foreign policy, and the evolving purpose and mission of the Alliance. This was achieved through a powerful media presence, a growing collection of original and applied research, a vibrant program of undergraduate and postgraduate courses, and its role as a convening organisation for government and officials, business leaders, academics, journalists and interested individuals.
ANZUS also serves a broader purpose beyond advancing national interests. The fastest rates of economic growth and increase in military spending are occurring in the Indo-Pacific and growing regional prosperity is taking place alongside old animosities and new rivalries. US leadership has become even more indispensable during the last decade and is increasingly reliant on allies to expand its role and presence.
This setting helped establish the Perth USAsia Centre (USAC) as an initiative of the AAA in partnership with the USSC and the University of Western Australia in 2013. A complementary entity in Western Australia and bordering the Indian Ocean, the Perth USAC has become a leading think tank for strategic and economic issues between the dozens of countries of the Indo-Pacific. The Centre’s collaboration with more than 150 partners to host hundreds of events across 19 cities in eight countries has created a large and growing community better informed and prepared for our collective challenges.
A successful alliance between two democracies relies heavily on the energy and initiative of organisations and individuals in civil society to look after, develop and strengthen the relationship to better position our countries for what lies ahead. This was and remains the mission of the AAA, USSC and Perth USAC.
Chair, American Australian Association and Perth USAsia Centre
Chair, United States Studies Centre