The University’s Sydney Southeast Asia Centre (SSEAC) hosted a visit of Dr Sounthone Xayachack, Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs for Laos, a member of the Central Committee of the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party, and the Lao Ambassador, HE Phomma Khammanichanh at the Sydney campus on 12th June. Professor Peter Windsor, a member of SSEAC’s Board of Management, was asked to lead the visit on behalf of the University because of his strong links with Laos and the ACIAR projects he manages there. After being greeted by Vice-Chancellor Dr Michael Spence, Madame Xayachack spoke to staff and students in the Senate Room, welcoming the research links and teaching opportunities provided by the University in the region, and praising the University’s initiative in setting up the Sydney SSEAC in 2012.
SSEAC has quickly become established as one of the world’s leading centres of expertise in the region.
Professor Peter Windsor gave a presentation to the vice-minister about the University’s work in Laos and neighbouring countries to address food security and rural poverty by improving the health and management of cattle. SSEAC’s Country Coordinator for Laos, Dr Damien Field, talked about the Faculty of Agriculture and Environment’s student field projects in Laos -known by students as ‘the Lao Trip’ -and the University’s partnership with the National University of Laos. Professor Gwynnyth Llewellyn, from the Faculty of Health Sciences, highlighted the work being undertaken to strengthen rehabilitation systems for people with disabilities in Laos.
Dr Xayachack also met Dr Sivixay Thammalangsy, a PhD student from Laos in the School of Public Health. Other participants included Associate Professor Michael Dibley from the School of Public Health and Dr Yayoi Lagerqvist from the School of Geosciences, who are working on an interdisciplinary project about how local communities in Laos adapt to changes in the use of natural resources. Official links between the University and Laos have been increasing in recent years. In 2012 the President of the Lao National Assembly and the Minister of Education both visited the University.
Dr Thushara Dibley, executive officer at SSEAC, said: “Sydney was the only university visited by Dr Xayachack on her trip to Australia, which consolidates the strong relationship that University of Sydney academics have been building up with policy makers in Laos.”