Kirrilee Hughes

Kirrilee Hughes

PhD candidate and College of Asia and the Pacific alumna, Kirrilee Hughes (BAsianStudies2003 / GradCertMigrationLaw 2009) has worked across South East Asia, South America and sub-Sahara Africa and rates introducing President Yudhoyono as a career-defining moment. Kik (as she prefers) has returned to ANU to complete her PhD because she believes ANU is the best place in the world for Asian Studies research. We caught up with Kik to find out why

What has brought you back to ANU?

I have returned to ANU, where I completed a Bachelor in Asian Studies in 2003, because it’s the best place in Australia for Asian Studies research. Not only can I draw upon the support and expertise of my supervisor and formal advisors, but also upon a very vibrant, very inspiring and very large academic community here at ANU. I feel that the experiences I’ve had and the connections I've made throughout my PhD at ANU will definitely be of benefit in the future after I graduate and regain employment in my industry.

Tell us about your PhD.

I decided to do a PhD because of my own passion for research and because the international education industry - which I see myself returning to - values postgraduate research qualifications. I propose a broader definition to argue for a focus on 'latent' Asia literacy.
I am hoping to use academic frameworks to contribute to political and practical understandings of Asia literacy in Australia. I am also hoping to contribute to future directions for Asia literacy policies and programs in Australia by defining Asia literacy in broader terms and emphasising its importance beyond political and economic outcomes.
How do you feel about the current relationship – whether through politics, security issues or cultural exchange - between Asia and Australia and how does a degree in Asian Studies from ANU help to better inform your understanding of the region?
This question echoes the ideas which underscore my PhD research. Australia’s engagement with the nations and societies of Asia is becoming increasingly important due to political and economic, as well as demographic and social reasons. I believe a degree in Asian Studies from ANU has provided me with the knowledge to be aware of and to effectively navigate these issues whether in business, research or informal contexts.

What originally drew you to Asian Studies?

I had completed a one year high school exchange to Indonesia as a 15 year old and returned home to Sydney unsure of what I wanted to do. I was drawn to Asian Studies at ANU because of the University’s global reputation for Indonesian Studies, and the opportunities to learn about and study in other parts of Asia.

What advice would you give someone considering Asian Studies at ANU?

Do it! There is no better place in Australia - or indeed the world - to undertake Asian Studies. The depth and breadth of expertise at ANU is amazing and inspiring.

Can you share a story about your time at ANU which has stayed with you since graduation?

My Indonesian 3B tutorial group was one of the most supportive groups in which I have ever studied and I made so many friends from this class who I am still in contact with. I’m constantly surprised at the achievements of this group! One is a Rhodes Scholar, another received a Sir General John Monash Scholarship and many are working in senior positions in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, AusAID and other government bodies and businesses in Australia, Indonesia and around the world.

What does it mean to you to be an ANU graduate?

It means I am connected to an institution which is a global leader in Asian Studies, and which has very special expertise in Indonesian Studies. This connection is not only useful at a professional level, but also at a personal level, and it means that others recognise the level of my abilities and expertise in bahasa Indonesia and in research.

What is one of the more unusual stories about your career that you can share with alumni?

Through my work with the Australia Indonesia Business Council, I have been involved in the last two visits to Australia by the President of the Republic of Indonesia, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. In July 2012, I found myself introducing President Yudhoyono (in both English and bahasa Indonesia) to over 150 senior Australian and Indonesian business people and government officials. It was definitely a career-defining moment!

Kirrilee Hughes is just one ambassador of the quality education and experience that our graduates have received at ANU. Visit our alumni stories page to learn more about the achievements of our alumni, tell your own story or suggest an alumnus we should profile.

Updated:  24 April, 2017/Responsible Officer:  Dean, ANU College of Asia & the Pacific/Page Contact:  CAP Web Team