History and aims

Prato Centre via Pugliesi

The Monash University Prato Centre was officially opened on 17 September 2001 at Palazzo Vai in the heart of Prato's centro storico (historical centre). Monash secured this location with support from the Region of Tuscany and the local government of Prato.

The Centre's establishment was assisted by the generosity of Rino and Diana Grollo, for whom the Centre's major conference and performance room is named.

The late Professor Bill Kent, a world authority on the Italian Renaissance, was the Centre's Founding Director (2000-2004).

Dr Annamaria Pagliaro, specialist in 19th and early 20th Century Italian literature, was the Centre's Director from 2005 to 2008. She has had a long association with the Centre and was involved in its establishment.

Professor Loretta Baldassar was Director of the Centre from 2009 to 2011. An anthropologist specialising in migration studies, particularly Italian migration to Australia, Professor Baldassar continues her association with the Centre as an Adjunct Principal Research Fellow in the School of Political and Social Inquiry, Monash University.

From January to June 2012, the Director of the Centre was Emeritus Professor John Nieuwenhuysen AM. He had previously served as the Foundation Director of the Monash Institute for the Study of Global Movements, as well as working on several international research projects at the Prato Centre.

As of July 2012, the Director of the Centre is Dr Cecilia Hewlett.

The Centre's activities are guided by the Monash University Prato Centre Board, which is chaired by Dr Abid Khan, Monash University's Pro Vice-Chancellor (International). The Honourable Sir James Gobbo AC, and Ms Carla Zampatti AC, are patrons of the Monash University Prato Centre.


The Prato Centre seeks to:

  • develop and expand Australia's connections with universities, governments, industry and cultural organisations in Europe;
  • develop and expand the opportunities for Monash and other Australian students to study overseas;
  • function as an interface between Europe and Asia for academics and political and business leaders from both regions;
  • offer a window on Australia through seminars on Australian political, historical and cultural issues, encourage the dissemination of information on Australian technological, manufacturing, industrial and design capabilities, and showcase Australian visual and performing arts.

Why Prato and Europe?

Piazza del Comune in PratoMonash has made a strategic choice to achieve excellence in research and education through a cross-disciplinary, multi-campus, multi-nation approach.

With national boundaries becoming less important, the University believes that our graduates need to understand different cultures, economies and working practices, and that the work of our researchers is advanced through collaborations with their counterparts around the world.

While internationalising its curriculum at home, the University is also actively seeking to accelerate its engagement with the world - harnessing resources and expertise from several continents.

Developing understanding of Europe, and close connections with its institutions, is an important part of this approach. Through its presence in Europe, Monash is able to ensure these connections translate into initiatives that benefit our students, researchers and our host countries.

Prato is close to several of Europe’s most significant cities and esteemed institutions – thirty minutes from Florence and the European University Institute in Fiesole, one hour from Bologna – home to Europe’s oldest university, two hours from Rome, and three hours from Milan.
In advancing the links Monash has in Europe, the Prato Centre works in cooperation with the Monash European and EU Centre, which was established in 2006 at Monash in Australia with the support of the European Commission.
Further information about the history of the Prato Centre can be found in A Site of Convergence: Celebrating 10 years of the Monash University Prato Centre by Cynthia Troup with Jo-Anne Duggan, and published by Monash University Publishing.

Cover image of 'A site of convergence'