The central government has joined with the University of Western Australia to establish Australia's first Confucius Institute in Perth. The institute is part of a 100-strong global network of centres promoting Chinese language and culture. It has been established within the university's Institute for International Development. Under a three-year agreement, the mainland and UWA are each contributing half the funding and will appoint half the board members. Director of the institute, Professor Paige Porter, said Western Australia was a natural location for the venture. 'There's a big focus on China in Western Australia in general, it's a direct result of economic relations,' Professor Porter said. She pointed to a long history of trade and contact between the mainland and WA, ranging from iron ore exports in the 1980s to the record A$25 billion ($150 billion) natural gas deal that was negotiated three years ago. Under a A$25 million, 10-year training agreement that is part of the deal, UWA and Curtin University of Technology are training a group of managers for a new gas industry in Guangzhou. 'The university had been looking for ways to set up a centre for China studies for three years,' Professor Porter said. 'Then we heard about the Confucius Institute and contacted the Chinese government.' She said that when the UWA approached the central government about establishing an institute in Perth, the government acted quickly through its National Office for Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language. 'What they are allowing is for you to do your own thing at the local site ... it is a bit of an experiment,' Professor Porter said. The UWA institute would offer courses to students as well as to travellers, business people and school children, she said. The institute would collaborate with UWA's existing China studies programme, which has 200 students enrolled, and with external scholars. 'The purpose really is to help create a critical mass for China studies,' Professor Porter said. The first Confucius Institute opened in Seoul in South Korea in November last year. Named after the Chinese sage, once condemned by the Communist Party, the institutes are similar to France's Alliance Francaise, Spain's Instituto Cervantes and the British Council.