ADB Pacific Economic Monitor (December 2012)

“The December 2012 edition of the Pacific Economic Monitor examines the fiscal position of ADB’s Pacific developing member countries and their budget plans for 2013. Special articles included in this issue focus on economic management and growth prospects in smaller Pacific island economies” [read the report].

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PNG: The six billion kina question

Graeme Smith follows up his earlier post to Interpreter (Are Chinese Soft Loans Always a Bad Thing?) with concern about a massive new loan reportedly under negotiation between China’s Exim Bank and PNG’s O’Neill government [read more].

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Pacific Buzz (December 19): 2012 in review

“The final edition of the Pacific Buzz for 2012 (our 25th for the year) is now online. Pacific Buzz will return on January 30, 2013. We wish all our readers a happy Christmas and New Year, and extend our thoughts to those in Samoa and Fiji affected by Cyclone Evan.”

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Up The Fly Without A Paddle

“The Global Mail investigates rumours of a mysterious plague down-river from a giant gold mine in remote Papua New Guinea, and uncovers disturbing questions about the flow of benefits from the resources boom” [read more].

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Last minute Christmas presents for the Pacific

Some readers of Outrigger may be interested in an innovative Christmas gift idea from Oxfam New Zealand. Oxfam has a tradition of facilitating gifts to communities in need and Oxfam NZ has a particular focus on the Pacific islands (with programs in PNG, Solomon Islands, Fiji, West Papua, Samoa, Tonga, Vanuatu and East Timor). To find out more about how you can give a gift to a family member or friend by giving to a family or community in need in the region, see Oxfam Unwrapped.

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Pipe Dreams: The PNG LNG Project and the Future Hopes of a Nation

This new investigative report by Jubilee Australia considers the “circumstances, events and impacts associated with Exxon Mobil’s US $19 billion gas project in Papua New Guinea’s Southern Highlands…” This Report “argues that, contrary to the official discourse, there are serious risks that the revenues generated by the project will not mitigate the negative economic and social impacts of the Project. In fact, it is very likely that the Project will exacerbate poverty, increase corruption and lead to more violence in the country.” [read more, or download].

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Disaster relief for Samoa and Fiji in the wake of Cyclone Evan

The New Zealand NGO Disaster Relief Forum (NDRF) maintains a list of NGOs actively involved in assisting with emergency relief efforts in the region. Please visit the NDRF site to find out how you may contribute to disaster relief this Christmas for communities in Samoa and Fiji affected by Cyclone Evan.

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Request for proposals: UNDP/NGO Pacific Resilience Program

The UNDP is looking for an implementing partner (International Non-Governmental Organisation) for the Pacific Resilience Programme, based in Fiji [read more].

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Congratulations, Ana Lautaimi Soakai (PMPA Awardee)!

The Pacific Institute congratulates ANU Master’s graduates Ana Lautaimi Soakai (Crawford School) and Tauvasa Tanuvasa Chou-Lee (College of Law) and who were among 30 Pacific students studying in Australia to receive the Prime Minister’s Pacific-Australia (PMPA) Award last Thursday (6 December 2012). Here we offer extracts from an interview with Ana about her work and what she hopes to achieve with her PMPA Award. [Read more about Tauvasa and his PMPA in an earlier post to Outrigger.] Click the photo of Ana (top left) to see her with The Hon Gareth Evans AC QC, Chancellor of the ANU (standing to her left) and Prof. Tom Kompas, Director of the Crawford School at her graduation ceremony last Friday.

Ana Lautaimi Soakai was born in 1984 and raised in the Ha’apai island group, Tonga where she attended a local primary school (GPS Pangai/Hihifo). She then moved to Tonga High School (THS), Nuku’alofaand was Head Girl Prefect in her final year. After completing Form 7, she passed a bursary program and was awarded a scholarship from NZAID to study a Bachelor of Economics and Information Systems at the University of the South Pacific, Fiji. She completed her degree in mid-2007 and immediately began work in the Revenue Services Department (RSD) of the Kingdom of Tonga. The following year, she became a senior economist with the Project and Aid Management Division, in the Tongan Ministry of Finance. In late 2010, she received news that her application for an Australian Development Scholarship (ADS) was successful and in early 2011, she commenced a Graduate Diploma in International Development Economics (IDEC) at the ANU’s Crawford School. This year she completed her Masters in International Development Economics.

Ana’s Prime Minister’s Pacific Award (PMPA) will enable her to spend three months in Pacific Islands Trade and Invest (PITI), the ‘region’s lead export facilitation, investment and tourism promotion agency.’ PITI is a part of the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) Secretariat, and as such is responsible for promoting international industry and business opportunities for all of the 14 PIF member countries. Ana has met with staff from PITI  and is already impressed by their professionalism. She is excited about her PMPA placement and believes her time with PITI will give her valuable new insights and a better understanding of issues related to economic development in the region. We are sure that her colleagues at Pacific Islands Trade and Invest will enjoy their time with her.

Ana has made a big impression at the ANU. Like her fellow ANU PMPA Awardee Tauvasa Tanuvasa Chou-Lee, she has made significant contributions to mentoring programmes for Pacific Islander youth in Australia run by Pasifika Australia. This year, in addition to her other activities and her Masters program, Ana was also President of the Toad Hall Resident’s Advisory Committee. She has loved her time as a student at ANU, particularly her time in residence at Toad Hall, where she has enjoyed the strong sense of community among postgraduate students from very diverse backgrounds. She has also greatly appreciated the support of her Pacific brothers at Toad Hall (from Samoa and Fiji) – most recently for the meals they cooked for her throughout her final exam period.

Ana’s sense of gratitude is infectious. In reflecting on her time at ANU, she expressed her appreciation for her fellow students and residents, but also for her extended family in Canberra and at home in Tonga, who have supported her emotionally and financially with her studies. Ana believes this inclusive and intimate approach to extended family is as fundamental to Pacific islands cultures as it is to her own wellbeing – it kept her from feeling isolated, lonely and homesick during the two years she lived in her small room in Toad Hall, away from her immediate family.

On Friday, 14 December 2012, in a graduation ceremony at the ANU’s Llewellyn Hall attended by her parents and members of her extended family (pictured left), Ana’s two degrees were conferred. For Ana, this was a moment for profound gratitude. One of seven children, her parents went to great efforts to ensure she and her siblings received a good education (she is the only university graduate in her family). Her Dad worked for 33 years as a linesman with the main electricity utility in Tonga (TPL) to pay for the children’s education. Her older brother worked as a fruit picker in the Emerald region of Queensland for 7 months earlier this year (under the Australian Government’s Pacific Seasonal Worker Scheme) to buy his own land in Tonga, but also set money aside each month to pay for Ana’s parents to come to Australia so they were able to attend her graduation. Ana’s gratitude for these and other blessings is ultimately to God. She believes “we can do all things through Christ, who strengthens us.”

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Taking the High Ground (Terra Australis 37): The archaeology of Rapa, a fortified island in remote East Polynesia

Edited by Atholl Anderson and Douglas J. Kennett.

“This volume brings the remote and little known island of Rapa firmly to the forefront of Polynesian archaeology. Thirteen authors contribute 14 chapters, covering not only the basic archaeology of coastal sites, rock shelters, and fortifications, but faunal remains, agricultural development, and marine exploitation. The results, presented within a chronology framed by Bayesian analysis, are set against a background of ethnohistory and ethnology. Highly unusual in tropical Polynesian archaeology are descriptions of artefacts of perishable material. Taking the High Ground provides important insights into how a group of Polynesian settlers adapted to an isolated and in some ways restrictive environment.”

This book is available online free from ANU Epress.

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Strongim Gavman Program in PNG reviewed

An ambitious and sensitive program of Australian aid – the Strongim Gavman Program (SGP) in Papua New Guinea (PNG) – was the object of an independent mid‑term review in late 2011 and early 2012. Margaret Callan, a former AusAID official who is now a Visiting Fellow of the Development Policy Centre, led the review team…” [read more or jump to the Stongim Gavman review].

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Conference: The South Pacific Agenda for Survival and Growth: A Framework for Coordinated Participation of Asian Donors?

11-13 December 2012, Port Vila, Vanuatu.

“The New Zealand Asia Institute of the University of Auckland has partnered with the Pacific Institute of Public Policy to host guest speakers and academics from the Pacific, New Zealand, China, Japan, Taiwan, Australia and United States (Hawaii)… A selection of academics will present papers on issues ranging from Chinese foreign aid in the South Pacific to the strategic priorities of the US in the Asia Pacific Region. Guest speakers will offer regional perspectives on foreign assistance from Papua New Guinea, Fiji and Tuvalu…” [read more].

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Growing the future, but can government manage the risks? PNG’s 2013 Budget

PNG maintained its position as one of the fastest growing economies in Asia and the Pacific in 2012. Preliminary GDP figures show growth of 9.2% in 2012, on the back of 11.1% growth in 2011…. Against this backdrop, the 2013 National Budget foreshadows a significant slowdown in government revenue growth, as modest growth in consumption, income, and company taxes are offset by declining mining and oil revenues….  The $US6.5 billion 2013 Budget plans for a 23% increase in nominal expenditure, raising the size of the expected Budget deficit to 7.2% of GDP” [read more].

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PhD positions for Pacific research project (Massey University)

Two PhD positions are offered as part of the Marsden-funded project, “Harnessing the power of business: the contested involvement of corporations in community development initiatives in the Pacific” [read about other Marsden Fund Pacific-related research in this earlier post to Outrigger]. One student will work under the supervision of A/Prof Glenn Banks on two mining sector case studies, and one will work under the supervision of Prof Regina Scheyvens on two tourism case studies. Applications due 20 December 2012. Project start date: March 2013 (funding for a 3 year period). Continue reading

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Congratulations, Tauvasa Tanuvasa Chou-Lee (PMPA Awardee)!

The Pacific Institute congratulates ANU Master’s students Tauvasa Tanuvasa Chou-Lee (College of Law, pictured left) and Ana Soakai (Crawford School) who were among 30 Pacific students studying in Australia to receive the Prime Minister’s Pacific-Australia (PMPA) Award last Thursday (6 December 2012). Here we offer extracts from an interview with Tauvasa about his work and what he hopes to achieve with his PMPA Award. [We profile Ana Soakai in a post to Outrigger on 15 December 2012.]

Tauvasa Tanuvasa Chou-Lee (pictured above) was born in 1982 and raised in Port Moresby where he attended an international primary school, Tokarara High School, Port Moresby National High School and then the University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG). He graduated from UPNG with a Bachelor of Laws degree with Honours in early 2005 and was admitted to the PNG Bar at the end of that same year after completing training at the PNG Legal Training Institute. In early 2006 he joined the Office of the Solicitor General, in Papua New Guinea’s Department of Justice and Attorney General. In 2011, he was awarded an Australian Development Scholarship (ADS) to pursue a Master’s degree in Law specialising in Government and Commercial Law. Tauvasa completes his degree at the end of this year and will return to PNG to re-commence his work as Deputy Solicitor General (State Defence) in the Office of the Solicitor General.

Tauvasa is passionate about his profession and hopes that the experiences he will gain through work experience supported by the PMPA scheme will help him make a significant contribution to efforts to improve the Office of the Solicitor General and the Department of Justice and Attorney General as a whole. With around 20 lawyers and an average load of around 400 cases per lawyer, lawyers in the Office of the Solicitor General need all the help they can get. Tauvasa notes “with charging and recovering costs that his office simply cannot cope with the current caseload and that they at times brief out matters to private law firms through the Attorney General often at great expense.” He is particularly concerned with workloads caused by serial litigants with often vexatious claims. Tauvasa feels keenly the responsibility of his office and recognises that “every time we lose a claim, we lose taxpayers’ money – money that could be spent on development, on improvements to peoples lives and livelihoods, especially in the rural areas where basic services and infrastructure are much needed.” He strongly believes that by working for the state (the primary client of the Office of the Solicitor General), he is working for the people of Papua New Guinea. He aims to help create a Government Legal Enterprise in PNG (an entity akin to the Australian Government Solicitor), which may advise and represent the Government of Papua New Guinea in courts and tribunals and help to de-politicise the work of his Office and that of the Department of Justice and Attorney General in the country.

Tauvasa is dedicated to his work in Papua New Guinea, even though the rest of his family live in Samoa. A citizen of PNG, he is one of a growing number of young Pacific Islanders whose familial connections span the Pacific Ocean. His Mother is from Central Province (with family from Baluan Island, Manus Province) and his Father is of chiefly Samoan (Tanuvasa from Manono) and Chinese ancestry. Tauvasa knows that this mix of culture, tradition and identity can be confronting for some, but for him it is about recognition of family and, as one Samoan saying goes, “People have more roots than trees.”

[See a media release about the 2012 PMPA awards on the AusAID website.]

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Pacific Leaders Gender Equality Declaration: an empty commitment or a real opportunity?

“Readers could be forgiven for a measure of skepticism about just how committed to gender equality all Pacific leaders actually are…” [read more].

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A need for awareness of Pacific neighbours

“Last month my Sydney University colleagues un-discovered Sandy Island in the south-western Pacific… Our South Pacific neighbours, too have fallen off world geopolitical maps – not just Sandy Island…” Read more in this opinion piece by John Connell, published today in the Sydney Morning Herald.

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Welcome… and congratulations, Dr James Flexner!

Dr James Flexner will be joining the School of Archaeology and Anthropology at the ANU early in 2013, where he will be a postdoctoral fellow. James recently received a Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA) from the Australian Research Council (ARC) to fund his research on the archaeology of the first Christian missions to the islands of Erromango, Tanna, and Aniwa in southern Vanuatu. The goal of this project is to use archaeological evidence, local oral histories, and archival records to understand the ways that religion shaped colonial encounters in Island Melanesia, from the perspectives of both local people and foreign missionaries. [See this earlier post to Outrigger on ARC awards for Pacific-related research in 2013.]

James is coming to the ANU from Washington and Lee University in Virginia in the United States, where he was a visiting lecturer for the last three years. Before that, he received a Bachelor’s in Anthropology and Archaeology from the University of Virginia, and a Master’s and PhD in Anthropology from the University of California, Berkeley.

James got his start in archaeology as an undergraduate student, working periodically for the Department of Archaeology at Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia plantation. James first started to learn about and become interested in Oceania during a semester spent at the University of Otago in New Zealand. As an undergraduate, he also worked on an excavation project on Pemba Island, Tanzania, which became the subject of his senior honours thesis.

For postgraduate study, James combined his interests and experiences by developing a project in Polynesian historical archaeology at the University of California, Berkeley. His doctoral research focused on the historical archaeology of Hansen’s disease (also called leprosy) in Kalaupapa National Historical Park, Moloka‘i Island, Hawaii. Documenting the landscape in Kalaupapa, James was able to show the ways that traditional Hawaiian settlement patterns and practices shaped everyday life in Hawaii’s first experiment with institutions of isolation. As a graduate student, James was also lucky enough to join his colleagues on archaeological digs elsewhere in Hawaii, California, and the Central Amazon of Brazil.

Since graduating from Berkeley, James has been teaching full time, and doing summer fieldwork in Vanuatu, laying the groundwork for his current ARC-funded project. This is a collaborative project involving the ANU, the Vanuatu Cultural Centre, and local communities in Vanuatu’s southern province of Tafea. James hopes to continue doing public archaeology while in Australia, since this has always been an important part of the discipline for him, and welcomes questions from students and the general public about his work (you can contact him on James will work closely with Prof. Matthew Spriggs, among others, while at the ANU.

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Books to PNG: Professional library of the late Malcolm Levett (1949-2010)

Dr Mike Bourke (SSGM, ANU) and Dr Mike Cookson (ANU Pacific Institute) have just sent another consignment of books to PNG. This shipment consisted of approx. 300 kg of books, many from the professional collection of the late Malcolm Levett (1949-2010).

Malcolm Levett was born and raised in Kent before moving to London to commence a Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Chemistry at the University of London. Soon after hte completion of his B.Sc., he moved to New Zealand to take up a PhD scholarship at Lincoln University in Christchurch. He completed his PhD in 1978 and married shortly before moving to PNG to take up a position in 1981 with the Department of Primary Industry (later the Department of Agriculture and Livestock). A few years later he and his wife moved to the Laloki Research Station (now part of the National Agricultural Research Institute, NARI). They moved again in 1986 so Malcolm could take up a new position at the Highlands Agricultural Experiment Station at Aiyura. In late 1987, he and his (growing) family moved to the Lowlands Agricultural Experiment Station at Keravat (now also part of NARI) and not long after transferred to Vudal College*. In late 1989, Malcolm and his family moved to UPNG, where he became Head of the Department of Geography and ran Unisearch. In mid-1997, he left UPNG but continued his work in PNG with the Swiss firm SGS. In January 2010, afflicted with a debilitating motor neurone disease, Malcolm left PNG with his family and moved to Cairns. On 28 April 2010, Dr Malcolm Levett passed away. He is survived by his wife Linda and their four children.

We would like to express our sincere condolences to the Levett family and our gratitude to them for their generous gift. Dr Mike Bourke has arranged for these books to be donated to the National Agricultural Research Institute (NARI) in Keravat, along with other books from retired academics at ANU and elsewhere. The library collection at NARI Keravat is being rebuilt after a fire destroyed its original collection two years ago. The latest consignment also included books for several academic departments at UPNG (Social Work and Anthropology) and some remaindered copies of a book co-edited by Levett, Changes in Food and Nutrition in Papua New Guinea: Proceedings of the first Papua New Guinea Food and Nutrition Conference. A limited number of copies of this book are available from the ANU (Dr Mike Bourke – or if you are in PNG, from the UPNG Bookshop (

[* Vudal College was established in 1965. In the early 2000s it became Vudal University and is now known as the PNG University of Natural Resources and Environment.]

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ESfO 2012 and PHA 2012

The European Society for Oceania (ESfO 2012) and Pacific History Association (PHA 2012) held their bi-annual conferences last week on opposite ends of the world (in Bergen, Norway and Wellington, New Zealand, respectively).  From early reports, both conferences were very successful. If you were unable to attend, you can get a sense of what was on offer from the official conference programs for The Power of the Pacific: values, materials, images (ESfO 2012) and Generations: History in the Pacific, Histories with a Future (PHA 2012).

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What went on at the Challenges for Participatory Development conference?

Read a summary by Colum Graham (Development Policy Centre, ANU) of keynote speakers and select other presentations at “The third Australian Council For International Development (ACFID) University Linkages Conference [which] took place on 28 and 29 November at the ANU. The theme of the conference was ‘The Challenges of Participatory Development in Contemporary Development Practice. Past themes have been on meeting the MDGs and Australian approaches to development. Over 470 people (made up of academics, students, NGO workers, Government officials, and freelance development practitioners) attended this year’s conference…” [if you missed the papers, you can still read the abstracts on the conference website and review select abstracts for the Pacific-related papers presented to the conference on an earlier post to Outrigger.]

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Food security in East Timor, Papua New Guinea and Pacific island countries and territories

Research funded by ACIAR is largely directed towards attaining food security. This report documents the food security issues in three of ACIAR’s focus areas: East Timor, Papua New Guinea and the Pacific islands. The studies help identify which problems are amenable to solutions, through research, development and extension. Download TR080: Food security in East Timor, Papua New Guinea and Pacific island countries and territories now
[File size: 3.34 MB].

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Interview: Prime Minister Peter O’Neill

Senator Bob Carr is in Papua New Guinea this week on his first visit as Foreign Minister. He is attending the Australia-PNG Ministerial Forum and touring the Highlands region with his counterpart, the PNG Foreign Minister. Meanwhile, PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has just concluded a six-day visit to Australia. Delivering speeches here at the Lowy Institute, at the National Press Club and at the annual PNG Mining and Petroleum Investment Conference in Sydney, the Prime Minister increased the visibility of his country in Australia and promoted a competent and optimistic image of his government…” [read more on the Lowy Institute's website].

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AVID Jobs: Environmental Defenders in the Pacific…

Environmental Defender’s Office (EDO) NSW’s International Program facilitates and coordinates Australian Volunteers for International Development (AVID) positions in the Pacific on an ongoing basis. EDO NSW helps the AVID program to place skilled Australian volunteers in developing countries and is funded by AusAID.

EDO NSW’s International Program is facilitating the following assignments:

Applications for these positions are due 18th December 2012. More information about these and other volunteer positions in the Pacific is available from Austraining International and Australian Volunteers for International Development (AVID).

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Workshop: “The South Pacific: From ‘arc of instability’ to ‘arc of opportunity’?”

The South Pacific: From ‘arc of instability’ to ‘arc of opportunity’? Is it time for Australia to shift its priorities from security to development in the South Pacific?

08:45am – 05:45pm, 08 February 2013
The Common Room, University House, Liversidge Street, ANU
Registration is required (please contact Dr Joanne Wallis).

By April 2013 the Australian stabilisation mission in Timor-Leste will withdraw, and in 2013 the small military component of the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands will return home, while its other components scale-back (although an Australian policing and governance presence will remain in the medium-term). In 2012 Papua New Guinea and Timor-Leste held relatively peaceful elections, and both appear to have formed fairly stable governments. The performance of the Solomon Islands government has improved, and the Vanuatu government functions quite well. In 2012 the military regime that has been in place in Fiji since their 2006 coup confirmed that elections will be held in 2014, and created a Constitutional Commission to make a new constitution. Therefore, it is timely to reflect on progress and prospects in the South Pacific.

A group of Australian and Pacific experts have contributed short articles to a special volume of Security Challenges on the ‘Security in the Pacific arc’, due for publication in December 2012 (available from: These contributions provide updates on progress being made in relation to the security challenges facing key states in the region, and consider the prospects for the region’s future security and stability.

This workshop will discuss the contributions to the special volume of Security Challenges. It will also gather and compare perspectives from Australian and Pacific scholars concerning the changing nature of the challenges and opportunities facing the region in order to answer the question: Is it time for Australia to shift its priorities from security to development in the South Pacific? The workshop will conclude with a reception in the Common Room at University House from 5.45 – 7.00pm.

Participants include:

  • Mr Jone Baledrokadroka, former colonel with 26 years of service in the Fiji military who recently completed PhD studies at SSGM, ANU.
  • Emeritus Professor Paul Dibb, former head of SDSC at the ANU, former Deputy Secretary in the Australian Department of Defence and former Director of the Defence Intelligence Organisation.
  • Dr Sinclair Dinnen, Senior Fellow, SSGM, ANU.
  • Mr Graeme Dobell, Journalist Fellow with the Australian Strategic Policy Institute and Radio Australia’s Associate Editor for the Asia Pacific.
  • Mr Tony Hiriasia, Masters student at the University of the South Pacific.
  • Professor Brij Lal, Acting Director, CHL, ANU.
  • Ms Sarah Logan, a PhD student in International Relations (IPS) at the ANU.
  • Dr Jack Maebuta, Lecturer in Education at the University of the South Pacific, Solomon Islands Campus and Honorary Associate, School of Humanities, UNE.
  • Dr Ron May, Emeritus Fellow of the ANU and Senior Associate, SSGM, ANU.
  • Ms Siobhan McDonnell, a PhD student in CHL, ANU.
  • Mr Vergil Narokobi, Legal Counsel at Ombudsman Commission and a PhD student at Victoria University of Wellington.
  • Mr Greg Nimbtik, a Masters student at Massey University.
  • Dr Gordon Peake, Visiting Fellow, SSGM, ANU.
  • Ms Carol Pitisopa, from the World Bank in Solomon Islands.
  • Ms Serena Sasingian, Executive Director, The Voice Inc. (PNG).
  • Dr Patrick Vakaoti, Lecturer in the Department of Sociology, Gender and Social Work at the University of Otago.
  • Dr Joanne Wallis, Lecturer, SDSC at the ANU, where she also convenes the Asia-Pacific Security program.

This workshop is presented by the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre (SDSC) and the State, Society and Governance in Melanesia Program (SSGM) at the ANU with support from the Research School of Asia and the Pacific (RSAP) and the Kokoda Foundation.

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Workshop Symposium: Political Life Writing in the Pacific Islands (Report)

by Co-Convenors: Brij V Lal and Jack Corbett.

On 18 October 2012 the first Workshop Symposium on Political Life Writing in the Pacific Islands was held at the Australian National University. The conference was co-hosted by the College of Asia and the Pacific’s department of Pacific and Asian History and the State, Society and Governance in Melanesia Program (SSGM).

The conference was opened by Professor Lal and the first papers were presented by former Deputy Prime Minister of Vanuatu, Sethy Regenvanu, and former Minister and Leader of the Opposition in Papua New Guinea, Dame Carol Kidu, who both reflected on the process of writing autobiography and the need to encourage Pacific leaders to record their stories as an integral part of their respective national histories.

The conference also heard from distinguished academic life writers, including Deryck Scarr, the author of three biographies including lives of the late Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, and his mentor Ratu Sir Lala Sukuna, and Clive Moore who edited inaugural Prime Minister of Solomon Islands, Sir Peter Kenilorea’s autobiography, and is currently working with former Governor-General of Solomon Islands, Sir Nathaniel Weana, on his book. Other presenters included Christopher Chevalier, Areti Metuamate, Nicole Haley, Ceridwen Spark, Jonathon Ritchie, Doug Munro and Sam Alasia.

Papers addressed the experience of writing political life history in the Pacific Islands with presenters reflecting on how they went about constructing a story and the impact this process had on them. Key themes included narrative and identity formation, storytelling and memory, ethics and research integrity, style and audience, and future challenges and disciplinary significance of the genre, both as it relates to traditional mediums of autobiography and biography but also collective studies, dictionary projects and edited collections.

The convenors would like thank all of the presenters and audience members for their contributions to what was a stimulating and informative day. They also wish to acknowledge the generous sponsorship provided by the Department of Pacific and Asian History and the State, Society and Governance in Melanesia Program.

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AAAPS AGM 2012 (summary report)

by Dr Jack Taylor, Secretary, Australian Association for the Advancement of Pacific Studies.

The Annual General Meeting of the Australian Association for the Advancement of Pacific Studies (AAAPS) was held on 2 November at Melbourne University. It followed an excellent talk by Pacific journalist and broadcaster Nic Maclellan on major political, economic and social changes occurring in and around the wider Pacific region which are affecting the way island states and territories form groups and alliances with one another and with Australia and NZ.

The AGM was well attended and the committee received reports on the successful AAAPS conference held in Wollongong earlier this year (April 2012). At the AGM, the next AAAPS conference in Sydney in April 2014 was discussed, as were plans for a series of guest lectures, seminars and workshops in 2013.

AAAPS has difficult decisions to make about such things as whether to charge an annual membership fee, how best to provide an internet service to members and also to change its rules so that local branches or organisations with related objectives might be affiliated with AAAPS.  Strategies and options will be considered by the committee, together with a proposal to change the name to Australian Association for Pacific Studies (AAPS), in a report to be submitted to the next general meeting in the first half of 2013.

The executive committee was elected.  It comprises office bearers and members in Melbourne, the ACT, NSW, SA and Queensland.  The present committee had been selected at the meeting at the Wollongong conference and had shown that the association can be run efficiently by email. Two student representatives were also elected.

The publications officers on the committee reported on the production of the newsletter, and called for contributions to the next one – intending to put out two newsletters a year.

AAAPS members include a wide range of people interested in encouraging Pacific Island-related studies, cultural and artistic activities, in Australia.  They come from across Australia and the Pacific Region.

Membership inquiries should be addressed to the co-secretary, John Taylor, at the following email address:

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Job: Social/Cultural Anthropologist, CNRS

The CNRS (Centre national de la recherche scientifique) is recruiting a tenure-track Director of Research (equivalent to Professorial level) in Social and Cultural Anthropology. The general domain of competence is “Environment and Identity in the Pacific”. Read more at this opportunity (Position number: 38/02) on the CNRS job site: .

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Oceania Newsletter No.68 (Dec. 2012)

The final Oceania Newsletter for 2012, compiled by Rene van der Haar at the Centre for Pacific and Asian Studies (Radboud University, NL), is now available online.

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Gender Responsive Budgeting: Timor-Leste, Philippines and Indonesia (video)

This new video from UN Women “video focuses on the use of Gender Responsive Budgeting in Timor-Leste, the Philippines and Indonesia as a tool to promote development and women’s rights. Testimonies from government officials and other advocates underline the role they can play promoting development…” [view the video]. See also the abstract for a related paper on Timor-Leste by Monica Costa presented to IPSA-AISP Conference earlier this year.

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Service delivery realities in Gulf Province, PNG

“Service delivery in Gulf Province, PNG, requires a ‘never say die’ attitude. This is the motto for government and church service providers according to the Provincial Administrator… While experiencing the predictable dysfunction of a system struggling to implement new reforms in incredibly difficult circumstances, we also met some of PNG’s less-talked-about heroes … [who] continue to teach many classes and provide basic health care to isolated communities” [read more].

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Inspire2012: Developing the Pacific health workforce

See slides from Beth Slatyer’s presentation on how AusAID aims to assist in “Developing the Pacific health workforce” (13 Nov.) – one of the many presentations at Inspire 2012: Reshaping Australia’s Health Workforce Conference (Melbourne, 12-14 November 2012).

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Papua New Guinea makes its own way on ICT

Stephanie Lusby, a PhD Candidate with the State, Society and Governance Program (SSGM) at ANU, adds her voice to discussions posted to The Interpreter about ICT in the region and notes that ”new literacies and ways of using ICT are evolving endogenously and organically in communities across the Pacific” [read more].

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Planning for a more productive informal economy in PNG

“PNG needs more sources of self-employment; it needs a wider range of activities which enable people to earn money. In other words, it needs a larger and more productive informal economy…” [read more].

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PNG New Voices 2012 (report)

“The summary report of the first ever PNG New Voices conference highlights the enthusiasm of Papua New Guinea’s young people to participate in debate about PNG’s economy and international outlook in the Asian century….” [read more].

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Keating’s Timor and Carr’s Papua

In this new post to Eureka Street, Fr Frank Brennan SJ cautions that “A bilateral relationship [between Australia and Indonesia] posited on a self-imposed ban on human rights discussion would be a very perverted relationship for a robust democracy like Australia boasting adherence to the rule of law and best international practice in human rights protection” [read more].

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Islands of Love, Islands of Risk

[Note: Book launch on 12 December cancelled]

Islands of Love, Islands of Risk: Culture and HIV in the Trobriands by Katherine Lepani.

“The Trobriand Islands of Papua New Guinea have been depicted as a place of sexual freedom ever since these small atolls in the southwest Pacific were made famous by anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski in the early twentieth century. Today in the era of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, how do Trobrianders respond to public health interventions that link their cultural practices to the risk of HIV? How do they weigh HIV prevention messages of abstinence, fidelity, and condom use against traditional sexual practices that strengthen interclan relationships in a gift economy?

Written by an anthropologist who has direct ties to the Trobriands through marriage and who has been involved in Papua New Guinea’s national response to the HIV epidemic since the mid-1990s, Islands of Love, Islands of Risk is an unusual insider ethnography. Katherine Lepani describes in vivid detail the cultural practices of regeneration, from the traditional dance called Wosimwaya to the elaborate exchanges that are part of the mortuary feasts called sagali. Focusing on the sexual freedom of young people, the author reveals the social value of sexual practice. By bringing cultural context and lived experience to the fore, the book addresses the failure of standardized public health programs to bridge the persistent gap between HIV awareness and prevention. The book offers insights on the interplay between global and local understandings of gender, sexuality, and disease and suggests the possibility of viewing sexuality in terms other than risk.

Islands of Love, Islands of Risk illustrates the contribution of ethnographic research methodology in facilitating dialogue between different ways of knowing. As a contemporary perspective on Malinowski’s classic accounts of Trobriand sexuality, the book reaffirms the Trobriands’ central place in the study of anthropology.”

[text taken from promotional material on the Vanderbilt University Press website.]

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Sounds of the soul: the traditional music of East Timor (3 December 2012)

Book launch and talk by the author, Dr Ros Dunlop
12.30 pm Monday, 3 December 2012,
Conference Room, 4th floor, National Library of Australia (gold coin donation).

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The good news for HIV in Papua New Guinea

A new post by Dr Geoff Clark (Program Director for Health and HIV for AusAID in PNG) to AusAID’s Engage blog in advance of World AIDS Day on 1 December 2012.

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Women and Land and Natural Resource Governance: The South-West Pacific in Comparative Context (6-7 Dec. 2012)

Workshop: 6-7 December 2012
Theatres 2 and 3, Hedley Bull Building
The Australian National University, Canberra, Australia.

Public Lecture: 5:30pm 6 December 2012
Women’s Assets and Empowerment in Agriculture by Ruth Meinzen-Dick
Senior Research Fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute [flyer].

The ANU Law, Governance and Development Initiative (LGDI) is collaborating with the World Bank Justice for the Poor (J4P) program and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) to hold a two-day workshop discussing the existing theory and evidence of the impact of women’s inclusion in land and natural resource governance in the south-west Pacific.

The workshop will help to identify an action research agenda to better understand the dynamics of natural resource governance in the region, and what can be done in terms of policy to support more gender equitable outcomes. While women’s participation is a development goal in its own right (an intrinsic good), the workshop will focus on the theories and evidence that support (or not) women’s inclusion as means of achieving broader development goals (an instrumental good). This focus is grounded in a view that it increases the chances of reaching those who have influence over land and natural resource governance and targets approaches with potentially the greatest developmental good.

A workshop program will be added to this post soon. This workshop is open to all. If you would like to attend, please contact Dr Rebecca Monson (

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