Welcome, Joe Foukona!

Joe Foukona comes to Canberra with considerable experience in his chosen field of land legislation and reform in the Pacific. With a Bachelor of Laws and a Master of Laws from University of the South Pacific (USP), and a further Master of Laws from Victoria University (Wellington), Joe is also an experienced teacher, lecturing at USP’s Emalus Campus in Port Vila since 2004. In 2008, Joe came over to Canberra on SSGM Pacific Visitor Program, and participated in the Asia-Pacific Week workshop, and this inspired him to apply for a doctoral scholarship through AusAID’s Australian Leadership Award.

Joe’s research focus matches closely his keen personal interest in finding solutions to the seemingly intractable problem of the alignment in Melanesia between customary land tenure systems on one hand and state legislation, land administration and commercial demands on the other. He has been very active as a facilitator of land awareness programs in his own home community on Malaita, Solomon Islands, and working with the Solomon Islands Law Reform Commission on low and high water mark legislation. Joe now plans to look in some detail at the history of land reform programs in three Melanesian countries: Vanuatu, Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea. Why have these programs been so unsuccessful, both in the colonial era and since independence in all three countries? Might we reach a better understanding of the terms for success by better understanding these histories of failure?

Joined recently by his wife Lucya, who has graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce degree from USP, he plans to spend the rest of this year trying to get across the vast archive of published and unpublished material on land reform in Melanesia, as well as publishing a couple of papers (on how landowners sign up to agreements, and on the future of land tenure under the conditions of global climate change).

[Joe is working with Dr Chris Ballard, Dr Daniel Fitzpatrick and Rebecca Monson.]

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