State of the Pacific 2015

State of the Pacific 2015

State of the Pacific 2015
Adaptations and Accommodations

Dates: 7-9 September 2015
Location: The Australian National University, Canberra
Registrations Now Open

State of the Pacific (SOTP2015) will take place over three days from 7-9 September 2015. The conference is hosted by the State, Society and Governance in Melanesia Program in the Australian National University’s Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs. A showcase for research on the Pacific region, it brings together academics, policy makers, business leaders, civil society representatives and the media to present and discuss current research on the Pacific and to explore the vital links between research and policy.

SOTP2015 will explore ways in which Pacific islanders are seeking to shape their own futures in response to internal and external pressures, and the ways in which Pacific societies, institutions and systems are evolving as a result.

The headline theme for the conference will be to mark the 40th anniversary of Papua New Guinea’s Independence. A range of other contemporary issues will be explored through three other themes:

Click here to view the conference program (pages 10-12).

SOTP2015 Program

Conference program click here (pages 10-12)

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Papua New Guinea at 40

The State of the State and the Constitution in PNG

Convenors: Anthony Regan and Nicole Haley
Bal Kama, PhD Scholar, College of Law, ANU
Sam Koim, Chairman, Taskforce Sweep and Principal Legal Officer, PNG Department of Justice and Attorney General
Anthony Regan, Fellow, SSGM, ANU
Ted Wolfers, School of Humanities and Social Inquiry, University of Wollongong

Hon Chief Sir Salamo Injia Kt, GCL, Chief Justice, Papua New Guinea
Hon Chief John Momis, President of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville
Nahau Rooney CBE CMS, former Member of Parliament, Papua New Guinea

That the substance of the PNG Constitution is still extant 40 years after it came into operation is one of the remarkable achievements of the first 40 years of PNG’s independence. At the same time, the fact that the 2014 constitutional amendment for the proposed Independent Commission against Corruption is Constitutional Amendment No. 40 provides an insight into the extent of pressure on the Constitution to change in response to dramatic social, economic and political change. Following presentation of keynote addresses on related themes, this session will assess the range of developments over the past 40 years. The focus will be on the origins, development and impacts of the political, economic and other forces shaping the operation and development of the Constitution and the performance of the state in this turbulent period.

40 Years of Decentralisation: Politics of Service Delivery in PNG

Convenors: Nicole Haley and Colin Wiltshire
Nicole Haley, Convenor, SSGM, ANU
Eric Kwa, Secretary, PNG Constitutional Law Reform Commission
Betty Lovai, Dean, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of PNG
Colin Wiltshire, Research Fellow, SSGM, ANU

PNG decentralised service delivery powers and responsibilities to sub-national levels of government shortly after it gained independence. The intention was to make government more responsive to the demands of communities, particularly in the delivery of better public services. However, decentralisation reforms, outlined through the establishment of organic laws in 1977 and 1995, have been poorly implemented and blamed for declines in service delivery. Politicians have sought to gain more power, resources and authority to deliver directly to their constituents. In 2015, PNG has initiated new reforms with the introduction of District Development Authorities and a proposed new organic law on decentralisation. This session will draw on past lessons to explore whether contemporary decentralisation reforms will deliver improved service delivery or further entrench the role of politicians in shaping development agendas for their respective constituencies across PNG.

Challenges of Implementing the Bougainville Peace Agreement

Convenor: Anthony Regan
Kerryn Baker, Research Fellow, SSGM, ANU
Hon Chief John Momis, President of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville
Thiago Opperman, Research Fellow, SSGM, ANU
Ted Wolfers, School of Humanities and Social Inquiry, University of Wollongong

One of the most difficult set of issues for the PNG state and society to manage in the 40 years since independence has been those related to Bougainville and its place within PNG. The most difficult issues involved the violent conflict from 1988 to 1997, resolved by the complex political settlement contained in the Bougainville Peace Agreement (BPA) of 2001, given effect to by the comprehensive amendments to the PNG Constitution in 2002. An examination of Bougainville’s place in PNG in 2015 is particularly appropriate as the autonomy arrangements under the BPA have been operating for 10 years and can therefore be evaluated. Also, a five year window within which a referendum for Bougainvilleans on the future political status of Bougainville must be held begins in mid-2015. As such, the challenges involved in a Constitution requiring a vote on independence for a part of the country can also be considered.

PNG: Fiscal and Macro Challenges

Convenor: The Development Policy Centre
Stephen Howes, Director, Development Policy Centre, ANU
Ani Rova, Economics Division, School of Business Administration, University of PNG
Win Nicholas, Economics Division, School of Business Administration, University of PNG

Professor Lekshmi N. Pillai, Executive Dean, School of Business Administration, University of PNG

The PNG Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) project came on line ahead of schedule and is operating at full capacity, but oil and therefore LNG prices have fallen. What are the fiscal and macroeconomic challenges and risks PNG is facing this year and beyond, and what policies need to be put in place to respond?

Countering Sorcery Accusation Related Violence in PNG

Convenor: Miranda Forsyth
Josephine Advent, Department of Justice and Attorney General, PNG
Philip Gibbs, Secretary, Commission for Social Concerns, Catholic Bishops’ Conference

Richard Eves, Fellow and Head of Gender, Health, Social Development and Migration Research Cluster, SSGM, ANU
Miranda Forsyth, Fellow and Head of Resources, Conflict and Justice Research Cluster, SSGM, ANU

This panel is both about responses to sorcery accusation related violence in PNG, and also processes of generating those responses. Violence against those accused of witchcraft or sorcery in PNG has been a regular news item in PNG national and international media since 2013 when the first graphic stories spilled out across the globe. There have been a variety of responses to this violence at a number of levels in PNG, including individual, community, NGO, provincial and national government. There has also been an attempt to develop a holistic and comprehensive approach to address this violence through the creation of an informal network of advocates for change who are both within and outside of the government. This network has developed a national action plan to address sorcery accusation related violence that was submitted to the National Executive Council in May 2015 and referred to the Central Agencies Coordinating Committee in June 2015. Speakers at this panel will reflect on the mechanisms that are in place to counter sorcery accusation related of violence; those that are needed, and the lessons that can be learnt about the strengths and weaknesses of an informal network approach to driving change in PNG.

Legal Innovation in Papua New Guinea

Convenor: Melissa Demian
Melissa Demian, Fellow, SSGM, ANU
Sinclair Dinnen, Fellow, SSGM, and Deputy Director (Research), Coral Bell School, ANU
Michael Goddard, Honorary Associate, Department of Anthropology, Macquarie University
Eve Houghton, PhD Scholar, University of Kent
Kritoe Keleba, Principal, Kaiya Consultancy, PNG

This panel proposes to examine contemporary expressions of what might be called a Papua New Guinean legal consciousness, to use Sally Engle Merry’s term for the way people apprehend the law not necessarily as an institution, but as a set of concepts in dialogue with other moral and institutional forms that people deploy in everyday life, such as Christianity, obligations to extended family, and agents of the state. The panel is informed by a recent project on the current state of play in PNG’s village courts system, but here we wish to open up a space to ask how ordinary Papua New Guineans, both urban and rural, attempt to use “the law” as a form of efficacious action. They may do so through formal institutions such as the village or district courts or land mediation hearings, or they may instantiate their own methods for staking claims and managing conflicts, modeled on but not necessarily part of or even visible to the bureaucratic apparatuses of the state. The panel is an experiment in asking how, under conditions of state withdrawal, people may nonetheless seek to retain those elements of activities conceived as “legal” that hold out some promise either of retaining the attention of the state, or of reproducing its institutional forms in the absence of any attention at all.

Melissa Demian
Theatre of grievance: affective performance as evidence in Suau village courts

This paper proposes to examine the ‘real’ purpose behind village court cases that do not appear to have a discernible resolution. At some hearings on the Suau Coast of Milne Bay Province, PNG, these can account for a majority of the cases heard at some court sittings. Rather than a conclusion such as a compensation order, such cases might proceed as follows: magistrates cajole an angry wife into staying with her husband; a grudging apology is extracted from an errant youth; a family quarrelling over the use of their land are made to go and consult with their lineage leader to clarify its proper boundaries and distribution. But all of these ‘resolutions’ can only occur after absolutely every party involved in the case has had their say, multiple times if necessary. In these cases, village court magistrates appear to be engaged in a project not of mediation but of exhausting their disputants. The actual outcome of the case matters less in these instances than does the airing of a grievance publicly and often far more dramatically than it would be expressed in the affective modes of everyday village life. Disputants who shout, weep, or else sit abjectly in the sand inside the ‘witness box’ that has been drawn there are in fact doing the work of the court by supplying their emotions as evidence to be assessed in a public forum. In the absence of almost any other kind of evidence used in the village court, the display of strong affect is one of the few consistent types of information that magistrates have to work with. Accordingly, they orchestrate and may even be said to encourage such displays in an effort to help disputants reach or accede to the conclusion of the case themselves.

Sinclair Dinnen and Daniel Evans
The Community Officer in Solomon Islands

While scholars of legal pluralism have an abiding interest in different conceptions and practices of legality, that interest has rarely been extended to issues of policing or security governance. This is despite the prominent role of ‘plural policing’ practices in the ordering of colonial and post-colonial societies. Although the plural character of policing provision is now widely acknowledged by policing scholars, it is rarely reflected in practical reform programs which have remained focused on state police organisations. A rare exception in the Pacific was the short-lived and modest Community Officer Pilot in Solomon Islands from 2009-2010. This unusual case occurred in a post-conflict setting with its own particular policing legacies, as well as in communities expressing a strong sense of grievance over the apparent ‘withdrawal of state’ from rural areas in recent decades. The idea of the Community Officer (CO) drew, in part, on nostalgia for the old ‘Area Constables’ and the now defunct system of local-level government with which they were associated. This presentation will use the CO experiment as a portal for reflecting on the views of rural Solomon Islanders about plural policing and dispute resolution in a rapidly changing world, with particular emphasis on views about the perceived relationship between different actors and sources of authority.

Michael Goddard
Keeping the sky up: some thoughts on Melanesian dispute management in the age of development aid and capacity building

The anthropologist Peter Lawrence once commented in reference to the legal maxim fiat justitia, ruat coelum (‘let justice be done, though the heavens fall’) that Melanesians were more concerned to keep the sky up. His comparison was framed by late colonial attempts to bridge the gap between law and ‘custom’ in Melanesia with the introduction of grassroots legal courts. It remains apt in contemporary times when development aid increases its attention to grassroots institutions, bringing globalised concepts of human rights and the rule of law to, for example, community-level ‘hybrid courts’. This paper revisits some themes in traditional Melanesian dispute management, ‘hybrid courts’ intended to incorporate ‘custom’, and the effects of development-aid interest in the latter.

Eve Houghton
Whose case is it anyway?

This paper considers the role that village courts are fulfilling for residents of Bialla, West New Britain Province, PNG. Specifically, my work asks who is making use of the village courts, and how wider social dynamics and expectations are being expressed in the village court setting. Disputes are often acknowledged to have repercussions that go beyond the individuals immediately involved, and as a result a case about assault may not actually rely on the individual who was beaten presenting their case to the court. It may instead be a parent, kinsman or spouse who most accurately embodies the negative impact of the dispute, and frames the case in order to reflect the full scope of the conflict. In Bialla there is also an increasing number of businesses and schools that must be represented in court, and in these instances individuals act as the human embodiment of much larger institutions. In every instance the village court forces disputants to make the expectations they have of one another explicit. By looking at who claims responsibility for a dispute in court it is possible to identify the relationships that are being expressed, what people are using the village courts to do, and in response to that, how village court magistrates must work to cater both to the expectations of the local community, and to stay within the remit of the law.


Gender & Health in the Pacific

Women’s Leadership and Political Participation

Convenors: Nicole Haley and Kerry Zubrinich
Speakers and discussants:
Kerryn Baker, Research Fellow, SSGM, ANU
Nicole George, Senior Lecturer, School of Political Science and International Studies, the University of Queensland
Nicole Haley, Convenor, SSGM, ANU
Kerry Zubrinich, Research Fellow, SSGM, ANU

The ways women are simultaneously integrated into the national political landscape yet excluded from the legislative processes in Melanesian societies are at the core of this panel. The panelists will discuss the implications for improving women’s leadership representation at the national level using data collected over the Domestic Observations of three national elections (2007 and 2012 PNG, 2014 Solomon Islands). Given that PNG currently has three female MPs and Solomon Islands has one, the discussion will also give accounts of the successful strategies with a view to examining how generalisable they are. Two members of SSGM recently attended the Autonomous Bogainville Government elections as part of the Improving Women’s Leadership, Political Participation and Decision Making in the Pacific project and will report on their findings at this panel.

Taking into consideration that women’s leadership and decision making in the Pacific is most visible at the local level, and it is here that leadership gains have been the greatest, panellists will also present analyses of the current situation in a number of Pacific Island Countries to assess the possible pathways to improved political representation.

Women’s Economic Empowerment

Convenors: Richard Eves and Priya Chattier
Judy Andreas, CARE PNG
Priya Chattier, Research Fellow, SSGM, ANU
Richard Eves, Fellow and Head of Gender, Health, Social Development and Migration Research Cluster, SSGM, ANU
Vijaya Nagarajan, Macquarie Law School, Macquarie University

Joanne Crawford, Senior Research and Policy Advisor, International Women's Development Agency

Despite considerable donor support in recent years, development outcomes for most women in the Pacific continue to be poor, with high levels of economic disadvantage compared with men. Women’s economic empowerment greatly improves the health, well-being and productivity not only of themselves but of their families and their entire nations which benefit even further through the more effective and sustainable development achieved. Recognising these substantial benefits, development organisations of all kinds are focussing on addressing women’s economic disadvantage. The document An Effective Aid Program for Australia currently guides delivery of Australian aid. It states a key objective to be, ‘empowering women to participate in the economy because of the critical untapped role of women in development’ (Commonwealth of Australia 2011: 30). Given the policy priority attached to sustainable economic development in the region, to understand what factors enhance women’s economic inclusion and empowerment and what factors obstruct this, is fundamental. This session will present research examining how women’s economic empowerment in the region is evolving.

Judy Andreas
Coffee Industry Support Project: Coffee and Gender in PNG

The overall goal of the CARE PNG-Coffee Industry Support Project is to improve the economic and social wellbeing of women coffee famers in the Highlands of PNG. But how can this be if the men’s awareness of the benefits of gender equality for agricultural production is never raised? Over the last two decades, less focus has been given to the agriculture sector even though it is the basis of many remote rural livelihoods and economy for 80% of PNG’s population. Coffee alone involves roughly 1/3 of the PNG population in its production, post-harvest, post-harvest, processing, and sale. A number of studies have been carried out to boost production within the coffee industry but what about the social issues surrounding it? To complementing the technical coffee aspects provided for by many stakeholders, this project is addressing the social issues - using an approach centring on the CARE’s Women’s Empowerment Framework and through Public Private Partnerships. The expected impact of this strategic partnership between CARE and key coffee industry stakeholders will be the merger of technical, economic and social aspects of coffee production into an integrated approach that supports women’s meaningful participation in PNG’s coffee industry and thereby promotes their economic and social security. This presentation seeks to provide an overall overview of the challenges and opportunities presented during the initial phase of this approach/intervention.

Priya Chattier
Taking ‘gender’ seriously in the way we measure poverty: Implications for policy and practice

The United Nations has set inequality as one of the foci of the post-2015 development agenda. If this is to be effectively addressed, it is important that gender-sensitive data reflecting the gender-based challenges and deprivations faced by individual women and men is used to design women’s empowerment programs. This paper builds on the critiques of existing poverty metrics including the World Bank’s International Poverty Line and the United Nations Development Programme’s Multidimensional Poverty Index that they are incapable of revealing gender disparity and are insensitive to deprivations in a range of important dimensions. In presenting fiji fieldwork findings from the Individual Deprivation Measure (IDM), a feminist research project (from 2010- 2013) at the Australian National University, this paper argues why IDM is useful for economic empowerment policies and how it will assist development policymakers and planners in the Pacific region. By talking “to and with people” in poor communities who experience and live with poverty, the paper explores why IDM methodology immediately departs from existing household-level measures of poverty. For the first time, academics and policy makers can actually learn from poor people how they define poverty and how they assess if someone is poor using both qualitative and quantitative assessments. The paper not only reveals what IDM has to offer in terms of individual experiences of poverty and inequality within the households but also reports on the recent fieldwork in Fiji using the IDM approach.

Richard Eves
Coffee is Men’s Business: The Challenges of Women’s Economic Empowerment among Coffee Small-Holders in the Eastern Highlands (Papua New Guinea).

Coffee is one of the most important cash crops in Papua New Guinea and is the mainstay of the local economy in several highlands provinces. Coffee has been seen as men’s business ever since its establishment in the highlands, and so empowering women economically is a significant challenge for development organisations. This paper reports on recent research in PNG’s Eastern Highlands Province, done in collaboration with the Coffee Industry Support Project (CISP) of CARE International. Taking the case of small-holder coffee farmers, the research sought to understand the nature of household relationships and the impact of gender norms on women’s economic empowerment. The results so far show some impediments to realising women’s economic empowerment, including the widespread belief that bride-price gives men the right to use violence against their wives.

Vijaya Nagarajan
Women and Business: Challenges of accessing finance in the Pacific

Lack of collateral is put forth as the main reason why women cannot engage in business in the Pacific. Relying on a regional study and other analytical work carried out by the Private Sector Development Initiative, this presentation examines the constraints faced by women in accessing finance; key initiatives which attempt to tackle this constraint, including guarantee schemes, concessional finance and supply chain financing; and the effectiveness of these initiatives in creating sustainable businesses, consistent with other public policy objectives.

HIV Across New Guinea

Convenor: Jenny Munro
Katherine Lepani, Senior Research Associate, Department of Gender, Media and Cultural Studies, ANU
Stephanie Lusby, PhD Scholar, SSGM, ANU and Program Manager - Pacific, International Women's Development Agency
Jenny Munro, Research Fellow, SSGM, ANU
Elizabeth Reid, Visiting Fellow, SSGM, ANU
Els Rieke, PhD Scholar, Department of Women's Studies, Flinders University

The session will explore current conditions and new challenges in responding to HIV on the island of New Guinea, highlighting recent research from both sides of the border to allow for comparative insights. While gains in addressing HIV prevalence have recently been reported for PNG, Tanah Papua is now reporting the highest HIV prevalence in the Asia-Pacific and is approximately 3rd in the world for new HIV infections. Showcasing the work of qualitative researchers and anthropologists, this panel explores how different actors and agencies are understanding, framing, and responding to HIV/AIDS.

Katherine Lepani
“We still don’t know what we’re dealing with”: Reflections on defining an epidemic three decades on

The broad dramaturgical arc of Papua New Guinea’s evolving response to HIV over the last three decades has been both turbulent and tenuous as the contours of the epidemic are redefined by successive mandates of global agencies and irregular inputs of funding and technical expertise. Drawing on extensive participation in HIV policy development at the national level, and ethnographic research on the dynamic intersections between culture and HIV in the Trobriand Islands, I reflect on the various concepts and models that have been used to generate standardised evidence of the presence of HIV in individual bodies and so-called ‘most at risk populations,’ which tend to give authority to quantitative measurements over the complexities of social context. I reflect on the trends in programmatic priorities which have increasingly shifted away from community-based prevention strategies to the biomedical domain of surveillance and targeted interventions. I consider how the narrative arc represents a reversion that betrays the history of the response as an inclusive social concern, attuned to local knowledge and the fostering of activism, even as it promises greater access to vital medical services.

Stephanie Lusby
“The mistakes I made” Mapping innocence and guilt onto HIV testimonies in East New Britain

This paper explores how people living with HIV and AIDS negotiate AIDS-related stigma in a low-prevalence area of Papua New Guinea. Interventions focused on reducing stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV and AIDS commonly focus on challenging ‘negative attitudes’ in communities. This behaviour change paradigm endeavours to show that people who are HIV positive are deserving of empathy and equal rights to dignity and safety, and moreover, are non-threatening. This last point can come into conflict with the pervasive use of fear and risk-oriented language used more broadly in HIV prevention in PNG—a tactic thought to encourage deterrence from sexual and social behaviours that can increase the chances of contracting or transmitting the virus.

Within this context, there is an implied responsibility for those living openly with HIV to prove their moral worth, at the same time as they contend with conscious and unconscious acts of discrimination in everyday life. Here, I focus upon people with HIV who participated in the East New Britain (ENB) provincial HIV response as advocates with the ENB Friends Association. The Friends often spoke at public events, telling their stories and advocating for prevention and rights to testing, treatment and non-discrimination. I look at the ways that they presented their personal ‘testimonies,’ and how audiences responded to them. I argue that the moralizing tone inherent in global HIV discourse, and local moral environments combined to create categories of acceptable and unacceptable testimony. Further, that these categories are deeply gendered. For the former, rather than destabilizing stigma, this creates new articulations of discrimination where pity and subjectification stand in place of, and alongside, fear. At the same time, the silences enforced by stigma on those deemed ‘unacceptable’ remain entrenched.

I consider how HIV-positive advocates, and those who keep their status secret, contend with, resist and extract benefits from these contemporary subjectivities.

Jenny Munro
(Not) getting political: Indigenous women and preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV in Manokwari, West Papua

This paper builds on critiques that call for a more nuanced and contextualised understanding of conditions that affect HIV prevention by looking at Papuan women’s experiences of prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) services. Drawing on qualitative, ethnographic research with indigenous women and health workers, this paper demonstrates that women experience poor-quality HIV education and counselling, and that indigenous practices and concerns are largely not addressed by HIV services. Services are needed that enhance cooperation and shared commitment, and acknowledge and work to overcome existing inequalities, ethnic tensions, and discrimination in the health system. Beyond Indonesia, donor-led HIV programmes and interventions need to balance the desire to avoid politically sensitive issues with becoming complicit in perpetuating health inequalities. I suggest that translating global health interventions and aid agency priorities into locally compelling HIV prevention activities involves more than navigating local cultural and religious beliefs. Programme development and implementation strategies that entail confronting structural questions as well as social hierarchies, cleavages, and silences are needed to render more effective services; strategies that are inherently political.

Els Rieke
HIV, sexuality and gender among married Mimika women of West Papua

West Papua is facing an HIV/AIDS pandemic which is mostly transmitted through heterosexual relationships. It occurs mostly among indigenous people and women, especially ‘housewives’. This paper will present some impressions from recent fieldwork in the Timika area of Papua, home to Mimika peoples, on HIV, sexuality, and gender among married indigenous women. Instead of in-depth examination of the sexual cultures of Papuans, racist discourses of cultural sexual practices as deviant behaviour of some tribes in Papua have been accused of triggering the spread of HIV. Civilization as a project of colonization and modernity, by regulating sexuality and injecting heteronormativity, have shaped indigenous gender values and attempted to reform Mimika femininity and masculinity to produce modern citizens. As a result it reduces women’s authority over their sexuality and contributes to a lack control in negotiating sexual relations.

Ending Violence Against Women

Convenor: Richard Eves
Speakers and discussants:
Shamima Ali, Coordinator, Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre
Stephanie Lusby, PhD Scholar, SSGM, ANU and Program Manager - Pacific, International Women's Development Agency

Violence against women is widespread and highly prevalent in the Pacific. Women suffer considerable pressure to conform to culturally defined norms and roles and those who step outside of these roles or breach these norms are subject to sanctions and sometimes violence. The expectation that women should obey their husbands is widespread and violence is often considered entirely appropriate for even the most minor failure of wives to fulfil their perceived marital duties and proprieties. Scholars generally situate violence against women in the context of the unequal relations of power that exist between men and women and explain such violence as an effort to maintain control over women. Some commentators have suggested that male angst and confusion in the face of rapid change have led to violence against women. Changes, such as the constitutional recognition of rights of equality, the availability of education and new career opportunities, have brought a new independence to women that disturbs the traditional gender roles. A profoundly important issue for the Pacific is how to end the extremely high levels of violence against women and this session examines some of the challenges to be faced.

Shamima Ali
Beneath Paradise: An Overview of Challenges and Milestones to Eliminating Violence Against Women and Girls in the Pacific

Violence against women and girls is prevalent throughout the Pacific region across all ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. It is caused by inequality between women and men, specifically, unequal power relations. In Pacific Island cultures, there is a major imbalance in gender power relations that is historical and gravely entrenched in patriarchy; social institutions such as families, the Church, traditions and customs, the economy, the law, political and governance structures, the education system, and the media. In the Pacific region, political instability and the militarisation of certain states have also had an adverse impact on the progress that feminist organisations have made over the years to achieve equality for women and girls in the work of eliminating violence against women and girls. However, gender equality and the full realization of the human rights of women and girls, including the high prevalence of violence against women, is yet to be seen as a cross-cutting priority that intersects all sectors of society, which, among other areas, impacts on women’s health, education, employment, housing, environment, poverty, political participation and access to justice. The Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre was set up 31 years ago to address violence against women in the Pacific. There has been some success and many challenges, which will be discussed in the presentation.

Stephanie Lusby
(Police) Women’s Business: A Profile of Family and Sexual Violence Unit Officers in Papua New Guinea

In this paper, I present an account of the first year of operations at the FSVU (Family and Sexual Violence Unit) at Kokopo Police Station. Stories of poor police responses to family and sexual violence offences in Papua New Guinea are plentiful. Issues are blamed on many factors: cultures of violence and machismo within the RPNGC (Royal Papua New Guinean Constabulary); the lack of interest in responding to what continue to be framed as ‘private matters;’ pervasive claims about victims provoking attacks; claims of insufficient resources to respond to complaints; and poor training of officers in how to respond effectively.

Here, I seek to provide a counter-narrative, focusing on a woman-led police unit providing vital services to survivors of family violence in East New Britain. Between March 2012 and April 2013, I spent a considerable amount of time with the FSVU officers during the Unit’s first year of operations. During this period the predominately female FSVU officers worked to find a place within the challenging dynamics described above, while responding to the needs of clients from across the Province.

Despite being championed by the Provincial Police Commander and other senior officials, the FSVU faced engrained discriminatory attitudes from some district magistrates and officers at other stations. For some officers at rural stations for example, being able to refer battered women to “those ladies at FSVU” meant that they did not have to engage with cases themselves. Such approaches indicated that, rather than a cultural shift in ways of thinking about family and sexual violence, for some, the FSVU represented a legitimised way of conceptualising offences as ‘women’s business.’

Drawing upon observations, interviews and reflective conversations with key officers working within the unit, I highlight the creativity and the many achievements of the FSVU in their first year. I consider what lessons these and the challenges faced by the unit reveal about innovative approaches to family violence, and where future support might be targeted.

Non-Communicable Diseases in the Pacific

Convenor: The Development Policy Centre
Ian Anderson, Director, Ian Anderson Economics Pty Ltd.
Shyama Janaka Mahakalanda, Centre for Health Information, Policy and Systems Research, Fiji National University

Beth Slatyer is an Honorary Fellow at the Nossal Institute for Global Health

The Pacific Islands region faces serious health challenges from non-communicable diseases. On a per capita basis, the Pacific has the highest incidence of non-communicable diseases in the world, due to lifestyle factors such as poor diet and high rates of smoking. Treatment of these diseases is leading to rapid increases in government expenditure on healthcare, including in the area of medical evacuations. This panel will explore these health challenges and the approaches used to address them.


People & the Environment

El Niño induced threats to food security in PNG

Convenor: Bryant Allen
Bryant Allen, Visiting Fellow, SSGM, ANU
Mike Bourke, Visiting Fellow, CHL, ANU
Peter Horne, General Manager, Country Programs, Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research, Australia
Tim Sharp, Research Fellow, SSGM, ANU

An El Nino induced drought and frost event is now having a severe impact on much of PNG, as well as parts of Papua/West Papua, Solomon Islands and Fiji. All indications are that the impacts in PNG are likely to be as great as they were in 1997, and possibly more severe. Severe and repeated frosts have impacted food production at high altitude locations in four highland provinces; food is starting to become scare in many highland locations, with price increases in fresh food markets; drinking water is becoming scare in some locations; many schools are closed; and there are reports of increased health impacts in some locations. If the drought continues, it is likely to have a severe impact on the lives of over 2 million rural villagers in many parts of PNG.

The frosts and drought in PNG will be the focus of a session of next week’s State of the Pacific conference. The session will focus on the short-term El Niño induced threats to food security in PNG. Bryant Allen will provide background to the present situation, Mike Bourke, who has recently returned from PNG, will describe the existing situation, Tim Sharp will discuss the importance of the situation to villagers whose food supply has been disrupted, of access to markets and the ability to earn cash, and Peter Horne (ACIAR) will discuss the agronomic research that is underway in PNG in relation to the present situation. There will plenty of time for questions and discussion following the presentations.

The following three recently published articles give an overview of the present situation in PNG:

The worst frost and drought in Papua New Guinea since 1997: What happens next?, (Mike Bourke: The Lowy Institute)

Will a Major El Niño Event Disrupt Village Food Production in Papua New Guinea in 2015? (Bryant Allen – SSGM In Brief)

As Papua New Guinea faces worsening drought, a past disaster could save lives (Mike Bourke – The Conversation)

Pacific-Centred Responses to Climate Change

Convenor: Roannie Ng Shiu
Paul D'Arcy, Fellow, SSGM, ANU
Avnita Goundar , Sustainable Sea Transport Research Programme, Pacific Centre for Environment and Sustainable Development, USP
Siosina Lui, Senior Chief Science Officer, Meteorology Office, MNR&E, Government of Samoa
Hon Matt Thistlethwaite MP, Member for Kingsford Smith, Parliament of Australia

Climate change is an intensely debated international issue and presents a moral challenge to humanity. For many Pacific nations the time for debate is over as the need for action in response to climate change is urgent. The effects of climate change, and most notably the frequent reoccurrence of natural disasters including cyclones, presents significant risks for human security in the Pacific. Climate change impedes economic and human development, and contributes to the vulnerability communities in many Pacific nations. In response to the effects of climate change there have been a number of national and regional adaptation projects in the Pacific. This panel highlights some climate change adaptation projects and policies centred on, and developed by, local communities in Fiji, Vanuatu, Tuvalu and Samoa.

Paul D’Arcy
“The New Normal”? Pacific Islander responses to climatic change - past, present and future

A soon to be released UNESCO report on Pacific Islanders’ knowledge of, and responses to, climatic perturbations reveals widespread and detailed knowledge of environmental variation within broad seasonal cycles. A host of strategies were developed over millennia to mitigate and ameliorate the impact of these variations on food security and community health and safety. Against this background of planning for variation within seasonal cycles, this paper explores whether the recent environmental consequences of global warming can be characterised as an intensified period of a long heritage of environmental variation as normality in the Pacific Islands. If not, are current climatic conditions in the Pacific Islands a decisive break with the past environmental history of Pacific Islanders? The key to this question lies in the extent of sea level rise the current climatic circumstances will produce over the next few generations in combination with international legal and financial restrictions on Pacific Island nations’ ability to respond as they desire. The paper examines of the consequences of the current period of global warming for oceanic ecosystems that form the basis of many Pacific economies, before ending by contrasting Pacific Islanders’ preferred responses to climate change with the recommendations of international bodies dedicated to responding to the consequences of climate change.

Avnita K. Goundar
Sustainable sea transport: the missing link in climate change efforts for our ocean communities

There has been a long history of the Pacific Islands region struggling to find long-term sustainable solutions for sea transport, particularly for domestic shipping. The issue is further compounded by the region’s extreme dependence on imported fossil fuel, which represents a major drain on Pacific Island economies. The transport sector (land, air and marine) is the largest user of fossil fuels, accounting for at least 70% of all Pacific Island countries’ fuel use. Sustainable sea transport projects undertaken in the mid-1980s in the region – mainly driven by high oil prices – showed strong potential, were achievable with relatively minimal financial investment, and were only curtailed because of the global fall in oil prices. However, the key impetus that’s currently driving the sustainable sea transport agenda is not oil prices but climate change and the concerted efforts to reduce shipping emissions. The International Maritime Organization’s 2014 Greenhouse Gas Study forecasts shipping carbondioxide emissions to increase by 50% to 250% by 2050 (representing between 6% to 14% of total global emissions), under ‘business as usual’ conditions. This paper examines sustainable sea transport issues in the Pacific region, both at national and regional levels, and highlights the global case for low carbon shipping. While sharing lessons learnt from past projects, the paper attempts to identify the current barriers to practical implementation of sustainable sea transport projects in the Pacific region and further demonstrates why revitalising pride in the Pacific’s seafaring heritage is a key factor for encouraging uptake of such projects by local communities.

Siosina Lui
An integrated approach to implementing climate change adaptation projects: The case of Samoa

Climate policies, effects of climate change, extreme weather events, natural disasters, and mitigation and adaptation programs in the Pacific are often discussed in detail and are supported by scientific evidence and research. However, in comparison very little is known about the implementation process of such projects and policies and the subsequent effectiveness for local communities. This paper will discuss the integrated approach that Samoa adopts in implementing climate adaptation projects. Rather than relying on one organisation to implement climate adaptation projects, a combination of officers from government, the private sector and civil societies form the climate adaptation implementation group. This approach is designed to better facilitate resource allocation particularly for effected local communities. Samoa’s climate adaptation programs and operations are heavily dependent on AID, and currently receive funding from multiple donors that is consolidated to improve and facilitate sustainable climate adaptation and mitigation in Samoa. Therefore, Samoa provides an example of bridging the humanitarian-development divide by using an integrated approach in implementing climate change response and adaptation.

Recovery from Natural Disaster: Cyclone Pam

Convenors: Miranda Forsyth and Benedicta Rousseau
Rochelle Bailey, Research Fellow, SSGM, ANU
Siobhan McDonnell, PhD Scholar, CHL, ANU
Viviane Obed, CARE International, Port Vila
Benedicta Rousseau, Lecturer, Lecturer, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University of Waikato
John Taylor, Senior Lecturer, Department of Social Enquiry, La Trobe University
Adam Trau, Research Associate, School of Culture, History and Language, ANU

Chris Ballard, Senior Fellow, School of Culture, History & Language, ANU
Ralph Regenvanu MP, Member for Port Vila, Parliament of Vanuatu

This panel focusses on pathways to recovery for Vanuatu following the devastation wrought by Tropical Cyclone Pam earlier this year. Leading off from debates that took place in social media forums in particular, it combines contributions from social sciences researchers with the perspective of ni-Vanuatu and expatriates embedded in the recovery process. Issues to be addressed include:

  • responsibilities and capabilities of the state in responding to disaster;
  • the concept of resilience in disaster response and management;
  • capacity of politicians, NGOs and/or local communities to manage relief and recovery;
  • “best practice” for providing assistance to developing countries on the part of both professionals and “amateurs”; and
  • what recovery could/should look like.

The panel will also reflect on lessons that Vanuatu’s experience may have for the broader region, and also discuss the value that ethnographically-based analysis and longitudinal engagement can bring to such analysis.

Rochelle Bailey
New responses to natural disasters through Seasonal Labour programs

A recent contributor to natural disaster responses in the Pacific is incomes and support from participants involved in Australia’s Seasonal Worker Program (SWP) and New Zealand’s Recognised Seasonal Employer Scheme (RSE). This paper assesses the role of these programs in the context of Cyclone Pam, focusing on issues around remittances, social relationships and government responses.

While international evidence shows that remittances are an important resource during times of natural disasters, it can be difficult to remit money immediately after a disaster. The ability of remittances to contribute to short, mid and long term rebuilding and development capabilities present both opportunities and potential stressors to workers: they may be important in helping workers feel connected to home and “useful”, but may also become a relied-on expectation.

Newly established relationships between seasonal employers and host communities represent a further area of assistance to natural disaster recovery. Now, many Australian and New Zealand growers and communities have economic and social investments with workers and their Pacific communities and are contributing enormously to relief efforts.

Demands for seasonal positions increased after Cyclone Pam and the New Zealand government made concessions with visas for those in affected areas. If labour mobility is to continue in the region, discussions are necessary to understand methods to support workers, their families and employers and to frame policy in response to natural disasters.

Siobhan McDonnell
Beyond the rhetoric of resilience: The precarity of urban populations in times of natural disaster

Resilience has become the catch cry of both government and humanitarian organisations in the aftermath of Tropical Cyclone Pam. While the huge local efforts to rebuild must be celebrated, the rhetoric of resilience masks aspects of acute vulnerability amongst urban populations. This paper will offer some preliminary thoughts on the Vanuatu government’s initial failure to respond to urban populations, particularly those located on informal tenure ‘squatter’ settlements who are acutely vulnerable in times of natural disaster.

Access to land and kinship structures provide a social safety net for people in times of natural disaster, and form the basis of what is described in Vanuatu as the ‘kastom ekonomi’. These two central elements are informed by a vision of a ‘real Pacific’ life largely based on a rural subsistence existence (Connell 2011: 121). This vision largely ignores the rapid urbanisation that has occurred in Vanuatu. People in urban locales have the least access to land and may have less support from extended family networks.

Informed by the vision of the ‘real Pacific’ policy makers often resort to romanticised tropes assuming urban populations have land to go ‘back to’ and that they should return to their ‘home island’ (Connell and Mecartney 2015: 2). These tropes continue to inform the responses of governments in times of natural disaster. Just two weeks after the cyclone hit, the Vanuatu government evicted thousands of people remaining in the evacuation centres located in urban areas of Port Vila on the basis that ‘aid and shelter was better distributed to communities of origin’. However, many urban households are not able, nor do they wish to return to their ‘communities of origin’. The closure of urban evacuation centres also ignored the precarity of people’s lives in urban ‘squatter’ populations. Across the Pacific informal ‘squatter’ settlements are often located in disaster-prone areas, on the edge of rivers which flood and Vanuatu was no exception.

Recently the Vanuatu government has revised its approach to urban populations offering food security projects in urban areas, and access to government held state land in Port Vila as gardening land for urban communities. While these projects are a useful first step, policy makers must develop a vision of a ‘real urban Pacific’ so as to respond adequately to the needs of vulnerable urban populations during natural disaster.

Benedicta Rousseau
Resilient nation

On Friday 13th March, Tropical Cyclone Pam moved across the north-eastern, central and southern islands of Vanuatu at Category 5 strength. Along with thousands of other overseas “allies”, I took to social media during and in the aftermath of the cyclone, following Facebook pages such as Humans of Vanuatu and joining the newly-formed FB group, Vanuatu Cyclone Pam 2015. By the end of 14th of March the contours of debates that would run – often at high levels of emotion – over the next few weeks were taking shape. These centred on who was best suited to carry out relief operations; whether the government was or should take a lead role in these; and who and where was being ignored in the distribution of aid. As criticisms of the government and relief efforts increased, a counter-discourse arose, tying together ideas about indigenous preparedness, traditional knowledge, and the frequently asserted concept of “resilience”.

While resilience was initially used to encapsulate the specifics of indigenous preparations and responses to the cyclone, it was increasingly deployed as an ideal that united the nation and precluded criticism of the government approach to relief. Following Anderson’s (2015) encouragement to “think again about how resilience enacts, reflects and reproduces other ways of governing and organising life”, I link the logic of resilience in this setting to other terms of relevance in the ethnography of Vanuatu (e.g.: kastom, independence, self-reliance), noting similarities in the scalar properties of these terms.

Viviane Obed
“Build Back Safer”: post-Pam housing recovery on Tanna

At the Shelter Cluster meeting at 4pm on Saturday 21/3/15 the idea of establishing rebuilding teams to assist locals with rebuilding their houses was raised. The reasoning behind this suggestion was to take the opportunity offered by TC Pam to impart new building skills to Ni-Vanuatu so that their houses will be better prepared for whenever another disaster may occur.

Current estimates suggest TC Pam has damaged or destroyed approximately 14000 homes, leaving approximately 70,000 people in need of emergency shelter.

It is clear that people are resilient and have commenced the reconstruction of their homes. While traditional construction practices have previously been able to mitigate the effect of cyclones, it is clear that they are not sufficient to withstand increasing intensities of weather events. In addition, increasing rural / urban migration has resulted in a number of informal settlements in Port Vila with generally substandard housing construction. This has resulted in increased vulnerability.

Build Back Safer workshops, held separately for women and men, held in chosen communities. The workshops were coordinated by tutors and students from the local Rural Training Centre (RTC) and a 3-person team of technical experts. The workshops encouraged participation in simple Build Back Safer techniques, and introduced “low cost / low tech” techniques such as the more widespread use of galvanised wire or straps for tying down roofs and lashing poles, the provision of cross bracing, and stronger foundations. Female groups and female-headed households in particular was be targeted under the project.

This paper outlines the pilot project as it has been carried out up to this point on Tanna, and describes how CARE’s pre-existing networks on Tanna have been utilised in the process of post-cylcone recovery operations.

(This presentation will be accompanied by a ten minute documentary film made by Viviane in association with Further Arts)

Adam Trau
Post-disaster tourism in Vanuatu: how much does tourism actually support the recovery?

Soon after the devastating Cyclone Pam struck Vanuatu on 11-12 March, the popular discourse (media, commentators, social media campaigns) advocated the positive impacts of tourism in terms of the post-disaster recovery effort. Indeed, taking a holiday to Vanuatu was - and still is - commonly espoused as the best way to assist post-disaster recovery effort. The industry in Vanuatu is however, notoriously inequitable. Foreign investors or expatriates continue to be the primary recipients of tourism profits in Vanuatu, with ni-Vanuatu largely restricted to relatively low earning occupations and low turnover investments. This presentation seeks to address two fundamental (and currently, overlooked) questions: How much does tourism actually support the post-disaster recovery? How can this support be increased for ni-Vanuatu? Ensuring that ni-Vanuatu entrepreneurs and communities engaged in tourism are better supported, and can forge more equitable (and advantageous) relationships with foreign owned or managed tourism companies than in the past, has never been more important.

John Taylor
Winds of My Fury: Entangled Aetiologies of Disaster and Morality

On March 13, 2015, after making first landfall and wrecking catastrophic damage on its capital and seat of government, Port Vila, category 5 Tropical Cyclone Pam tore through Vanuatu’s central and southern islands. As people tried to make sense of the disaster in the months that followed, including what was widely interpreted as an apparently low number of fatalities relative to storm severity and infrastructural damage, two very different narrative interpretations of moral agency emerged: First, an internationally ‘loud’ narrative generated largely by foreign aid and development commentators and communicated via the international press and social media focusing around climate change and essentialised perceptions of indigenous ‘resilience’ based on ‘centuries old’ traditional knowledge and technologies. As one development commentator put it, “Simply put, Vanuatu is paying the penalty for the sins of the developed world” ( Even so, as the same source argued in a previous article, “the Ni Vanuatu people have had 3000 years to prepare”, and so “traditional knowledge and experience joined with information technology in saving lives.” Second, and by contrast going unreported in print or digital media, for many ni-Vanuatu the cyclone and low death toll was interpreted as an expression of God’s will, one that spared human life even as it wrecked devastation on a nation and government increasingly marred by sin and corruption.

Simultaneously converging and diverging in teleological and moral orientation, this example demonstrates the ambivalent entanglement of indigenous and exogenous interpretations, orientations and strategies around ‘development’ , as well as of the complex relations of power that entwine them, that may be generated in the context of catastrophic events such as natural disasters. This paper explores these entanglements for what they say about notions of agency, faith and development in Vanuatu.


Transitions and Trends across the Pacific Region

Acknowledging the Realities of an Urban Pacific

Convenor: Julien Barbara
John Connell, School of Geosciences, Faculty of Science, the University of Sydney

Dan Evans, PhD Scholar, SSGM, ANU
Sarah Mecartney, former Programme Manager, United Nations Human Settlements Programme, UN-Habitat
Hon Ralph Regenvanu MP, Member for Port Vila, Parliament of Vanuatu

Pacific Islands cities have experienced rapid urbanisation for decades, attracting migrants in search of a better life. Within these cities significant political and social transformations are occurring. How well these transformational processes are handled will determine whether these urban centres become drivers of economic growth and development, or sources of social unrest. Many attempts to put urbanisation on the South Pacific development agenda have failed to get traction. This reflects sensitivities about urban land settlement and development, rural-urban migration, foreign workers, service shortfalls and cultural change. But urbanisation will continue to accelerate; it’s a permanent regional dynamic. Making urbanisation work, managing the risks of disorderly urban development and capitalising on the opportunities are regional imperatives that require governments, communities, donors and researchers to put it squarely on the agenda. This session will revisit urbanisation in the Pacific, with a particular focus on the following questions:

  • What are some of the challenges and difficulties for Pacific governments and donors in terms of engaging with urbanisation issues?
  • What are the drivers of urbanisation and what are the implications for policy-makers?
  • Are there valuable lessons from other countries facing similar pressures and how can regional governments and donors apply them?

Pacific Labour Mobility to Australia: Future Potential and Challenges

Convenors: Rochelle Bailey and Rochelle Ball
Peter Angel, State Manager, MADEC
Rochelle Bailey, Research Fellow, SSGM
Rochelle Ball, Fellow, SSGM
Sharon Wells, Melanesian Seasonal Employers, Vanuatu

On 18 June 2015, the Australian Government announced an expansion of the Seasonal Worker Program (SWP), including removing the annual limit on the number of seasonal workers who can participate in the program, and expanding the program in the agriculture industry and the accommodation industry in selected locations.

This panel discusses the ‘elusive triple win’ associated with labour mobility. Circular labour mobility programs are often promoted as benefiting governments, employers and workers. This session will examine potential development outcomes and key aspects of demand and supply relationships between key participating Pacific nations in Australia’s SWP. Some of the major themes that will be highlighted are: recruitment capacity and practices; pastoral care and needs of Pacific workers; impacts of labour mobility on local development; future demand for labour mobility in Australia; and potential contributions SWP can make to industry productivity.

Rochelle Bailey
Fostering development through labour mobility

Based on evidence from seasonal worker programs in Australia and New Zealand this paper discusses how various remittances and relationships gained from labour mobility schemes contribute to local contexts of development. With a lack of formal sector employment opportunities at home, many in the Pacific perceive Australia’s Seasonal Worker Program (SWP) and New Zealand’s Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme as an additional source of income to meet individual and community needs. However, not only do Pacific seasonal workers provide a reliable labour supply to industries, evidence from Canada and New Zealand have shown increased economic development for host communities.

Following conversations with a diverse range of stakeholders; government, recruiters, employers, seasonal workers, families, community groups and leaders I will highlight some of the complexities of these relationships and how they can encourage and hinder development outcomes from labour mobility.

Rochelle Ball
Pacific Labour Mobility to Australia: Future Potential and Challenges

In June 2015, the Australian Government announced an expansion of the Seasonal Worker Programme, including removing the annual limit on the number of seasonal workers who can participate in the programme, and expanding the programme to the agriculture industry and the accommodation industry in selected locations. This announcement signals major shifts in Australia’s migration, labour market policy and engagement with the Pacific. The decision to pilot a low skilled Pacific migration program is a further continuation of this trend to gradually provide access of low and unskilled workers from the Pacific to Australia’s labour market. This paper outlines gaps in the Australian labour market that could provide future significant employment opportunities for Pacific Island states. It highlights some key challenges and potential facilitators for the Pacific to take advantage of these opportunities.

Sharon Wells
Challenges & opportunities of being a recruiter in Vanuatu

This paper highlights structural challenges of operating as a private employment agent where the public sector is regulator as well as a direct competitor. Vanuatu national legislation actively prohibits charging of seasonal workers who are the primary beneficiaries of the Pacific Seasonal Workers Program and so employment agents have to struggle without funding. While registered licensees are regulated, there is no capacity to prosecute scammers who collect monies on the promise that workers will be sent to Australia under the Pacific Seasonal Workers Program. Australian growers can influence those who are recruited by the ni-Vanuatu employment agent but should be aware of the risk of becoming a direct recruiter. Despite the challenges the vision is clear that the Pacific Seasonal Workers program will become the flagship of the relationship between Australia and Vanuatu in the future.

Pacific Regionalism: Stresses and Strains

Convenor: James Batley
Speakers and discussants:
Stewart Firth, Fellow, SSGM, ANU
Fulori Manoa, School of Government, Development and International Affairs, USP
Jope Tarai, School of Government, Development and International Affairs, USP

Judith Robinson, Private Consultant

Pacific regional arrangements remain a contested space, with Fiji’s Prime Minister Bainimarama declining to resume full participation in the Pacific Islands Forum without permanently altering the nature of Australia and New Zealand’s roles in the grouping. Meanwhile, the future of the Fiji-sponsored Pacific Islands Development Forum is up in the air. Within the Pacific Islands Forum, a new Secretary General, Papua New Guinean Dame Meg Taylor, has been appointed, tasked with implementing the new Framework for Pacific Regionalism, designed to declutter the Leaders’ agenda and to give better voice to Pacific island interests and priorities within the Forum. With Taylor in place as Secretary General and PNG taking over as Pacific Islands Forum Chair for 2015-16, how much of a personal stamp will Prime Minister Peter O’Neill make on the regional agenda? Moreover, within the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG), the West Papua issue has loomed large during the year. Indonesia seems to have successfully headed off a play by West Papuan separatists for membership of the MSG: but what does this mean for the future of the MSG?

Stewart Firth

Pacific regionalism is at a point of potential transformation, mainly because Pacific Island countries are acting with new confidence and independence in foreign and regional affairs. Among the reasons for this are the rise of China; the growing engagement of Indonesia and the engagement of new external players; PNG’s ambitions to be a regional leader; Fiji’s foreign policy under Bainimarama; dissatisfaction with the period of the Pacific Plan; poor progress in negotiating PACER Plus; and an increasing divergence of real interests between Island states and Australia & New Zealand, especially on climate change. Fiji is pushing its own Pacific Islands Development Forum and is declining prime ministerial engagement with the Pacific Islands Forum; the Melanesian Spearhead Group now includes Indonesia as an associate member, with uncertain consequences; and there are efforts to remake regionalism through the Framework for Pacific Regionalism.

This presentation will make three key points: 1. Pacific governments and their peoples appreciate the web of regional institutions and regional cooperation and they remain vital to the region’s development 2. Australia & New Zealand will continue to be central to the political economy of Pacific regionalism 3. A new balance in the implementation of Pacific regionalism needs to be struck between the Forum Island countries and Australia & New Zealand, and a good start has been made with Australia’s new openness to Pacific labour migration.

Fulori Manoa
The Pacific Small Island Developing States (PSIDS) at the United Nations

There has been very little written about the engagement of the Pacific Island Countries at the United Nations and the material, that does exist, is dated, in the context of the 'New Diplomacy' that is defining the way that Pacific Island Countries carry out their foreign policies. This presentation addresses this by delving briefly into the collective diplomacy of the Pacific Island Countries (PICs), namely the Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu, at the United Nations (which for the purposes of this paper will be taken to indicate special summits and processes, UNGA and Committee work). It will cover the move by Pacific Island Countries to organise more actively as Pacific Small Island Developing States (PSIDS) as opposed to Pacific Island Forum States. Relying on interviews with Ambassadors, Diplomats and Advisers as well as available statements, statistics and existing literature, this presentation aims to deliver a concise background on the PSIDS. It will then briefly touch on some of the successes of the PSIDS grouping as well as its relations with the region and regional developments.

ICT in Politics and Development

Convenor: Graeme Smith
Glen Finau, School of Government, Development and International Affairs, USP
Romitesh Kant, School of Government, Development and International Affairs, USP
Jope Tarai, School of Government, Development and International Affairs, USP

Graeme Smith, Fellow, SSGM, ANU

The Pacific region was relatively slow in embracing the global ICT revolution. Constrained by its geography, remoteness and lack of ICT infrastructure, the Pacific was one of the last regions to experience internet and mobile phone access and uptake. However, recent ICT developments are spurring rapid ICT growth in the region and this could have farreaching implications. These ICT developments have the potential to bring about profound change in the Pacific and even assist Pacific Island Countries achieve development objectives (Logan, 2012). One such objective is facilitating the democratic process through the utilisation of ICT to promote and encourage democracy. ICT provides new ways for governments to engage with citizens. Examples of this include the growth of social media pages with the objective of empowering citizens by providing an alternative platform for expression and group mobilization. These pages, which include Sharp Talk in PNG, Yumi TokTok Stret in Vanuatu, Forum Solomon Islands International in Solomon Islands and Letters to the Editor Uncensored in Fiji, have also given greater voice to marginalized groups and some are even holding governments to account. Social media has also been used to highlight the human rights atrocities in West Papua. A new and emerging phenomenon, ICT’s role in Pacific politics is an exciting but relatively unknown field. The papers in this panel will explore the extent to which ICT is changing the way Pacific Island democracies function and how ICT can support political institutions.

Glen Finau
Social Media and The Free West Papua Campaign

Social Media in politics is now being utilized in a multifaceted manner for political campaigning, as a means for citizens to voice their political opinions and as a medium of activism. In a country with a highly censored traditional media, social media has become a powerful tool in West Papua’s fight for sovereignty. Free West Papauan Facebook pages, Twitter accounts and Youtube Channels have sprung up broadcasting the atrocities and human rights violations being committed in West Papua. Recently, Peter O’Neil, became the first PNG Prime Minister to acknowledge the oppression of the West Papuan people, and indicated concern regarding graphic pictures released on social media. Social media has also become a platform by which regional campaigns such as #FreeWestPapua and “#WeBleedBlackandRed” has been organised in countries such as Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Solomon Islands and Hawaii. This paper explores the role of social media is playing and continues to play in West Papua’s continued struggle for independence from Indonesia.

Romitesh Kant
Transforming Politics? Exploring the Role of Social Media in Expanding Youth Political Participation In Fiji

Fiji’s youth population (18-35 years) is around 37%. Since the Fiji military coup in 2006, the media has been working within stringent and at times impossible conditions. In essence, factors such as the Media Industry Decree hindered media attempts to holistically report political events. As such, the youth have been exposed to only one dominant set of interests the 2006 coup. However, despite this limitation, in amongst others, there have been spaces for which opposing and critical information has been made publicly accessible. In the early days of the coup it was through blogs (Walsh, 2010; Foster, 2007). As Fiji’s transition to democracy materialized in 2012, social media has evolved as the ‘new and safe’ space and public sphere for political discourse. It has been noted that citizens can actively engage information which may be restricted in traditional media, due to the constraining political and media conditions. The claims that young people are politically apathetic and are neglecting their duty to participate in many democratic societies worldwide have been rebutted by a growing number of academics over the recent years (Loader, 2007; Marsh, O’Toole, & Jones, 2007). Without doubt many youth have indeed become disillusioned with traditional, mainstream political parties and with those who claim to speak on their behalf. But this should not be misconstrued as a lack of interest on the part of youth with the political issues that influence their everyday lived experience.

Jope Tarai
Social Media and Social Accountability: A comparative between Fiji and Solomon Islands

The expansion of Information Communication and Technologies (ICT), in the Pacific has been speculated to provide implications on development and governance. While some implications have seen challenges of the so called ‘Digital Divide’ persist, relative to access and engagement, the Pacific has exhibited strong cases for social accountability through social media. Complementing the set institutional mechanisms for transparency and accountability, social accountability is instigating a new wave of civic engagement and participation. Specific incidents witnessed in Solomon Islands and Fiji, attest to the increasing involvement of the public, through social media, in directly demanding transparency and accountability from those in power. Through the critical exploration of these incidents, the paper seeks to highlight the role of social media in the expansion of ICT across the region, towards social accountability.

Constituency Development Funds – Comparative Analysis

Convenor: James Batley
Tony Hirisia, School of Government, Development and International Affairs, University of the South Pacific
Gordon Nanau, Senior Lecturer, Politics and International Affairs Program, School of Government, Development and International Affairs, University of the South Pacific
Colin Wiltshire, Research Fellow, SSGM, ANU

Ralph Regenvanu MP, Member for Port Vila, Parliament of Vanuatu

The latest budgets in both PNG and Solomon Islands have seen constituency development funds (CDFs) rise to historically new levels. In Solomon Islands, for instance, CDFs now comprise around 10 per cent of total budget outlays (both recurrent and development) and fully one third of the development budget. Perhaps anomalously, Vanuatu, which is frequently seen to have a very similar political culture to both PNG and Solomon Islands, has so far resisted going down the path of very large CDFs. But Members of Parliament in both PNG and Solomon Islands are now more involved than ever in delivering services to their local communities through CDFs. Bit by bit CDFs are, in effect, changing by stealth the way these countries are administered. Regulatory frameworks governing how CDFs are managed are weak, as is public scrutiny over their effectiveness. Civil society organisations have concerns about transparency and accountability but need to take into account the fact that grassroots communities don’t want CDFs to go away. Donors have long argued against CDFs in principle, and for better management of CDFs in practice, but this has had no impact on the size of the CDF envelope. A range of gaps exist in our knowledge of how CDFs work in practice; their developmental and economic impacts; their impact on central line agencies and on provincial governments; and their influence on politics and elections. Is there a better way?

Tony Hirisia
The Myth of RCDF disbursement and voting behaviour: Understanding the impact of RCDF disbursement on voting behaviour in rural Solomon Islands constituencies.

Since 2007, the Rural Constituency Development Fund (RCDF) given to members of the Solomon Islands National Parliament has increased from SBD600,000 to SBD6,000,000 by 2014 election. The increase of the RCDF is said to be have had a significant influence on how people vote and in particular on election results. However, I argue that kin relationship (that of candidates and campaign managers) more than gift-giving determines political alliances within Solomon Islands rural constituencies. Although the increase of the RCDF undoubtedly increases the resources available to the incumbent MP for disbursement, this does not necessarily increase his/her support base. In the rural constituencies where political alliances are mostly kin-based, handouts/gifts do not necessarily win votes likewise the acceptance of handouts/gifts must not be interpreted as political support. I argue this case on the basis of an anthropological study of the meaning of gifting in AreAre society and a detailed study of AreAre voting behaviour. When seen in this light, the impact of the RCDF on voting behaviour may be minimal although it does raise questions of equitable distributions of public funds.

Gordon Leua Nanau
The Politics of Constituency Development Funding in the Solomon Islands

Developing rural Solomon Islands has been the country’s desire since independence. Constituency development funding through MPs is one way Solomon Islands seeks to achieve this ambition. The theoretical and philosophical justifications for such an approach are draped in concepts like bottom up development, grassroots empowerment and popular participation. In the Solomon Islands, the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) initially provided around SI$20,000 per constituency per annum in the 1980s. This was increased to $150,000 in 1994 and then to millions of dollars per constituency twenty years later. There is very little to show for CDF already expended. Accountability mechanism established by the CDF Act of 2013 leaves much to be desired. The paper highlights historical debates and rhetoric surrounding CDF in the country. It suggests that the current difficulties inhibiting constituency development may be structural in nature. The challenges confronting CDFs and ultimately rural development could be sorted by tackling structural deficiencies. The paper makes some suggestions on improving CDF to effectively deliver political goods and facilitate development in rural Solomon Islands.

Extractive Industries, Conflict and Peace

Convenor: Kylie McKenna
Sinclair Dinnen, Associate Professor, SSGM
Kylie McKenna, Research Fellow, SSGM
Mel Togolo, PNG Country Manager, Nautilus Minerals

Colin Filer, Crawford School, ANU

The extractives industry continues to represent a vital component of private sector development across the region, with numerous large-scale extractive projects currently in operation, or under negotiation. Significant examples include the re-opening (and subsequent closure) of the Gold Ridge Mine in the Solomon Islands, ExxonMobil’s PNG LNG Project, mining and gas exploitation in the Papuan provinces of Indonesia; as well as debates on the potential resumption of large scale mining on Bougainville. A striking feature of these cases is that they comprise new or re-opened extractive projects in areas where natural resources have been directly related to prior conflict. This session will explore the potential of these and other developments across the Pacific as sources of conflict and peace-building and discuss how the ‘natural resource curse’ might be transformed into a ‘resource blessing’.

Sinclair Dinnen
Security Governance in Extractive Spaces – Lessons from Porgera

Security has been a continuing challenge at the Porgera mine in PNG’s Enga Province, as it has been at many other large scale extractive projects in PNG. In the remote areas where large scale extractive projects are typically located, security is co-produced through interchanges between a range of actors operating at different spatial levels – local, national & transnational. Recent initiatives by the mine operator at Porgera in response to local security challenges have attracted considerable interest both nationally and internationally. These initiatives – notably the Restoring Justice initiative – involve collaborations between different actors aimed at improving justice and security provision in designated areas. The development community has taken a particular interest in these collaborations in light of its ongoing commitment to enhancing law and justice provision, as well as recent policy shifts towards enhancing public-private partnerships within the larger development agenda. Drawing on preliminary research at Porgera, this presentation will review these initiatives in the context of the challenging and troubled local environment, and with a view to considering their potential for improving justice and security at Porgera and in other areas of extractive enterprise.

Kylie McKenna
Natural Resource Conflict and Peace building in Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea has long been a site of analysis for exploring the links between natural resources and conflict. Natural resources have been central to the history of PNG and reflect the trademarks of natural resource conflict globally. Indeed, PNG has been cited as an example in prominent studies of the ‘natural resource curse’. Over the past decade however, this scholarship has made a notable shift beyond conflict analysis towards exploring how natural resources might be mobilised in ways that support peace. This has given rise to new voluntary initiatives and regulatory instruments with the aim of encouraging corporations to adopt conflict sensitive business practices. This paper considers the conflict and peace building potential of extractive companies currently operating, or seeking to operate in PNG.

Mel Togolo
No progress occurs without conflict

No progress occurs without conflict. But conflict has to be managed. The PNG extractive industry has created social innovations and mechanisms giving it the social licence to operate in the country. In support of this evolutionary process, state legislations and policies have been put in place to ensure the objective of mutual sharing of benefits is an integral part of the extractive industry. This is a continuous improvement process starting from the first generation mining projects to the present time. The Development Forum, an institutional reform, has been a PNG grown innovation that is, in essence, a replica of traditional Melanesian form of consultation, catapulted into sphere of modern commerce; allowing participation of landowners in major resource projects in PNG to be meaningful.


Other SOTP Events

We are pleased to be hosting a number of events to coincide with State of the Pacific 2015, including a number of book launches, a film screening and a public lecture series. We would also like to draw your attention to an exhibition hosted by the ANU Library to commemorate the 40th anniversary of PNG.

Book Launches - Monday, 7 September 2015, 5.30-6.30pm
and Tuesday, 8 September 2015, 1.00-1.30pm, Hedley Bull Atrium

We are pleased to be launching five books co-edited by SSGM Scholars Richard Eves, Miranda Forsyth, Jenny Munro and Anthony Regan and SSGM Visiting Fellow Jack Corbett.

The details of their publications are listed below:

Monday, 7 September 2015, 5.30-6.30pm

Talking it Through: Responses to Sorcery and Witchcraft Beliefs and Practices in Melanesia

Edited by Miranda Forsyth and Richard Eves
ANU Press, 2015

Sorcery and witchcraft practices and beliefs are pervasive across Melanesia. They are in part created by, and give rise to, a wide variety of poor social and developmental outcomes. These include uneven economic development, low public health, lack of social cohesion, crime, fear and insecurity. A further very visible problem is the attacks on men and women who are accused of being practitioners of witchcraft or sorcery, which can lead to serious bodily harm, banishment and sometimes death. Today, many communities, individuals, church organisations and policymakers in Melanesia and internationally are exploring ways to overcome the negative social outcomes associated with witchcraft and sorcery practices and beliefs. This book brings together a collection of chapters written by a diverse range of authors, both Melanesian and non-Melanesian, providing crucial insights both into how these practices and beliefs are playing out in contemporary Melanesia, and also the types of interventions that are being trialled or debated to address the problems associated with them.

From ‘Stone-Age’ to ‘Real-Time’
Exploring Papuan Temporalities, Mobilities and Religiosities

Edited by Martin Slama and Jenny Munro
ANU Press, 2015

There are probably no other people on earth to whom the image of the ‘stone-age’ is so persistently attached than the inhabitants of the island of New Guinea, which is divided into independent Papua New Guinea and the western part of the island, known today as Papua and West Papua. From ‘Stone-Age’ to ‘Real-Time’ examines the forms of agency, frictions and anxieties the current moment generates in West Papua, where the persistent ‘stone-age’ image meets the practices and ideologies of the ‘real-time’ – a popular expression referring to immediate digital communication. The volume is thus essentially occupied with discourses of time and space and how they inform questions of hierarchy and possibilities for equality. Papuans are increasingly mobile, and seeking to rework inherited ideas, institutions and technologies, while also coming up against palpable limits on what can be imagined or achieved, secured or defended. This volume investigates some of these trajectories for the cultural logics and social or political structures that shape them. The chapters are highly ethnographic, based on in-depth research conducted in diverse spaces within and beyond Papua. These contributions explore topics ranging from hip hop to HIV/ AIDS to historicity, filling much-needed conceptual and ethnographic lacunae in the study of West Papua.

Bougainville before the Conflict 2nd Edition

Editors: Anthony J. Regan and Helga-Maria Griffin
Pandanus Books

The essays in this collection are directed toward making information accessible to a generalist audience who recognize the intrinsic historical, cultural, and linguistic interest of Bougainville and who seek to enhance their understanding of one of the world's most successful peace processes.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015, 1.00-1.30pm

Political Life Writing in the Pacific

Edited by Jack Corbett and Brij V. Lal
ANU Press, 2015

This book aims to reflect on the experiential side of writing political lives in the Pacific region. The collection touches on aspects of the life writing art that are particularly pertinent to political figures: public perception and ideology; identifying important political successes and policy initiatives; grappling with issues like corruption and age-old political science questions about leadership and ‘dirty hands’. These are general themes but they take on a particular significance in the Pacific context and so the contributions explore these themes in relation to patterns of colonisation and the memory of independence; issues elliptically captured by terms like ‘culture’ and ‘tradition’; the nature of ‘self’ presented in Pacific life writing; and the tendency for many of these texts to be written by ‘outsiders’, or at least the increasingly contested nature of what that term means..

Being Political: Leadership and Democracy in the Pacific Islands

Author: Jack Corbett
University of Hawai’i Press

Politicians everywhere tend to attract cynicism and inspire disillusionment. They are supposed to epitomize the promise of democratic government and yet invariably find themselves cast as the enemy of every virtue that system seeks to uphold. In the Pacific, "politician" has become a byword for corruption, graft, and misconduct. This was not always the case—the independence generation is still remembered as strong leaders—but today's leaders are commonly associated with malaise and despair. Once heroes of self-determination, politicians are now the targets of donor attempts to institute "good governance," while Fiji's 2006 coup was partly justified on the grounds that they needed "cleaning up."

But who are these much-maligned figures? How did they come to arrive in politics? What is it like to be a politician? Why do they enter, stay, and leave? Drawing on more than 110 interviews and other published sources, including autobiographies and biographies, Being Political provides a collective portrait of the region's political elite. This is an insider account of political life in the Pacific as seen through the eyes of those who have done the job.

We learn that politics is a messy, unpredictable, and, at times, dirty business that nonetheless inspires service and sacrifice. We come to understand how being a politician has changed since independence and consider what this means for how we think about issues of corruption and misconduct. We find that politics is deeply embedded in the lives of individuals, families, and communities; an account that belies the common characterization of democracy in the Pacific as a "façade" or "foreign flower."

Ultimately, this is a sympathetic counter-narrative to the populist critique. We come to know politicians as people with hopes and fears, pains and pleasures, vices and virtues. A reminder that politicians are human—neither saints nor sinners—is timely given the wave of cynicism and disaffection. As such, this book is a must read for all those who believe in the promise of representative government.

Film Screening - Tuesday, 8 September 2015, 3.30pm, Hedley Bull 2

Vanuatu Women's Water Music

Mr Sandy Sur, Manager, Leweton Cultural Experience
Mr Thomas Dick Director, Further Arts
Dr Tracey Benson, Australasian Programme Coordinator, Intercreate

The Documentary:
The performers of the Vanuatu Women’s Water Music group hail from the remote northern tropical islands of Gaua and Merelava in Vanuatu. They travel the world performing the Na Mag and Ne Leang dances as a prelude to the water music. The Water Music of Vanuatu is a performance that needs to be seen (and heard) to be believed. This incredible film shuns Western/European narrative concepts. Instead it adopts a contemporary style of its own: Art Doco. The result is a non-narrative meditation on indigenous performance and representation. It has received 5-star review from Songlines Magazine (UK) and is described as "absolutely perfect" and "visually stunning as well as culturally important".

The Vanuatu Women's Water Music film is the result of a collaborative project between the people of the Leweton village just outside Luganville on the island of Espiritu Santo. It was produced over the course of two years between 2012 and 2014 and it forms a part of a doctoral research project of the film's producer, Thomas Dick.

At SOTP2015:
For this special presentation at State of the Pacific 2015, Sandy Sur, the founder of the Leweton village and leader of the internationally renowned performance troupe "Leweton Cultural Experience" will introduce the film. After the film, Tracey Benson – a green geek/artist/researcher into connected communities, eco-sustainability, and tech/art synergies – will facilitate a QnA session with Sandy and Tom and an interactive discussion about the various trajectories of the film as: creative endeavour, artistic commodity and research”.

Youtube link: Vanuatu Women's Water Music - feature documentary 62min

Film Screening - Wednesday, 9 September 2015, 12.30pm, Hedley Bull 2

Lon Marum

Dir: Chief Filip Talevu and Soraya Hosni

Produced in full collaboration with communities on Ambrym and Tanna in Vanuatu, Lon Marum is a TV-hour length documentary film depicting the relationship between language, culture, place, music, tradition, and magic – in the context of life on an active volcano. Lon Marum was a finalist in the Asia Pacific New Documentary Program 2013 and In Competition for the Asia Pacific Screen Awards 2013. It features an original score by ni-Vanuatu composer Marcel Meltherorong. 48 mins

Report Launch – Tuesday, 8 September 2015, 4.30-5.30pm, Coombs Lecture Theatre,

Bougainville Young Women’s Leadership Research Report Launch
Isabel Koredong

The Bougainville Young Women’s Leadership Study is the first of its kind in Bougainville, exploring the opportunities for, and barriers to, young women’s leadership. The project had two key objectives:

  • To build the capacity of young women as researchers to undertake this and future research
  • To identify the factors inhibiting young women’s participation in civil society organisations (CSOs), to both a) inform future program implementation, and b) provide a baseline by which to measure change.

Twelve young Bougainvillean women were trained in research methods. Six teams of two women then undertook research in six districts, covering the three regions of Bougainville (North, Central and South). The teams conducted 52 individual interviews and 49 group discussions. Field researchers participated in an initial analysis workshop and the lead researcher was mentored as a co-author of the research report.

The barriers to young women’s participation identified during the research include community and family attitudes, limits to young women’s confidence and education, patterns of interaction between older and younger women, and family and household responsibilities. The research also highlights pathways to leadership for young women including opportunities within community organisations, and the motivations that encourage them to join groups such as Bougainville Women’s Federation (BWF).

These findings frame recommendations that focus on how BWF can engage and empower young women and create safe spaces for them to contribute to the organisation’s work and future. The report also provides guidance for other organisations that wish to understand the perspectives of young women and the issues they face in seeking to participate, develop their skills and leadership experience and contribute to their communities and the sustainability of local women’s organisations.

The research was an initiative of BWF. It was led by Richard Eves from SSGM and Isabel Koredong of BWF, and supported by International Women’s Development Agency (IWDA), through Funding Leadership and Opportunities for Women, an initiative of the Netherlands Government.

Exhibition – Friday, 18 September 2015, - Thursday 24 Dec 2015, Menzies Library, ANU

Exhibition: Commemorating the 40th anniversary of Papua New Guinea’s Independence

The exhibition will showcase original documents focusing on the self-government period and eventual independence, as well as paintings, drawings, sculptures, photographs and documentary films celebrating the cultural diversity and shared history between Papua New Guinea, ANU, Canberra, and Australia.

The exhibition is supported by the Papua New Guinea High Commission, the National Museum of Australia, Deakin University and features contributions from former and present staff and students from the ANU with a long lasting affection and interest for PNG.

The exhibition will be formally launched on 18 September 2015, and will run until the end of the year.

Updated:  1 February, 2015/Responsible Officer:  Web Communications Coordinator/Page Contact:  Web Communications Coordinator