Call for rethink on nation building in the Pacific

5 February 2009

Australia needs to go beyond security responses to changes in the Pacific and focus on developing a more sensitive cultural approach to nation building and civil order in the region, Professor David Lowe, Director of Deakin University's new Alfred Deakin Institute says.

"Good governance is not sustained by security, legal and regulatory frameworks on their own," he added. "It is underpinned by a robust sense of identity, where people have come from, and where they are heading."

In the first event to be sponsored by the fledgling Institute which has been named after Australia's second Prime Minister, government, academics and international experts from the region will meet at the University's Geelong Waterfront Campus to give action to the Federal Government's call in the 2008 Port Moresby Declaration for 'a new era of cooperation to begin' between Australia and its Pacific neighbours. The event, entitled Building Partnerships in the Changing Pacific, will run over two days on 12 and 13 February.

"Our starting point is that previous Australian Government responses in Melanesia (Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Fiji) have sometimes been too heavy handed in terms of their focus on security," Professor Lowe explained.

"In the Solomon Islands, for instance, in talking to people about good governance and civil order you need to do so with reference to their history or cultural identity.

"The challenges faced collectively by the nations in this region are perhaps greater than at any time since independence. The Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's Port Moresby Declaration committed this country to working in partnership with the nations of the Pacific, and we strongly believe that this has to be the way forward.

"It is appropriate therefore that we are bringing people from Australia and the Pacific to work together to develop approaches that draw on the region's history and identity in ways which are enduring and have a direct application to the problems the region faces."

Professor Lowe said by taking a multidisciplinary, partnership approach the Institute was enacting the principles espoused by its namesake - Alfred Deakin - one of Australia's founding fathers, lawyer, journalist, politician and its second Prime Minister.

"The Institute has been set up with the express intention of promoting research in the humanities, social sciences, education, law, and communication studies to address problems of local, national, and international importance."

The Building Partnerships in the Changing Pacific meeting will be the first of several events building partnerships in research that makes a difference to be run by the Alfred Deakin Institute throughout 2009.


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Rebecca Tucker
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03 5227 8568, 0418 979 134
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