On Friday the 6th of November 2009, the AAAPS National Report 'A National Strategy for the Study of the Pacific' was launched at the Mitchell Library, Sydney.
President's Speech by Professor Clive Moore
Launch of the Australian Association for the Advancement of Pacific Studies (AAAPS)
National Strategy for the Study of the Pacific.
My apologies for not being able to attend the launch. As President of AAAPS and as one of the authors of the National Strategy report I should be with you today, but the date of the launch at the Mitchell Library was arranged after I had announced the date of an all-day Retreat for my School at the University of Queensland. Although I was tempted to leave my staff to their own devices to plan the future of History, Philosophy, Religion and Classics at the University of Queensland, on second thoughts it would not have looked good for the Head of School to have been more interested in his academic passion, Pacific Studies, than the future of forty staff battling their way through the mean maze of the modern university finances and politics.
This is a very significant report for Australia. The Australian Association for the Advancement of Pacific Studies grew from a meeting at the ANU in 2004, called to initiate a new organization to be a broad umbrella for Pacific Studies in Australia, in the same way that Asian Studies Association of Australia has operated for some decades. When AAAPS held its first AGM in January 2006, there was a call for a program to revive and enhance the excellence of Pacific Studies in Australia, and one of the necessary initial components of this was a National Report, an audit of the current situation, with recommendations for the best way forward. We needed to review teaching and research and the Pacific holdings of Australia’s libraries, archives, museums and galleries. We needed to involve as many people as possible in the exercise, so that it was not just the work of three authors but could truly be said to be a national document that had the support of the Association’s members.
It was never going to be an easy task, and it certainly was not. Gathering the information, before sifting through to form a coherent narrative and argument was an immense task. For this we owe immense gratitude to Samantha Rose, who worked as the research assistant on the project and as an author. Samantha’s efficiency, wise counsel and good humour have been crucial. She is listed as the first author of the National Strategy because this is the position she deserves in the order of the author’s names and I thank her for her untiring efforts on the report and also on maintaining the AAAPS website. Next, I need to thank Max Quanchi who guided most of the report into its final shape. Max’s dedication and enthusiasm for Pacific Studies is greatly admired, not just by me but by the wider community of scholars. He drove the project to completion, in a way that I could not because of my other administrative duties for my university. My thanks to them both. While many people willingly provided information, and are acknowledged in the National Strategy report, it was truly a work with three participating authors. My job for the Report was constant (not always heeded!) advice, writing of sections and final quality control and indexing. It was very much a seamless effort from the three of us.
Now that it is produced, and hard copies of the Report and the Executive Summary have begun to be distributed, and the whole document is also available on the AAAPS website, we need to concentrate on selling its recommendations to the government and to institutions, and to carry our argument to the wider Australian community. Australia will always be part of the Pacific: our geography and history dictate this. We are not just a neighbour to be called upon when there is a natural disaster. Australia needs to be accepted as part of the Pacific community, and unfortunately there remains some ambivalence over this role. We have sent copies of the National Strategy for the Study of the Pacific to senior members of the Australian government such as among others) Julia Gillard and Stephen Smith, but it must be said that the reception has not been as welcoming as we had hoped. The initial reaction has been that the government spends a lot of money in the Pacific already, and that it is up to tertiary and cultural institutions to ensure that the Pacific is part of their curricula and planning. I do not think this is good enough. In the modern tight academic market, universities do not always do what is best for crucial areas of study, and cultural institutions are constantly strapped for cash and cannot properly display and utilize their cultural assets.
The Pacific —the ocean, the islands and the people — are crucial to the future of Australia. The argument is very clearly stated in the National Strategy report. I recommend it to you.
Spoken by Grant McCall
The National Report is now available below.