DPA In Briefs (previously Briefing Notes)

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  • PublicationOpen Access
    Unravelling the Black Wednesday Riots: Precarious Masculinity and Civil Unrest in Port Moresby
    (Canberra, ACT: Dept. of Pacific Affairs, Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs, The Australian National University, 0003-07-24) Masta, Mercy
    On 10 January 2024, residents of Port Moresby and other major centres in Papua New Guinea (PNG) witnessed civil disobedience, mostly carried out by men, expressed through looting, vandalism and arson targeting commercial property, in what is now referred to by locals as Black Wednesday. These events, starting with opportunists taking advantage of a police protest over a pay cut, sparked riots across the country. The government of PNG swiftly disseminated messages on social media refuting claims of a new tax levied on the police force, attributing the discrepancy in pay to a computer ‘glitch’. A 14-day state of emergency was declared, accompanied by the suspension of numerous senior government officials. The violence resulted in the loss of more than 20 lives, the displacement of hundreds of jobs, and adverse impacts on businesses and farmers. Although women participated in the riots, they were greatly outnumbered by men. This In Brief explores challenges to the manifestations of masculinity when urban men in particular encounter precarious situations such as those observed during the events of the Black Wednesday riots in Port Moresby.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Developing a Home-Grown Independence Constitution in Bougainville: Part One — Context and Process
    (Canberra, ACT: Dept. of Pacific Affairs, Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs, The Australian National University, 2024-06-18) Regan, Anthony J.; LeRoy, Katy
    On 6 May 2024, the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) released the first draft of its proposed independence constitution. The ABG is a highly autonomous sub-national government in Papua New Guinea (PNG), with strong aspirations for Bougainville (population about 350,000) to soon become the first independent country since South Sudan in 2011. This two-part In Brief analyses the political and constitutional context, Bougainville’s prior constitutionmaking history, the current constitution-making process (Part One), and key features of the content of the draft (Part Two).
  • ItemOpen Access
    Developing a Home-Grown Independence Constitution in Bougainville: Part Two — Key Features of the Draft Constitution
    (Canberra, ACT: Dept. of Pacific Affairs, Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs, The Australian National University, 2024-06-18) Regan, Anthony J.; LeRoy, Katy
    This is the second part of a two-part In Brief concerning the history, context and key features of the proposed independence constitution that is in the process of being developed for Bougainville.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Funding Equality: Reimagining Fiji’s Political Landscape through Gender-Inclusive Political Party Funding
    (Canberra, ACT: Dept. of Pacific Affairs, Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs, The Australian National University, 2024-05-20) Kant, Romitesh
    Recent reforms in political party funding by Fiji’s new coalition government have reignited crucial discussions about the foundations of democratic participation and representation. With increased financial allowances for members of parliament and substantial annual grants for political parties, these reforms are intended to strengthen the structural framework of Fiji’s political landscape. However, they glaringly overlook a critical dimension: the promotion of gender diversity in the political arena. The 2022 general elections have highlighted a significant regression, with a decrease in women’s representation in parliament and their continued underrepresentation in appointments to statutory boards. This In Brief argues that the financial reforms, while structurally significant, represent a missed opportunity, in failing to address the underlying gender disparities that inhibit women’s political participation. The paper instead proposes targeted reforms that align Fiji’s political financing mechanisms with its commitments to gender equality and social inclusion (GESI). By examining effective legislated and non-legislated measures from various global contexts, the paper makes recommendations aimed to bridge the gap between Fiji’s democratic aspirations and the lived reality of Fijian women, ensuring a more inclusive political landscape that reflects the diverse makeup of Fijian society.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Settler Colonialism in New Guinea: Or Why Australia, not Indonesia, Set Papuans Free
    (Canberra, ACT: Dept. of Pacific Affairs, Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs, The Australian National University, 2024-05-17) McNamee, Lachlan
    Juxtaposing the modern history of West Papua and Papua New Guinea forces us to confront an uncomfortable question: why did Indonesia and not Australia fulfil the colonisation of New Guinea? Or, put differently, why has Australia but not Indonesia set Papuans free? The standard answer to this question is ideology. Indonesia sees West Papua as a ‘core’ part of their nation-state, whereas the same was not true for Australia in PNG. This answer, however, is wrong, because it misunderstands the initial intentions of Australian officials in New Guinea. Just like Indonesia, Australia’s leaders initially saw New Guinea as an inalienable part of their new nation-state. And just like Indonesia, Australia’s leaders sought to secure control over New Guinea by settling large numbers of farmers there. Unlike in Indonesia, however, these efforts failed. To understand why Australia and not Indonesia ended up decolonising New Guinea, this In Brief, which draws upon a larger study (McNamee 2023), examines why Australia’s settler colonial project there failed whereas Indonesia’s succeeded.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Tuvalu’s Response to Climate Change
    (Canberra, ACT: Dept of Pacific Affairs, Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs, The Australian National University, 2024-05-13) Firth, Stewart
    Tuvalu is among the Pacific nations most threatened by the steady rise in sea levels. Most people in Tuvalu do not want to lose their country to the man-made forces that are damaging the planet, and the Tuvalu government is doing something about it. A minor destination for traders and missionaries in the nineteenth century, Tuvalu — previously known as the Ellice Islands — became part of the British protectorate of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands in 1892, then of the British colony of the same name in 1916. Tuvalu broke away from Kiribati in 1975 before proceeding to independence in its own right in 1978. Tuvalu — three reef islands and six atolls — now faces possible physical extinction as a territorial state.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Diverging Resilience Realities: Reflections on Conceptual Differences of Climate Resilience Building in Aotearoa New Zealand and the Pacific
    (Canberra, ACT: Dept. of Pacific Affairs, Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs, The Australian National University, 2024-04-17) Bland, Lauren
    Resilience has become a prominent concept in development policy, describing the intersection between climate, disaster risk reduction and development (Bahadur et al. 2013). However, resilience lacks a universal definition, meaning it is often applied differently across disciplines and contexts. This In Brief reflects on differences in conceptual understandings of resilience using the case of Aotearoa New Zealand’s (henceforth Aotearoa) Resilience Approach in the Pacific. It ultimately highlights the need for deeper intercultural dialogue to bridge conflicting worldviews for more coherent and contextually grounded resilience policy and practice.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Promoting Government Transparency in PNG: Freedom of Information and the Seabed Mining Case
    (Canberra, ACT: Dept of Pacific Affairs, Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs, The Australian National University, 2024-04-02) Walep, Anthony; Yayabu, Renata; Kama, Bal
    On 29 November 2023, the Papua New Guinea (PNG) Supreme Court made a landmark ruling on Section 51 of the Constitution of the Independent State of PNG, which guarantees ‘freedom of information’. The case concerned the now defunct Solwara 1 project, the world’s first licensed commercial seabed mining project, which sought to extract high-grade mineral deposits from the seafloor. The court’s ruling not only added to the controversies surrounding the Solwara 1 project but importantly provided a better understanding of the operations of Section 51 in enabling access to official information and the potential for improved transparency and accountability of government decisions. This In Brief discusses the issues in the Supreme Court’s judgment and its wider implications for governance and law reform in PNG.
  • ItemOpen Access
    The Enduring Nuclear Legacy in the Marshall Islands: Recent Developments
    (Canberra, ACT: Department of Pacific Affairs, Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs, The Australian National University, 2024-03-28) Firth, Stewart
    This In Brief examines the recent renewal of the Compact of Free Association (COFA) between the United States and the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI), which was the site of the largest nuclear explosion in the United States (US) test series conducted from 1946 to 1958. Called BRAVO, the explosion at Bikini Atoll on 1 March 1954 spread radioactive fallout over Bikini and atolls to the east, leaving a legacy of contamination and injury that persists to this day. In a demonstration attended by the Pacific Islands Forum Secretary General Henry Puna, hundreds of people marched in Majuro, RMI, on 1 March 2024, marking 70 years since BRAVO became a defining event in the country’s post-war history.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Madang-based University Students’ Perspectives on the Impacts of the Ramu NiCo Mine in PNG
    (Canberra, ACT: Dept of Pacific Affairs, Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs, The Australian National University, 2024-03-04) Yegiora, Bernard Singu; Zhang, Denghua
    In 2023, as a pilot research project, the authors surveyed 114 current and former students of Divine Word University in Madang Province, Papua New Guinea (PNG), where the Ramu NiCo mine project is located. A total of 33 questions were asked, covering the participants’ background information, especially in relation to the mine project, and their views of Ramu NiCo’s corporate social responsibilities (CSRs) and PNG–China relations. The survey was conducted online via SurveyMonkey and the students were granted anonymity to protect their privacy. Currently, Western powers are competing with China for influence in the Pacific, and Pacific Island states are also closely watching China’s activities in their region. This research aims to contribute to the debates on China. It reveals some local concerns about Ramu NiCo’s CSRs and the limited benefits local communities have received so far.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Foreign Actors, Geopolitics and Riots in the Pacific
    (Canberra, ACT: Dept. of Pacific Affairs, Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs, The Australian National University, 2024-02-13) Ride, Anouk; Zhang, Denghua
    Incidents of collective violence that include targeted violence against migrants or outsiders are a growing concern in parts of the Pacific region. Urban riots targeting Asian businesses have occurred in three Pacific countries since 2006. The most recent example involved Port Moresby, Lae, Goroka and some other locations of Papua New Guinea (PNG) in January 2024. Focusing on interactions between Chinese migrants and Pacific Islanders, this In Brief outlines how competition between these two groups, and geopolitical competition more broadly, can inflame domestic politics, unrest and insecurity in the Pacific. There are, of course, many factors contributing to or associated with particular riots, as shown in recent analyses of PNG’s riots. This paper outlines two examples of Pacific riots, each with its distinct characteristics and background, in order to highlight some key security considerations. The two cases presented are from Tonga and Solomon Islands.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Indonesia’s 2024 Simultaneous Elections from a Papuan Perspective
    (Canberra, ACT: Dept. of Pacific Affairs, Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs, The Australian National University, 2024-02-06) De Fretes, Diego Romario; Korwa, Johni R. V.
    In 2024, Indonesia will hold elections in a new format, involving the simultaneous conduct of elections in all provinces and regencies/cities. Over the last few years, Papua has experienced a high level of electoral volatility compared to Indonesia’s other regions, primarily as a result of horizontal conflict stemming from political contestation between Papuan factions. The Papua Regional Police (Polda) have indicated that at least 12 Papuan regencies are likely to experience volatility during the 2024 election, partly as a result of the continued use of the noken system.
  • ItemOpen Access
    A Voice for Australian South Sea Islanders? Political Recognition and Misrepresentation
    (Canberra, ACT: Dept. of Pacific Affairs, Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs, The Australian National University, 2024-02-06) Fallon, Kathleen Mary
    Striking parallels can be drawn between the result of Australia’s referendum on the recognition of First Nation Australians in the constitution and the lack of political recognition of the Australian South Sea Islanders (ASSI) throughout the 20th century and into the present. Thirty-nine years after the Whitlam government’s 1977 interdepartmental committee recommended that demographic data be collected from the Australian census, and after decades of activism by ASSI for accurate and reliable demographic data, the 2016 census finally provided a separate category for ASSI. However, given this opportunity, only 3444 ASSI ticked the ‘first ancestry’ box and 5947 ticked the ‘second ancestry’ response. This was a politically insignificant 9391 out of an estimated 40,000 people (Moore 2013:4). Some of the complex reasons for this response and its wider implications are canvassed in this In Brief. In the context of the recent result of the Voice referendum, this paper also provides another perspective on what impact this has on Australia’s relationship with its Pacific family, both internationally and domestically.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Inclusion and Participation of People Living with Disabilities in the PNG General Election
    (Canberra, ACT: Dept. of Pacific Affairs, Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs, The Australian National University, 2023-11-23) Kuman, Joe
    The Papua New Guinea (PNG) government’s stated value of ‘Free, Fair and Safe Elections’ calls for a ballot box accessible for all eligible voters, but this is often not the case for a significant proportion of the population (ANU DPA 2018). While this issue has been recognised for many years, the particular challenges facing people living with disabilities (PLWDs) is a more recent concern highlighted by international and civil society organisations (CSOs) and taken up by the PNG Electoral Commission (PNGEC), which affirms the PNG government’s Social Inclusion Policy. Whether PLWDs have effectively participated in election processes is an open question. This case study, undertaken as a study within a larger study of the 2022 elections, assessed how PLWDs participated in the 2022 national general election, in order to assess how inclusive the election systems and practices were of PLWDs. While it is important to acknowledge that many of the problems of access faced by PLWDs during PNG’s elections are also faced by those living without disabilities, the findings show that inclusion of PLWDs is far from the reality. This research, carried out by PLWDs, is the first time PLWDs have been formally engaged in election observation in PNG and is the first discrete study to focus on the particular problems they face.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Creating Inclusive Local Government Structures in Fiji
    (Canberra, ACT: Dept. of Pacific Affairs, Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs, The Australian National University, 2023-11-21) Baker, Kerryn; Kant, Romitesh
    Under the local government structure in Fiji, the country is divided into 13 municipalities, each with a council responsible for local service delivery. Yet local government elections have not been held since 2005. The coalition government elected in 2022 intends to reinstate local government elections, with the first due to be held in 2024. This In Brief will explore the potential avenues for reform to create more inclusive local government structures in Fiji.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Crime, Safety and Justice in Vanuatu: A Snapshot
    (Canberra, ACT: Dept. of Pacific Affairs, Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs, The Australian National University, 2023-09-29) Putt, Judy; Dinnen, Sinclair
    The archipelago of Vanuatu comprises over 80 islands. More than two-thirds of its estimated population of 323,000 people live in rural areas, and over half of the population is aged under 25 years. This In Brief summarises some of the main themes emerging from a survey on perceptions of safety and justice in Vanuatu, the Vanuatu-Australia Policing and Justice Services Study (VPJSS), undertaken in 2022 on behalf of the Vanuatu-Australia Policing and Justice Program (VAPJP). Conducted by telephone, the VPJSS survey asked 1016 adults (53.6% men, 46.4% women) in different provinces about their perceptions of safety and the justice sector, including their experience of crime. The survey was supplemented by nine focus groups involving a total of 91 participants. The main aim of the study was to provide the VAPJP with baseline data for planning and future assessments. A research report has been released that includes more detail on the methodology and findings.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Revisiting PNG’s Dictionary of Contemporary Biography Project
    (Canberra, ACT: Dept. of Pacific Affairs, Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs, The Australian National University, 2023-08-21) Meki, Theresa; Hoare, Nicholas
    In 1984, the government of Papua New Guinea (PNG) marked 100 years of formal colonial government by creating a Centennial Committee with the aim of interrogating the colonial past and producing a series of cultural heritage projects of national significance. One of these projects was the Papua New Guinea Dictionary of Contemporary Biography (PNGDCB), an ultimately unsuccessful attempt by historians, librarians and other writers at paying tribute to ‘the persistent efforts, remarkable skills, experimental spirit and zealous concerns of important individuals’, all those ‘men and women who were involved in the nation’s making’.1 As PNG marches towards 50 years of independence in 2025, we believe that this milestone deserves to be marked with similar vigour. This In Brief gives background on the original national project, describes an attempt at revival, and outlines why, despite two failed starts, the nation’s jubilee year is the right milestone to which this project should ultimately be pegged.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Media Freedom, Accountability and Online Misinformation in Papua New Guinea
    (Canberra, ACT: Dept. of Pacific Affairs, Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs, The Australian National University, 2023-08-09) Yangin, Russel
    The Papua New Guinea (PNG) government has a new draft National Media Development Policy (Government of PNG 2023) aimed at utilising the media for development purposes. Priority issues include strengthening accountability in journalistic reporting and enhancing civic awareness about misinformation on social media. The media community has condemned the draft policy as an attempt by government to control media freedom in PNG. The arguments on both sides tend to revolve around the role of the Media Council of Papua New Guinea (MCPNG) in holding journalism accountable. Increasing levels of misinformation in social media are also important to discussions around the new draft policy. This In Brief highlights some of the issues raised by the policy, focusing on issues of accountability and the impact of misinformation, especially online misinformation, on citizens.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Inclusive Research: A Niu Approach to Participant Recruitment in the Pacific
    (Canberra, ACT: Dept. of Pacific Affairs, Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs, The Australian National University, 2023-06-23) Young, Cameron D.; Filoi, Rosa; Tabangcora, Beatrice; Tabiru, Whitmon; Tonga Mohenoa Taka, Tevita
    Pacific research that explores sensitive health topics like domestic violence would benefit from a new approach to participant recruitment. Few Pacificcentred recruitment methods exist, and standard recruitment practices may not reflect the cultural contexts of researched communities. This In Brief presents a niu (‘coconut’ in many Pacific languages) metaphor for inclusive Pacific recruitment that explicitly centres the needs of the most vulnerable within a research project.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Resilience and Adaptation in the Tourism and Hospitality Industry in PNG’s Madang Province during the COVID-19 Pandemic
    (Canberra, ACT: Dept. of Pacific Affairs, Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs, The Australian National University, 2023-05-25) Sumb, Allan
    This In Brief analyses the socio-economic impact of the 2020–22 COVID-19 pandemic based on a qualitative study of 20 tourism and hospitality businesses in Madang Province, Papua New Guinea (PNG). The study found that all the businesses surveyed were affected by COVID-19. Most experienced a lack of customers due to the travel restrictions imposed by the PNG government. This resulted in less or no income, with some businesses taking drastic measures to cut down on costs. Others aggressively promoted and marketed domestic rather than international tourism to help sustain their operations. The majority of businesses managed to operate during the COVID-19 period without any support from the PNG government. According to the study findings, none of the businesses benefited from the government stimulus package. The study also noted resilience strategies for tourism and hospitality businesses and made recommendations in the event of future pandemics or natural disasters.