In early April, Renee Currenti and Kerrie Pickering, with the support of USC, travelled to Adelaide, South Australia, to attend the biennial conference of the Australian Association for Pacific Studies at the University of Adelaide. The three-day conference focused on research occurring within the Pacific Islands region and populations of Pacific Islanders in America and Australia. There were a wide range of disciplines represented from humanities to geography, from critical thinking to more applied studies.
The conference kicked off with a Postgraduate Masterclass led by Vincente M. Diaz and Christine T. DeLisle from the Univeristy of Minnesota, both with Micronesian heritage. The Masterclass was a great opportunity to meet fellow postgraduate researchers, share experiences and learn from each other. That evening, Vincente M. Diaz gave an enlightening and entertaining Epeli Hau’ofa Lecture (keynote) to open the conference.
“Whoever said Islanders don’t have agency didn’t know Islanders; didn’t know our grandmothers and aunties” - Vincente Diaz, 2018.
Renee presented “I hope they don’t deport me: considerations for conducting community-based research in Fiji” during the Postgraduate Researcher Session. As an early career researcher who was new to village life and Fiji, Renee asked herself “how do I go about this research?” With little guidance available from published sources Renee drew and reflected on the experiences of herself and fellow colleagues to identify obstacle and how they were over come. Renee discussed the need to build strong community-researcher relationships. The talk was well received and gave rise to a long discussion on challenges other researchers had encountered and overcome when working in the Pacific.
The following day Renee gave her second presentation “Adaptation to climate change in an interior village on Viti Levu, Fiji” that summarised Renee’s Masters research in Nawairuku Village, Ra Province, Fiji in June – August 2017. The presentation described how people in an interior village in Ra on Viti Levu, Fiji are experiencing and responding to changing environmental conditions. The research showed recent socio-economic changes are having a strong influence on how people experience and respond to climate risks. In particular, the village is exposed and sensitive to an increase in the intensity of extreme weather events, namely cyclones and flooding, with consequences for agriculture, human health and well-being, and infrastructure.
Renee's final presentation was “The Human Face of the Sigatoka River Estuary”. A project that sought to identify and share iTaukei social values of the Sigatoka River estuary and the existing and potential threats to these values. The Sigatoka River Estuary is essential to the lives and livelihoods of the iTaukei who live along it's banks and beyond. The estuary has caught the attention of international mining companies seeking to extract magnetite from the sand for steel-making with regard for the impact such actions will have upon the local people. To read more of this research see this report. Renee presented on behalf of Dr Tristan Pearce, Lui Manuel and other contributors.
All research will have challenges and these provide good learning opportunities
Pacific Islands research is diverse and rapidly expanding
There is a growing body of scholarship guiding Indigenous research methodologies
Pacific Island women researchers are at the forefront of advancing the availability and interest in Pacific Island studies nationally and internationally