5th PIURN Conference - Regional Programme Australia and the Pacific
PIURN is a consortium of 14 universities in the Pacific region established in 2012 to enable closer and meaningful collaboration among researchers with the view to identify and address through research, development and innovation social priorities, economic growth and environmental challenged for the Pacific Island Countries and Territories (PICTs). The consortium has identified four main strategic research themes in line with the UN’s sustainable development goals, including health and food security, climate change and biodiversity, capacity building and data & statistics, as well as social development, education and gender equality.
The Conference was themed “Exploring the Sea of Islands” and aimed to investigate different sub-themes reflecting the strategic priorities of the region, such as food security, climate change, protection of biodiversity, aspects related to languages, cultures and identities of the Pacific. Notably, the event was jointly opened in a solemn ceremony by the Vice Chancellor of the University of the South Pacific, Prof Pal Ahluwalia, the Prime Minister of the Cook Islands, Mark Brown, as well as the Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum, Henry Puna. There were a range of speakers from the (anglophone and francophone) Pacific Islands, Australia, New Zealand, and other parts of the world. Participants could choose from a vast number of panels, including panels on “politics & institutions in Oceania” and “political issues in Oceania”.
There was one topic in particular that was not only debated during the sessions but also on the sidelines, namely that of greater Pacific and indigenous agency, be it in the context of the latest Independence Referendum held in New Caledonia, the Voice Referendum in Australia (held on 14 October), and the role of Maori in New Zealand.
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