Late last year, the Whitlam Institute commissioned peacebuilding NGO Peacifica, and Pacific specialist Tess Newton Cain, to explore how people in these three island nations perceive Australians and the Australian Government’s policies and interventions in the Pacific.
This qualitative, participant-led research drew on focus groups and one-on-one interviews with 150 Pacific Islanders from varying backgrounds, including people from urban and rural settings, women, young people, business people and those engaged in civil society and government. These conversations were then followed by expert seminars in Canberra and Suva.
A number of clear messages surfaced:
- The quality of Australia’s relationships matter more than the quantity of our aid or trade;
- Our values, norms and ways of doing things are a vital part of how we conduct our engagement with the Pacific;
- Australia, and its historical relationship, is valued but we are one of many partners for Pacific Islanders.