Proposed centre a chance to refocus Australia's Pacific links
The Papua New Guinea Association of Australia has proposed a Community Centre for Pacific Nations to be housed in the former Australian School of Pacific Administration buildings in Sydney.
The Papua New Guinea Association of Australia has proposed a Community Centre for Pacific Nations
The idea is that such a centre could be housed in the former Australian School of Pacific Administration or ASOPA, buildings at Middle Head in Sydney.
The association's president Andrea Williams says the site is ideal since ASOPA played a close role in developing PNG for nationhood, and its direct successors became the leading Pacific development training institution for 51 years.
ANDREA WILLIAMS: I guess we feel that it would be an opportunity to refocus on the relationships between Australia and the Pacific Islands as far as I know I feel there are many Papua New Guineans who know a lot about Australian history and our shared connection over the years but ask many Australians and they probably wouldn't. So it is about acknowledging Australia's role in Papua New Guinea in the Pacific and trying to grow awareness about that and connections.
JOHNNY BLADES: What would you envisage the practical day to day activities of such a centre to be?
AW: Well we would like to see you know a suitable living you know inter-active tribute in the form of lets call it an Australian community centre for Pacific nations. It would be a focal point for the Australian Pacific relationship which could engage with communities in cultural educational and resources. So that people have a place to go to to find out perhaps more about the Pacific. You know you might have community groups going there and sharing their culture with Australians. For instance we had an art show last year and celebrating the 40th anniversary of Papua New Guinean independence and we tried to get Papua New Guineans down to Australia for that and that was a little bit fraught because of the visa issues. But having say Arts workshops writers workshops we are involved with the crocodile tribes in Papua New Guinea. Having workshops that integrate Pacific Islanders and Australians where we can both share and develop ideas and have a more cohesive future I guess.
JB: We have seen recently a couple of fairly high profile Australians sort of lament the, the lack of understanding in Australia about Pacific neighbours particularly Papua New Guinea. I mean Sean Dorney commenting with his latest book that Australians should know more (about PNG), at least that they are not tapping into that considerable expertise of the former kiaps and the people you mentioned before about PNG.
AW: That is right and you know one of the things to remember is that there were many prominent Australians, Papua New Guineans and Others who had really distinguished careers in shaping the development in Papua New Guinea and across the Pacific region and guiding Papua New Guinea's nation hood even.
JB: People to people engagement has always been important hasn't it with Australia and the Pacific neighbours you can't wait around for government all these times can you, you have got to be people led?
AW: That is right yes, it has to be people led I think and there's a lot of NGOs and and I guess we are hoping that our proposal will get up and then we would be looking at playing a co-ordinating role with a wider group of organisations with similar objectives. So really it needs to be a centre that engages the people of Australia and the Pacific a community centre for everybody.
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