27 Oct 2007

Few Australians know much about their Pacific neighbours - says academic

9:03 am on 27 October 2007

An academic at the Australian National University College of Pacific and Asian Studies says Australians urgently need to address a blind spot they have for their Pacific neighbours.

Katerina Teaiwa says the failure to implement key recommendations from a 2003 Senate inquiry, has also contributed to the country's lack of interest.

Dr Teaiwa says Australia gives hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to Pacific nations each year, and Pacific people play a disproportionately-large role in sporting teams and in the arts.

However, Dr Teaiwa says few people in Australia know much about the diverse, vast region to the east of the continent.

She says the Pacific, which covers one-third of the surface of the planet, has slipped to the margins in the Australian consciousness.

Dr Teaiwa said the Senate inquiry, which called for more education about Pacific cultures, had been ignored.

Dr Teaiwa says a new Pacific studies program at the ANU - the first of its kind in Australia - would help deliver a better understanding of our Pacific neighbours.