Sadly, Australia has traditionally demonstrated an absence of curiosity and respect for Pacific communities on this entrance. If we need to be part of the Pacific household, we should work to develop our instructional engagement with them.
Within the early Fifties the Australian authorities provided some scholarships to Pacific territories (that is earlier than they had been impartial states). The scheme was known as the South East Asian Scholarships, which – unsurprisingly – induced some confusion in these Pacific territories.
It was written about within the Pacific Islands Month-to-month – with the writer clarifying that it wasn’t as a result of “somebody in Australia had confused his geography“. The sign right here was clear – the Australian authorities needed to present some scholarships to Pacific Island territories, but it surely didn’t need to create a scholarship particularly for that space.
It cared, however not as a lot because it cared about different diplomatic relationships.
This was not the one instance I got here throughout in researching Mandates and Missteps: Australian Authorities Scholarships to the Pacific – 1948 to 2018. What has develop into very clear was the way in which through which Australian governments over the many years have used insurance policies and packages within the Pacific – particularly in training – that had been designed for different contexts.
This has impacted the success of those packages however has additionally impacted on Australia’s relationship with the territories after which impartial nations within the Pacific.
Examples of diplomatic failures embody the Australian authorities being blindsided by the Solomon Islands safety pact with China, and blunders embody Australia’s Chief of the Opposition Peter Dutton’s “joke” about rising sea ranges.
These examples could be seen to show an absence of respect, or consideration for the wants of the Pacific neighborhood. Offering options to issues of the Pacific which can be designed with and by the folks of the Pacific is important to Australia’s pursuits – that is very true relating to tertiary training.
Within the Fifties and 60s Australia performed a job as coloniser and regional chief within the Pacific, and assumed a degree of energy and standing that was tied to Empire and race hierarchies.
Now, Australia goes to nice lengths to enhance its diplomatic ties with Pacific Island nations to fight the perceived safety risk posed by Chinese language affect within the area and handle the realities of local weather change.
However many selections made by Australian governments during the last decade – from assuming assist and the selection to buy nuclear powered submarines as a part of the AUKUS deal – have demonstrated Australia’s failure to know (or preparedness to disregard) the cultures and politics of what at the moment are impartial Pacific Island nations.
That’s not to say there isn’t any particular training funding offered to the Pacific. There may be some assist to universities (such because the College of the South Pacific and College of Papua New Guinea), there may be TVET assist by means of the Australia Pacific Coaching Coalition to fund vocational coaching packages, and DFAT funds a Pacific Analysis Undertaking run by the Lowy Institute and the Australian Nationwide College.
There may be additionally a small scholarship for Pacific college students to check at Pacific universities.
“In the case of the Australia Awards scholarships, the necessities of what’s a world program usually are not essentially suited to Pacific contexts”
However relating to the Australia Awards scholarships, the most important and most seen program, the necessities of what’s a world program usually are not essentially suited to Pacific contexts. Additionally missing is an actual focus of the Australian worldwide training neighborhood on the Pacific.
College students are in a position to entry alternatives within the Pacific by means of the New Colombo Plan, however once more this was a program designed for South East Asia that was expanded to the Pacific.
So, what ought to the Australian authorities and the Australian training neighborhood do to develop into extra engaged with the Pacific communities with whom we share historical past, and importantly a future?
Altering the way in which the worldwide training neighborhood views the Pacific is one place to begin.
Transnational partnerships and assist throughout Pacific universities – and not using a give attention to revenue, however a give attention to capability growth – can be a terrific place to begin. A brand new co-designed scholarship that focuses on the necessity of the Pacific particularly would even be of profit.
Assets and assist for alternate between Australian and Pacific universities, and a give attention to educating Australian college students extra in regards to the shared historical past of Australia and the Pacific would pay dividends for the connection between Australia and Pacific Island nations sooner or later.
And extra Australian universities have to do extra to assist Pacific college students to come back to Australia, and to assist their very own teachers to work with Pacific communities to advance our shared pursuits.
Australia shares a major historical past with the Pacific, and our futures are intertwined. Understanding one another higher could make navigating that future just a bit bit simpler.
Concerning the writer: Anna Kent is an Govt and Undertaking Officer within the School of Arts and Training at Deakin College. Anna is a Senior Fellow of the Worldwide Training Affiliation of Australia and was the inaugural convener of the IEAA Scholarships and Fellowships Community. She is because of publish a guide analyzing Australia’s training engagement with Pacific Island nations.