Secret report: Is Australia about to act on PNG?
NB, Michael & Kevin: CIA’s worrying data on PNG

ASOPA’s flame flickers weakly, but never dies


LATE LAST year the Australian Association for the Advancement of Pacific Studies (AAAPS) published A National Strategy for the Study of the Pacific - designed to improve Australia’s understanding and engagement with the region.

The report lays out a blueprint for more effectively developing regional relationships, and one of its key recommendations is to create an Australia-Papua New Guinea Institute. (You can see the report in its entirety here.)

The Institute wouldn’t be the Australian School of Pacific Administration, or the International Training Institute, so ruthlessly killed off by AusAID’s predecessor, but it would maintain the same spirit of intelligent engagement.

An annex to the report, authored by Prof Clive Moore of Queensland University and me, gives more detailed consideration to this matter. Here’s an extract…


TOO OFTEN, it seems Australia dispatches to the Pacific personnel who are under-prepared for their role.

The contributions these people make to national public services are frequently ineffective and may leave a residue of resentment amongst nationals whose high expectations were unrequited.

On the other hand, anecdotal evidence suggests that many Pacific Islands public servants, although equipped with a university degree, find difficulty in operating efficiently because an ‘idealised’ education in developed countries has not equipped them appropriately for the realities they face back home.

The foregoing examples all point to a ‘strategic imbalance’ in the relationship between Australia and Pacific islands nations at the point at which planning transforms into delivery.

This imbalance derives from a mismatch between the intentions and expectations of development aid and the realities of its implementation.

From 1947-73 the Australian Government operated the Australian School of Pacific Administration (ASOPA) at Mosman in Sydney. ASOPA’s main function was to train Australian patrol and education officers to work in Australian territories, primarily Papua New Guinea and the Northern Territory.

A core attribute of then training was to equip these young Australians for the precise cultural and physical environment in which they would have to deliver the desired public policy outcomes.

In 1973, with independence looming in PNG, ASOPA was integrated into the structure of the Australian Development Assistance Agency/Bureau as the International Training Institute.

It trained people, generally at the level of middle management, from developing nations in the Pacific, Asia, Africa and the Caribbean, generally in three-month programs in areas such as human resource management, industrial relations, health administration, communications development, educational administration etc. ITI was disestablished in 2001.

Conclusions of current relevance that can be derived from the cases of ASOPA and ITI are that specific training is needed to equip professionals to engage knowledgeably with the cultural and social environments in which they will be operating in the Pacific and that there is a beneficial effect when comparative country experience is brought to the training process by participants themselves.

There needs to be role equalization between sponsors and participants to avoid any suggestion of paternalism (top-down direction or “we’re helping you” intimations).

Great benefits occur from facilitated dialogue (including expert contributions) among people of influence in their own countries interacting, addressing issues and sharing knowledge with people of influence from other countries.

Read the full paper here.


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Peter Sandery

As a former student of ASOPA and a current Arts/Law undergraduate at James Cook University in Townsville, I can see how your idea could have merit.

Where would ANU's SSGM programme fit into your overall scheme of things? It would indeed be good if a foil to that Canberra-centric based organisation could be established.

I think there are two major problems that permeate the AusAID/DFAT based PNG programs:

1. The lack of reality, eg, training programs taking absolutely no cognisance of attrition rates; and

2. The anti-Kiap attitude which has permeated nearly all of the underlying programs and policy to date.

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