This is the final reflection from our PhD students who attended the recent Australia Association for Pacific Studies conference in Canberra, by Stacey Kokaua-Balfour.
As someone who has only recently started their PhD, the recent AAPS conference was my first time attending an academic conference. I have come away with not only new questions but the awareness of new geographic and intellectual contexts that might shape those questions. What resonated most with me as someone who has operated in Pacific spaces in Aotearoa for some time, was the way our nation state and its distinct geo-political interests can shape not only how Pacific region and their peoples are framed but also what are considered the most important priorities for academic research.
AAPS was an opportunity to engage with Indigenous thinkers across cultures, nation state borders, languages, breaking across specific colonial interests in the Pacific. The Welcome to Country led by Aunty Serena Williams (Ngunnawal – Wiradjuri) best articulated the idea that as researchers, our best ideas spring from coming together and sharing the distinct and nuanced ways Indigenous peoples engage with land and each other.
The following is a reflective piece from Karamea Moana Wright, one of Te Tumu’s PhD candidates in Pacific Islands Studies.
The first Australia Association for Pacific Studies’ conference I participated in was held primarily online in 2021, with separate hubs in Aotearoa and Australia. Because we were in groups on our own campuses, I don’t think I fully understood the magnitude or value of the conference and the association itself until this month, when I attended for the first time in person.
The four days in Canberra at the Australian National University were packed with phenomenal panels, plenaries, roundtables, and whakawhanaungatanga with incredible Pacific thinkers, researchers, artists, leaders, and poets influential in our region and discipline.
This conference opened my eyes in greater measure to salient contemporary conversations taking place in the field, how my own research sits within the broader landscape of Māori, Pacific, and Indigenous Studies, and to see what is possible in my work moving forward. The AAPS conference has left me hopeful, motivated, refreshed, rejuvenated, and encouraged, underscoring the necessity to return for the next AAPS conference in 2023, held in Sydney.