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Pacific Cultures and Societies


RTEmagicC_pacific_cultures001_01.jpgPacific cultures and societies are central to the USP mission, vision and values and as a Strategic Theme it permeates every aspect of the Strategic Plan. It underlines not only the concept and functions of the University itself, but stems from the peoples and nations it serves. Central to the positioning of the University as the leader in Pacific Studies, Arts and Culture will include the creation of an internationally recognised Centre for Visual and Performing Arts and Pacific Heritage. The Centre will showcase and promote Pacific talent in areas of dance, music, arts, creative writing, Pacific languages, Pacific knowledge, beliefs and value systems, and the creation of innovative and interdisciplinary programmes that draw upon creative and academic research focusing on the Pacific, enhancing the role of USP internationally as the leading curator and distributor of Pacific content.

This SRT deals with the following broad themes: Original Peoples and Settlement of Oceania; Western Contact and Struggles for Self-Determination; Oceanian Cultures and Globalizing Influences; Pacific Diaspora and a New Oceania. 






Traditional Ecologic Knowledge (TEK) effects on sustainable use of marine resources in the Pacific Islands in relation to sociocultural change and climate change-a pilot study in Fiji

Project Leader: Dr Susanna Piovano

Team Members: Dr John Lowry, FSTE
Dr Jacqueline Ryle, FALE
Dr Joeli Veitayaki, FSTE

Funding: $50,000

Duration: 18 months

Overview of Project

The primary goal of this project is to evaluate TEK effects on resilience and sustainable use of marine resources in the Pacific Islands in realtion to sociocultural change and climate change, by proposing a pilot project in Fiji.  TEK is a reliable, rapid and low cost information source with great potential for improving fisheries management.  This pilot project will allow USP to emerge as a centre of excellence where science and tradition work hand in hand build communities resilience in the area of use of the resources at time of climate and social changes.  Results from this project will be used to prepare a paper that will be submitted to an ISI Journal.

Culture and Its Role in Violence against Women in Vanuatu

Team Members:

Sofia Shah, Assistant Lecturer, School of Law, Faculty of Arts, Law and Education. (Leader)

Carol Aru, Vanuatu Coordinator, College of Foundation Studies, USP.

Funding: FJ$41,707.00

Duration: July 2016 – March 2018

Overview of Project

There have been many incidents of violence against women in Vanuatu in 2015.

  • This project will examine the various cultures of Vanuatu and if they facilitate, condone or contribute towards violence against women. This project will also examine who are these violators, whether individuals or communities. It will identify the problems in these societies which lead to such violence being committed against women and recommend ways to address these problems so that the government and the people of Vanuatu can work together to eliminate violence against women in Vanuatu.
  • Once this project is completed, it will be published by USP and used as a research on information database for staff and students.

 Completed Projects

(PIURN) A sea of norms laws and other orders in the South Pacific

Team Members: Dr Sean Donlan (Principal Investigator)

Joseph Foukona and Morsen Moses, USP School of Law

Jara Hulkenberg (Pacific Studies),

Anita Jowitt (Law),

Don Paterson (Law),

Jacqueline Ryle (Social Sciences (Sociology)

Frank R Thomas (Pacific Studies), and

Morgan Tuimalealiifano (Social Sciences (History)

External Collaborators: Etienne Cornut, Law and Vice President, l’Université de Nouvelle-Calédonie), Chris Ballard (History, l’Université de la Polynésie Française) Leslie Vandeputte-Tavo (Anthropology, l’Université de Nouvelle-Calédonie), Tamatoa Bambridge (Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS) and Centre de Recherche Insulaire et Observatoire de l’Environnement (CRIOBE, French Polynesia), Shannaugh Dorsett (University of Technology, Sydney (Australia), and Editor, law&history), Miranda Forsyth (Australian National University)    

Funding: FJD$ 33,145

Duration: October 2017 – December 2018

Overview of Project

The project brings together scholars from across the Pacific for a critical, multidisplinary review of the methods used to understand and analyses the laws and norms of the region.  Central to its work will be regional case studies, both of the past and present, in which these methods are employed.  The project’s aims are pursued through an event in which its review takes place, a network through which its work can continue and publication of the scholarship it generates.

Sustainability Archaeology’ and Landscape Transformation on Abaiang Atoll, Republic of Kiribati

Project Leader: Dr Frank Thomas

Team Members: Dr Kambati Uriam, Division of History, SOSS, FALE.
Dr Michelle McKeown, School of Geography, Earth Science and Environment,    FSTE.
Dr Eleanor John, School of Geography, Earth Science and Environment, FSTE.
Dr Yann Tristant, Department of Ancient History, Macquarie University.
Professor Stephen Gale, Department of Archaeology, Sydney University.

Funding: $45,926.40

Duration: 1yr (Jan 2017-Jan 2018)

Overview of Project

Low coral islands are often perceived as marginal habitats for human settlement. This is view is supported by the small and fragmented landmass, poor soils, lack of perennial surface freshwater, and extreme vulnerability to flooding by storm waves, and more recently, rising sea-level attributed to climate change. Despite considerable landscape transformation during the last 2,000 years, the atolls and table reefs of Kiribati supported communities that appeared to have achieved sustainability. This project on Abaiang Atoll aims to examine the likely mechanisms that resulted in balancing people with their environment by drawing from archaeological, ethnobotanical, ethnographic, and historical ecology data.

A better understanding of the past can provide some of the knowledge and tools for sustainable livelihoods, thereby strengthening resilience of communities and their ecosystems in the face of new challenges of growing population, altered land- and seascapes, escalating climate-related hazards, and changes in community and individual needs on coral islands across the Pacific region.

A community-based approach to sustainability transcending climate change adaptation is needed to build capacity for civil society throughout Kiribati by providing diachronic, as well as synchronic data in support of social and ecosystem health and well-being. By engaging with various Government Ministries, Local Government, NGOs, and communities, this project also hopes to assist with the preservation and management of cultural and natural heritage of Kiribati, as well as the relevant capacity-building needs that may be required at the national and outer islands levels with key stakeholder groups. In addition to reports, results will be disseminated in several A and A*-ranked publications.


Past human activities in the Seseleka hill fort in western Vanua Levu, Fiji

Project Leader: Dr Michelle Mckeown

Team Members: Dr Frank Thomas, OCACPS

Prof Patrick Nunn, University of the Sunshine Coast Australia

Funding: $29,690

Duration: 2 years

Overview of Project

The aim of this project is to provide more knowledge on human activities at a hillfort site over the past 1, 000 to 2, 000 years.  We will reconstruct past environmental conditions using evidence sourced from a rock pool located within the Seseleka hill fort in western Vanua Levu, including pollen, plant macrofossil, insects and microscopic charcoal.  This will provide an insight into the type of human activities that took place in the hill forts, which will greatly compliment the archaeological record.

Pacific Worlds Online: A Cultural Heritage & Action/Training/Research Project

Cluster Sub-theme: Pacific Worlds OnlineProject Team Leader: Dr Lea Lani KauvakaTeam Members: Dr Reginald Rudrud, Dr RDK (Doug) Herman, 2 Graduate Assistants, 1 Language AdvisorFunding: $29,724.60Duration: November 2013 to March 2014

Overview of Project:

The purpose of this proposed USP Project is to expend the scope of the project to include website focusing on indigenous communities in all 12 USP member countries, thereby strengthening Priority Area 1 Learning and Teaching, and Priority Area 4 Regional and Community Engagement, of the USP Strategic Plan


Pacific Culture


From the Island to the Urban, Positioning Contemporary Pacific Art in a Global Arena

Cluster Sub-theme: Contemporary Pacific Art

Project Team Leader: Karen Stevenson

Team Members: Mr Lai Veikoso, Mr Peter Espiritu, Ms Johanna Beasley, Ms Mary Rokonadravu, Australian Print Workshop (Melbourne), Rako Dance Group (Suva Vou, Suva)

Funding: $52,033

Duration: 1 year from February 2013

Overview of Project:

Pacific Art

Pacific Art

This project application asks for support to plan and implement a series of events/activities to enhance the international understanding and acceptance of contemporary Pacific (Fijian) arts.

From the Island to the Urban, Positioning Cotemporary Pacific Art in a Global Arena aims to aid in the development of the Pacific’s creative industries, including dance, visual and heritage arts. These projects will fund and enhance the skills, opportunities, and knowledge about the contemporary arts of the Pacific.

They will facilitate three main objectives:

  • Increased awareness of the scope and social/historical context of contemporary art within the Pacific
  • Increased awareness and acceptance of contemporary Pacific arts internationally
  • Provision of support and raising awareness of business opportunities to support contemporary artists within the region.

Drua Culture Oral Tradition/Knowledge Collection Project

Cluster Sub-theme: Pacific Peoples and Settlements

Project Team Leader: Peter Nuttall

Team Members: Prof. Vilsoni Hereniko, Dr Lea Kauvaka, Jonathan Ritchie, Kaiafa Ledua, Paula Liga, Peni Vunaki, Colin Philp, Bob Tuxson, Marty Williams, Manoa Rasigatale, Dr Morgan Tuimalealiifano

Funding: FJD19, 960

Duration of Project: November 2011 to January 2012


Overview of Project:
This project aims to assemble, collate, record, preserve, and enhance oral traditions and knowledge of “drua Culture” (i.e. all related knowledge to sailing, navigating, drua construction and operation) held culturally by the central Oceanic cultures that designed and operated the drua (Tonga kalia, Samoa ‘alia).

The drua (c.1700-1900) is generally acknowledged as the finest sailing vessel ever built in Oceania, a technologically superior design that resulted as a cross cultural collaboration between Viti, Tonga, Samoa and Micronesia with linkages extending to New Caledonia, Tokelau, Niue, Rotuma, Futuna and Uvea. It is arguably the greatest technological legacy of these cultures and a central icon and motif of central Oceania.

Today, living knowledge of these vessels and their related culture is almost extinct. Written records of drua construction and related culture have been collated by FIVS. Almost all have been recorded through a western lens. No extensive or recent attempt has been made to assemble the surviving knowledge held orally and culturally. Known sources of such knowledge are thought to reside with only a small group of identified elders, almost exclusively from a limited number of Lau Islands.

Collating the remnant cultural record is a critical step to preserving this culture and essential to developing a renaissance of sailing culture. Such traditional knowledge is an intellectual indigenous property of the informants, their ancestors, and their descendants. As such the research will discuss best practice methods of ensuring the knowledge recorded is appropriately preserved and protected. This project is restricted to recording the knowledge held in Fiji but resultant research is expected to extend this to the wider drua “catchment”.




ARTS RAISING AWARENESS: Responses to a changing Pacific environment: Artists Workshop and Seminars, School Outreach, Exhibition

Project Leader:Ms. Johanna Beasley

Team Members:Greg Downey
Frank Thomas

Funding: $28,870


Duration: 5 months (March to July 2015)

Overview of Project

This project ARTS RAISING AWARENESS is the sequel to our inaugural “EcoArt” workshop in 2013.  We are building on the work accomplished during our inaugural first workshop with Uluinakorovatu Primary School Naceva Village Beqa in 2013 another with Beqa Yanuca Raviravi Secondary School in 2014.

A more formal research aspect will be included in the 2015 project to evaluate participants responses in our return visit to Uluinakorovatu Primary School Naceva Village Beqa this will take the formal questionnaires.

In addition, collaboration with Macquarie University will allow us to create a permanent online exhibition from the project.  The 2015 project includes new artists, and for the first time international collaboration to document and develop our initial pilot further, especially through multimedia and online display, allowing the project to have a much broader enduring impact.

This workshop will encourage work around the themes of climate change and adaption to a changing environment, themes that will be supported in the online exhibition by texts and video.



Project title – From The Island to the Urban, Positioning Contemporary Pacific Art in a Global Arena

  • Workshops provided by Australian Print
  • Workshop and Master Lai will build the artistic skills of the artists involved

Project title – Pacific Worlds Online: A Cultural Heritage & Action/Training/Research Project

  • Training sessions were held intermittently for three months between March-June 2014

Project title – ARTS RAISING AWARENESS: Responses to a changing Pacific environment: Artists Workshop and Seminars, School Outreach, Exhibition

  • Workshops for children and staff
  • Seminars

Other - (Productions/Exhibitions)

Project title – Drua Culture Oral Tradition/Knowledge Collection Project

  • Vaka: The Birth of a Seer and Drua: The Wave of Fire Production and DVDs (DVDs available in the Research office)

Project title – From The Island to the Urban, Positioning Contemporary Pacific Art in a Global Arena

  • 100 Men Dancing Production (not in the repository have emailed Peter Espiritu to upload it into USPERR)
  •  A photographic exhibition of the Pacific’s natural heritage sites (Pacific Heritage Hub)
  • A “heritage arts” display at the Oceania Centre Pavilion (with carvers, mat makers and masi makers present to demonstrate and discuss these arts (Fiji Arts Council)

Project title – Pacific Worlds Online: A Cultural Heritage & Action/Training/Research Project

  • Photographs (available in the USB)

Project title – ARTS RAISING AWARENESS: Responses to a changing Pacific environment: Artists Workshop and Seminars, School Outreach, Exhibition