Who we are
Established in 1996 and funded in partnership by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and ANU, DPA is the leading international centre for applied multidisciplinary research and analysis concerning contemporary state, society and governance issues in Melanesia and the broader Pacific. Situated within the Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs, DPA seeks to set the international standard for scholarship on the region.
In 2016, 20 years since its inception, DPA comprises over 65 research active scholars, with a staffing profile of 21 academics, bolstered by 15 emeriti or honorary appointees and 30 PhD scholars. DPA’s strengths lie in its critical mass of expertise and knowledge, the applied and long-term nature of its research, in its extensive engagement with policy communities in the region, in its demonstrated commitment to research training and research capacity building, and its position within a leading international university.
Our staff, students and visiting fellows have backgrounds in political science, anthropology, human geography, law, gender studies and development studies. Individually and collaboratively, DPA staff, students, and visiting fellows are engaged in high quality policy-relevant research on our immediate region. DPA was established as, and continues to be, a highly dedicated group of researchers with unsurpassed knowledge of the countries of the region and a commitment to long term research. Our staff have all lived, worked and researched there for long periods of time — undertaking fieldwork, teaching in universities, working at research institutes, and advising regional governments, donor agencies and Non-Government Organisations. It is through such long-term engagement that DPA researchers have attained deep understandings of the complex social, cultural and political factors that underpin these societies and impact on their development. DPA researchers continue to undertake fieldwork and have a strong commitment to the region and to its people and their future.
Our researchers are acknowledged experts on major ‘hot-spots’ of tension and conflict in Papua New Guinea (such as Bougainville, the Southern Highlands Province and Hela Province), the Solomon Islands, Fiji and Timor-Leste. Research on Australia’s closest neighbour, Papua New Guinea, has long been a priority for DPA and we have 28 researchers, whose research experiences totals in excess of 300 years (including 8 who have 51 years research experience of Bougainville).
Several things set DPA apart from other research programs in Australia and abroad. These are our regional focus (the program focuses on Australia’s small neighbours – PNG, Solomon Islands, Fiji, Timor-Leste, Vanuatu and New Caledonia), our demonstrated commitment to long-term research and engagement with the region, our multi-disciplinary approach, our engagement with critical policy issues, our demonstrated ability to undertake research in extremely challenging environments, including conflict-affected areas, and our location in a leading international university with a long and outstanding record of research in the region.
Our research and analysis is cross disciplinary and is situated squarely at the intersection between disciplinary and area studies. It is also evidence-based and built on a foundation of long term empirical research. These are major strengths that add considerable depth to our work. Increasingly, our research and analysis is also informed by, and engages with, comparative work at the international level.
Thus far our research has covered a range of issues including decentralisation policy; law and justice policy; restorative justice; constitution-making processes and constitutional design and implementation in post-conflict situations; electoral systems in small states; conflict resolution processes in relation to intra-state conflict; the HIV epidemic; gender-based violence; and state-building.
Over the next four years, DPA researchers will continue to work on the issues affecting our near neighbours. This will include research on women’s economic empowerment; women’s leadership, including women’s participation and political representation; women entrepreneurs; sorcery and witchcraft related accusations and the violence that ensues; gender based violence and interventions to prevent it; the use and impact of social media in the region; labour migration and seasonal worker schemes; the Bougainville Peace Agreement and the Bougainville referendum; mining in Bougainville; the social impacts of the PNG LNG project; elections in Solomon Islands, Fiji, Papua and New Caledonia; the referenda in New Caledonia; contemporary leadership in Melanesia and the broader Pacific; regionalism; state building; the nature of contemporary conflict and peacebuilding; law and justice, including transitional justice; service delivery; informal economies; migration and settlement; population growth and food security; resource conflicts; and the governance of conflict.
Our research is oriented around three thematic clusters:
- Gender, Health, Social Development & Migration
- Politics, Elections, Leadership & Governance
- Resources, Conflict and Justice
One of DPA’s core objectives is to ensure the relevance of its research so that it engages with issues of critical importance to Pacific island countries. One of the ways we do this is by developing and maintaining collaborative relationships and linkages with regional institutions and recognised international research institutions. These relationships help to ensure that DPA is linked in to the latest thinking and research in and on the region.
DPA enjoys close working relationships with regional governments, civil society and donor agencies. In July 2013, DPA entered into a new four-year strategic partnership with DFAT that has provided for a significant increase in our research program. Since October 2013 the Centre for Democratic Institutions [link] has been co-located with and operated by DPA, resulting in benefits to both DPA and CDI, including a strengthened research-policy-programming nexus. DPA’s research on governance in Melanesia informs CDI’s programming activities in the region so that they are well-targeted. Collaboration between DPA researchers and CDI program staff supports evidence-based policy making and enhanced program design.
DPA is undertaking substantial research collaborations with the International Women’s Development Agency and CARE PNG.
To conduct applied policy-relevant research and advance analysis on social change, governance, development, politics and state-society relations in Melanesia, Timor-Leste and the wider Pacific in order to provide the research and evidence base for better informed policy-making and programs on and in the countries of our region;
- To undertake high quality scholarly research that engages with the larger questions of our disciplines;
- To expand and sustain a network of Australian, regional and international research institutions and individual researchers undertaking applied research in the region;
- To communicate research findings to the policy making community effectively, through discussion papers, policy briefs, commentary and analysis pieces, provision of training programs, in-house seminars, briefings and policy advice; and
- To train and nurture the next generation of Pacific & Timor-Leste researchers, whilst supporting activities that build the capacity of local researchers from the region.