30 March 2016
The University of the Sunshine Coast is about to launch an Australian Centre for Pacific Islands Research (ACPIR) to help create a positive difference in the Pacific Islands region.
The research centre will be based at the University’s Sippy Downs campus and provide a focal point for the expertise of 25 USC academics from a wide range of disciplines, all working on Pacific Island research projects.
Headed by Professor of Geography Patrick Nunn and co-directed by Professors Paul Southgate and Steven Underhill, its research activities are set to range from health, agriculture and aquaculture to sustainability and climate science.
Professor Underhill, who specialises in Pacific horticulture, said USC’s projects were already having positing impacts in countries such as Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu.
“We have the skills and experience to make a real, on-the-ground impact in some areas of the Pacific that are desperately poor,” he said.
“There are probably proportionately more Pacific experts working at USC than at any other university in Australia and we wanted to collaborate and connect all that expertise and experience.
“ACPIR is very purposely created as a cross-faculty, cross-disciplinary centre, so that we can bring in experts from fields as diverse as sustainability, health, horticulture, fisheries and climate science.
“We’ve already had some incredible success stories, but in establishing this centre we’ll be able to get a better view of the overall impact that USC is having in the Pacific region.”
Since just 2013, USC academics have authored nearly 50 peer-reviewed publications on the Pacific. Currently, USC academics are helping individuals and groups in the Pacific establish canarium nut and pearl industries, develop climate change adaption strategies and improve health and safety standards for food.
Professor Underhill said while many Pacific countries were well-known as tourist destinations, most Australians were unaware of the high levels of poverty experienced by the local people.
“There’s a disconnect between the view that most people have of the Pacific as a resort destination with beautiful beaches and the reality for the desperately poor communities that we work with,” he said.
“With ACPIR, we have the opportunity to use our resources to help create sustainable change for these populations.”
— Gen Kennedy