Monday, June 29, 2009

Couple fight Pacific nuclear wall of silence

By Pippa Brown: Pacific Media Centre

Cook Islander Tau Greig and her husband Wayne Meyer hope this month’s granting of the right to sue over British nuclear testing in the Pacific will be the turning point in their private battle to succeed.

They are tired of fighting the wall of silence that greets them when they open up the debate.

They now want someone to help coordinate the victims and their descendants affected by the radiation from these tests.

About 1000 veterans from Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Britain, who took part in atomic tests in the 1950s, won the right to sue Britain’s Ministry of Defence for exposure to radiation.

From their first letter to British Prime Minister John Major, 14 years ago, Tau Greig and Wayne Meyer have been fighting - and they are sick and tired of it. Other letters have been written to other ministers as well, among them former prime ministers Tony Blair, Jim Bolger and Helen Clark, and Phil Goff and Winston Peters.

They feel they have been ignored by the New Zealand and Cook Island governments who they think should assist them.

It is hard to recognise that Tau Greig was a very competitive sportsperson.

Greig is now in an Auckland rehabilitation home and has been told her condition is degenerative.

She is in a wheelchair, has difficulty speaking and is dependent on 24-hour care.

Sea sickness
It was 14 years ago that Meyer realised his wife Tau was sick, when after a bout of sea sickness she never got better. It took another 10 years before a diagnosis of the genetic disease spinocerebellar ataxia was made.

Her diagnosis is atypical, in other words, she only carries three to four genetic imprints and not the 10 that make up the disease.

“It doesn’t fully conform to the diagnosis,” says Meyer.

They think Tau’s ill-health is related to nuclear radiation exposure received from Britain’s Operation Grapple tests in the Pacific during the 1950s at Christmas and Malden Islands.

About 50 years ago, when Greig was only 10 years old, she and her family witnessed a test while playing on the island of Rakahanga, in the northern Cooks, when she saw a brilliant flash across the sky. Then the ground shook.

In the evening the sky turned red and stayed red all week. A few days later the lagoon became white and frothy. The fish all died and floated on the surface. The villagers burnt the fish.

The Grapple tests happened 10 years after the Japanese were devastated by nuclear bombs in Hiroshima. It is hard to believe they thought it was safe, says Meyer.

“We were never told to leave.

They said they would come back,” says Greig as she struggles to talk.

“They never gave food and never came back,” Meyer says.

Exploding bomb
The aircraft carrier HMS Warrior visited Rakahanga and advised the islanders they were going to explode an atmospheric hydrogen bomb over Christmas Island, north of Rakahanga. The islanders were told not to drink the water nor eat any vegetation or fish for the next three to four months.

“The Warrior never came back so we had to live on coconuts for the next three or four months,” writes Greig in an earlier letter to the British Home Office.

It is thought to be one of the biggest hydrogen bomb tests ever recorded, says Meyer.

After the bomb families started dying as soon as the next day, a lot of children died. They got dysentery and started vomiting and died, says Meyer.

“[Former Cook Islands Prime Minister Dr Terepai] Maoate told the people they had dysentery because they were unclean,” he says.

In fairness to him he said he didn’t know what caused the children to get sick and die, says Meyer.

“We don’t know how many died.

“There are no records,” says Meyer.

Sir Terepai Maoate, who worked as a young doctor on neighbouring Manihiki Island, told a Cook Islands Research Association conference in 2008 that he had treated fatal cases of diarrhoea and vomiting. He said he had seen people with enlarged thyroids, but there had not been any connection to nuclear testing.

Birth defects
There were a lot of children born with the birth defect club foot in the northern Cooks, says Meyer.

“The islanders buried their limbs in the sand to stop them twisting, but a lot still died.

“People left the northern Cooks because they thought there was a curse on them,” says Meyer.

He says the Cook Islands government refuses to acknowledge the likelihood of damage because of the distance of Rakahanga from the Christmas and Malden Islands. There was a no-go zone of 400 nautical miles.

It is estimated that the northern Cooks are in an area 300–500 miles south-west of Malden Island.

Roy Sefton, nuclear test veteran and chairman of New Zealand Veterans Association, served on the ship HMNZS Rotoiti during Operation Grapple. He suffered his first bout of ill-health at 21 which has continued throughout his adult life.

The HMS Warrior was part of an exercise involving most of the ships at Operation Grapple where their job was “showing the flag” aiming to generally placate and ease any fears Islanders had, says Sefton.

The area of the exclusion zone that was declared dangerous to ship and aircraft covered 750,000 sq miles but there was no logic to how this zone was drawn up he says. It was not drawn out in a square or circle and there are large areas that are just cut out from the edge of the square in the ocean.

“It looks very much like a doctored scenario,” says Sefton.

Wind hotspots
The only reason he can think that this was done was to lessen the concern of people on the islands.

“Even with exclusion zones there is no guarantee that the radiation will stop exactly at that point,” says Sefton.

Other factors such as the unpredictability of wind at altitude and the phenomena of hotspots or blowback affect the spread.

Hotspots and blowback are created where either large or small areas are affected by radioactive fallout that has been blown together as weather conditions change. It was predicted that the wind would blow in a north easterly direction for 5000 sq miles but it may not have, he says.

“There may have been areas which were quite a considerable distance outside the exclusion zone where these hotspots have occurred,” says Sefton.

In 1973, the New Zealand government took a legal case against the French nuclear testing at Moruroa Atoll through the International Court of Justice at The Hague.

They argued about the danger of the tests and consequential spread of radiation to the population and environment of the radiation in New Zealand and other Pacific Islands, says Sefton.

“In relation to Tau’s case, it illustrates the ability of radioactive materials to go anywhere,” he says.

Grapple 4 was a particularly dirty bomb and it made atomic bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki look like firecrackers,” says Sefton.

Painless, invisible
“If you have been impregnated with this stuff, it’s painless and invisible and you don’t know about it.

“If you get hit with a bit of shrapnel you know and you have an idea if you are going to survive or not,” he says.

Dr Al Rowlands is the molecular scientist and the lead researcher of the Massey University study which strongly influenced the veterans’ win to sue Britain’s Ministry of Defence.

In his research, Dr Rowlands found huge disparities between the control group and veterans group.

The control group showed genetic damage of 10 translocations per 1000 cells against the veteran’s group where the frequency was 29 translocations per 1000 cells. In comparison workers close to the Chernobyl accident and clean-up had about 20 translocations per 1000 cells.

“The New Zealand government never fail to surprise me,” says Sefton.

Back in 1973, when they took their case to court at The Hague in a very well researched case on the dangers and ill-health of radiation to the Pacific, they would have spoken with a lot of expert advice.

Sefton claims the government and Veteran Affairs have applied double standards and never used this information.

• This week French Polynesian nuclear test veterans, who had their case for compensation rejected, have vowed to fight on. The French government has previously said it would compensate for any victims from nuclear testing carried out in French Polynesia from 1960 until 1996.

Eight former test site workers who took their case to the Tahiti court have been unsuccessful because under local ruling the complaints cannot be ruled on.

Top picture: Tau Greig and husband Wayne Meyer in Auckland 2009 (Pippa Brown) and above, on Rarotonga 2008.

Pippa Brown is an AUT Graduate Diploma in Journalism student on internship with the Pacific Media Centre.

British nuclear test Grapple Y 1958
Cook Islanders may have been exposed to radiation

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Thousands of Pacific children 'miss out on school'

By Pippa Brown: Pacific Media Centre

Thousands of Pacific children – possibly up to 5000 – may be missing out on education in New Zealand because their parents are overstayers, says a Pasifika school trustee spokesperson.

“It is an issue that affects not just Pacific students, but all students whose parents are non-residents, no matter where they come from,” says Ben Taufua from the Pacific Island School Trustees Aotearoa.

A select committee looking into New Zealand’s relationship with Pacific Island countries has been told hundreds of Pacific children were missing out on education, according to Radio New Zealand.

Ben Taufua from the Pacific Island School Trustees Aotearoa, told the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee in Manukau City that granting overstayers amnesty might help.

Taufua later told the Pacific Media Centre that the figures were probably much higher and New Zealand needed to take responsibility otherwise thousands of children may end up without access to health or education.

He says these children have lost their voice because they have been tied into the immigration status.

“Their rights have been breached.

“It is not their choice they end up being here,” he says.

Taufua said although Dr Jonathan Coleman, who has both the Minister of Immigration and Associate Minister of Health portfolios, said on Radio New Zealand that every child had access to education, he had failed to say that every child in New Zealand can access free education and free health.

Huge problem
“It is huge,” says Taufua. “We are talking about a generation of people without education and who when they grow up might still be in our system.

“To do nothing about this issue is both immoral and criminal,” says Taufua.

He says New Zealand needs to honour its signature to the Ottawa Charter and give children free education and health.

“The Labour government initiated a law that says children born in New Zealand of non-residential parents are not automatically New Zealanders,” says Taufua. He wants to see this changed.

Taufua told the committee that they must deal with immigration issues that affect these people as their children are suffering.

According to Radio New Zealand, Makelita Kolo, from the Tongan community, said the children rarely got health care and never used their own name when they saw a doctor. Select committee chairman John Hayes responded by saying the amnesty call was beyond the scope of the committee’s brief.

Pippa Brown is an AUT Graduate Diploma in Journalism student on internship with the Pacific Media Centre.

Potential Pacific school trustees sought
Hundreds of Pacific Island children not at school
Taufua says more needs to be done to demystify university education for Pasifika peoples

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Moala explores Tongan democracy and identity issues

By Pippa Brown: Pacific Media Centre

Publisher and broadcaster Kalafi Moala led an intimate and spirited philosophical public discussion last night on what it means to be Tongan with a sense of place in the world.

The issues of modern Tonga and how to take the country forward without losing its sense of identity dominated the discussion as the kingdom moves into a fresh era as it progresses toward developing a new constitution.

When Tongans express a sense for democracy there is also a voice saying “please don’t touch my Tonganness, my identity that was established over 3000 years ago,” says Moala.

“Even radical reformists do not want to break up this system.”

Moala, who publishes both the Taimi ‘o Tonga and Tonga Chronicle, was being hosted by the Pacific Media Centre at AUT University to talk about his new book In Search of the Friendly Islands and the constitutional reform consultations.

As the problems of diaspora and the dispersing of people and culture become greater with the issues of globalisation, consequential loss of identity were likely to become more prominent, he says.

Moala introduced the statement, ‘I belong, therefore I am’, and contrasted it to ‘I think, therefore I am’, as being fundamentally important to Tongans and other Pacific peoples in knowing who they are.

He says young people are starting to question who they are as they move among other social structures and although this can relate to anyone, it applies in particular to people in the Pacific.

The quest for identity is a huge thing in the sense that for so many years being Tongan has been taken for granted.

Social relationships
“It is not so much that ‘I have’ but my belonging that shapes everything else that I am,” says Moala.

“In Tonga, the social relationship starts with the family, from the immediate family to the kainga (extended family) which contribute to the grouping of the families who make up the village which combine together to become a region and a nation which then become the fonua.

Moala says the more people look at this belonging and social structure within Tonga, it shows how the relationships work within the family and the strong traditions and headships that lead.

“It’s the people, it’s the land, it’s the nation,” says Moala.

The difference is that Western identity is based on what a person does while Tongan and Pacific identity are based on who people are and the relationship with family, village and so on.

“It is not what you do that really matters in the relationship,” says Moala.

“I belong, therefore I am: Belonging is the relationship of who we are and how we base our relationships in Tonga,” says Moala.

The structure is clearly defined even before Christianity. It is always important that we have a head of the structure from the immediate family where the father figure protects, provides and teaches to the emotional support the mother brings, he says.

Within the relationship courtesy, loyalty, sharing and love are very much part of the social structure. In this sense of structure or Kainga there is always a headship person to relate to.
It is very clear in this society knowing who people relate to, family, kainga, village, and nation and within this nation, the head, says Moala.

“We as a nation are progressing toward reform and the people want changes to happen but they are saying please don’t let it affect my Tonganness and my relationships and relationships to the land and the issues that need to be resolved spiritually for our future,” he says.

Concept of land
Tongans have a strong relationship to the land. The Tongan concept of land and the spirit and life of the land we belong to always remains even as generations come and go, says Moala.

The system of tenure and generational inheritance remains in the sense of Tonganness when returning to the homeland.

“The issues of land extend to the ocean and seabed,” says Moala.

The oceanic kingdom of Tonga comprises 169 islands, 36 of them inhabited and extends over a distance of about 800 kilometres.

Spirituality plays a large part in Tonganness. Moala sees the strong thread of spirituality that binds the people in their relationship with one another and the land as becoming stronger.

“The movement of people across borders is opening up more spirituality as there is more out there to explore,” he says.

Modernisation has made some issues difficult to grasp within the Tongan and Pacific world which are clearly defined in Western terms.

“It is important for us to find conceptual tools that we can use to construct new thought patterns to allow us to find what we are looking for,” says Moala.

“As scholars, media and academics we are trying to probe into this new era of Pacifica and we need to find and create the right conceptual tools."

“The challenge of walking into the future is how we develop new tools,” he says.

Consensual methods
The consensual methods we traditionally use to provide solutions to problems are deep in our culture together with the peace and harmony that come with it says Moala.

He says one of the problems of cultural dispersion and diaspora is that wherever Tongans and Pacific Islanders are in the world they encounter these issues of identity.

“In international cities where there are large populations of Pacific Islanders churches become very important and almost like a refuge,” says Moala.

He thinks the Pacific as a region identifies with a lot of similar issues that we need to find a solution for.

“It is important to find the tools to walk down the aisle together and discover who we really are,” says Moala.

Vaea Hopoi is a student who also works with youth who are dependent on alcohol and drugs. He thinks the biggest problem for Polynesians is a loss of identity and not knowing where they come from.

“I believe you must know your history to know who you are now and to know where you are going in the future,” says Hopoi.

Moala questions why the Pacific region is trying to solve the current Fiji political problem in an confrontational way.

“Why not solve it in a Pacific way and let the Pacific sovereignty leaders meet Fiji and see how we can open up the dialogue,” he asks.

Moala thinks New Zealand is a country that is standing in confrontation with Fiji so Māori may offer a solution. Going in as an outsider hasn’t worked but to look at the issue as Pacific brothers in the broader sense of fonua may work.

New framework
“It hasn’t been solved within the current framework so we need to find another one,” he says.
He thinks the Forum had the right to suspend Fiji “but we don’t need to keep beating them up.”

Moala says the heads of government in the Pacific Island Forum may have some conflict with the duality of the Pacific and Western frameworks.

It is important to apply criticism and look at the challenges facing the Tongan and Pacific Island people he thinks. He says rather than standing outside and looking in we need to come to the culture.

“While it hurts talking about these things it feels good to be a part of it,” says Moala. “We need to report on it but report on it from our own perspective.”

David Robie, associate professor in communication studies at AUT and director of the Pacific Media Centre, commented on how Moala was one of the only journalists in the Pacific who is reflecting on these new issues of belongingness and sense of identity.

“Media reflects a society and its sense of identity and yet in the Pacific this is very much influenced by New Zealand and Australia,” says Dr Robie.

Moala thinks people need to learn to be comfortable with the two sides of traditional belonging and Western way of thinking, to overcome the confusion with identity.

He says some concepts cannot be explained because the tools are not there and “it may be a role for Pacific scholars to investigate and construct these tools and find how to put it in words”.

Top photo of Kalafi Moala last night by Pippa Brown; photo of Moala and Taimi in Nuku'alofa by David Robie. - PMC .

Pippa Brown is an AUT Graduate Diploma in Journalism student on internship with the Pacific Media Centre.

In Search of the Friendly Islands, by Kalafi Moala, published by the Pasifika Foundation
Taimi 'o Tonga

NZ media 'misses point' in visa scam, says Tongan group

By Josephine Latu: Pacific Media Watch

Tongan Advisory Council chairman Melino Maka (pictured) has criticised New Zealand’s mainstream media for “missing the point” in coverage of an alleged visa scam on Pacific Islanders.

Manukau-based immigration consultant, Gerrard Otimi, appeared in court yesterday and entered no pleas on three charges of deception.

The charges against Otimi involve the alleged stamping of passports with visas for overstaying Pacific Island immigrants at a cost of $500 and adoption by his hapu.

The New Zealand Herald reported that $40,000 had been uncovered by police yesterday in the Manukau area as well as 5000 blank “hapu certificates”.

The police and immigration departments have since called for duped Pacific Islanders to come forward, although there is no guarantee of amnesty.

Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples said he sympathised with the islanders involved in the alleged scam, while Pacific Island Affairs Minister Georgina te Heuheu called the deceit “deplorable”, especially with “some of the most vulnerable people in our country” as victims.

Maka told Pacific Media Watch he planned to arrange a lawyer to look into the Tongan cases involved in the alleged scam.

He also added that the spotlight should be on the perpetrators and not the victims.

“The mainstream [media] is not sympathetic. They don’t know how it is, and perhaps they don’t want to know. But they tend to sensationalise the issue,” he said.

A news release from the council stated that most media fail to recognise two major issues “driving people to take such extreme steps”.

This includes a “very mixed history” in NZ Immigration Department’s dealings with Pacific Island issues, including a “high level of poor decisions”.

Also, the council claimed that complaints from Pacific Islanders about misinformation and mishandling on the part of immigration consultants were “not treated as high a priority as removing the overstayers themselves”.

Maka said the Tonga Advisory Council would organise “free advice workshops” for immigrants next month to deal with these issues.

Courts 'have no right to judge tikanga Māori'

Monday, June 22, 2009

Tributes farewell the 'father' of Pacific studies

By Pippa Brown: Pacific Media Centre

Tributes flowed as families, friends and colleagues gathered in Auckland to say goodbye to the man they called “Papa Ron”, before his final journey home to the Cook Islands today.

About 150 people gathered at a memorial service yesterday at the Pacific Islands Presbyterian Church in Newton to remember professor emeritus Dr Ron Crocombe, known as the father figure of Pacific studies.

Family and friends were joined by ex-students, politicians, learned colleagues and academics who spoke of this great - but humble - man, a leading academic in the Pacific and founding professor of the University of the Pacific’s Institute of Pacific Studies.

Professor Ron Crocombe died suddenly in Auckland on Friday while on his way home to Rarotonga, where he will be buried today.

Born in Auckland and brought up in the King Country, he lived his life as a passionate advocate for the Pacific Islands and the people.

A great traveller, during his time in the Pacific he mentored many Pacific Islanders, a lot of them becoming outstanding leaders in governments and organisations throughout the region.

His family spoke of his love of people, how their home would fill with young people who would return years later as judges, prime ministers and leading academics.

Tata Crocombe, the eldest of Dr Crocombe’s four children, honoured his father at the service and spoke about his strong sense of duty and inclusiveness.

“It was a hand up not a hand out,” he said.

He said his father had tremendous respect for everyone and went beyond the barriers people created and had a natural ability to connect with all people.

Bridge builder
He treated everyone with the same respect and his trademark was to stick out his hand, to anybody and everybody and introduce himself, said Tata Crocombe.

He was an educator, social scientist and bridge builder and believed in the University of the South Pacific whole heartedly.

Tata Crocombe said the memorial service was a “celebration of a good man who left a good legacy”.

Passionate about the Pacific he would argue with anybody in order to get them to understand the Pacific better.

Dr Crocombe also had a strong connection with New Zealand Māori. He spoke many of the Pacific languages including Cook Islands Māori, New Zealand Māori, French and Tok Pisin.

He wanted the Pacific Island people to find their own confidence and ways to go forward. “All he wanted was for people to find their own conscience, wisdom, truth and have the willingness to listen and be open to others opinion,” said Tata Crocombe.

He was a true educator and always helping someone out. He wanted to bring the best out in people. He believed people should be “the best you can be”, and would try to get everyone to achieve that goal, said Tata Crocombe.

Dr Crocombe was the author of many books and an energetic writer. One of his recent volumes Asia in the Pacific Islands: Replacing the West, points to the decline in influence of New Zealand, Australia and European countries within the Pacific, and the rapid acceleration of Asian migration and power into the Pacific Islands.

Tata Crocombe spoke about his father’s ability to see through the political and social structure and understand how the country was going to change.

“He predicted 20 to 30 years ago the rise of Asia, not only in the Pacific but in the world,” said Tata Crocombe.

Definitive book
Younger son, Kevin Crocombe spoke of a lost chance as Dr Crocombe had really wanted to write a definitive book on the Cook Islands that he had started drafting.

“It is a tragedy that it was not finished,” said Kevin. “Reading Dad’s books are like having a chat with him. They are such an easy read.”

He was a cheerful academic said Kevin Crocombe.

“He was always wisecracking, joking and had a different point of view on everything.”

Dr Robert Woonton, former Prime Minister of the Cook Islands from 2002 to 2004, spoke of his deep respect for Dr Crocombe and the standards he set in education and for the people of the Pacific Islands.

He said Dr Crocombe was not just a Kiwi but a Cook Islander over and over again. He covered the Pacific from Polynesia, Melanesia and Micronesia.

Dr Mary Salisbury, lecturer in linguistics at Massey University said she spoke on behalf of Kiwi academics and the mark he had left on academia. He had such breadth of knowledge, not just in one area but the whole of the Pacific.

“No one could fill his shoes,” she said.

Dr Salisbury told of his generosity and open heart, the time he always had to give, the time he gave because he loved people so much. She thought it a great legacy if his dream, his final word and book on the Cook Islands could be written by a Cook Islander.

International fellows
Dr David Robie, associate professor in communication studies at AUT University and director of the Pacific Media Centre, had been with Dr Crocombe in Tonga last week when, together, they and four other international academics were inducted as international fellows of ‘Atenisi University in a special ceremony.

Dr Robie paid homage to Dr Crocombe as an exceptional man who was an inspiration all over the Pacific.

“He was an extraordinary mentor to Pacific Islanders and wherever he went he took books,” said Dr Robie.

He quoted from a tribute from Professor Rajesh Chandra, vice-chancellor of the University of the South Pacific, emphasising that Dr Crocombe would be remembered as a humble man, disdainful of hypocrisy and of self-proclaimed experts, who devoted his professional life to explaining the Pacific to those from elsewhere.

He will be remembered with enormous respect by all those with whom he worked and those he taught.

“A scholar and a gentleman, Ron Crocombe is sadly missed by his numerous friends and admirers at the University of the South Pacific,” said Dr Robie.

Just four months short of turning 80, Dr Crocombe is survived by his wife, Marjorie, four children Tata, Ngaire, Kevin and Sam, and many grandchildren.

Top photograph: Ron and Marjorie Crocombe (The Fiji Times); other photos - the pallbearers, Tata Crocombe and PMC's David Robie (Photos: Pippa Brown).

Pippa Brown is an AUT Graduate Diploma in Journalism student on internship with the Pacific Media Centre.

David Robie's tribute
Brij Lal's tribute
Croz Walsh's tribute
Pacific Minister Te Heuheu says Crocombe will be sadly missed

Friday, June 19, 2009

Two Pacific nations criticised in human trafficking report

By Josephine Latu: Pacific Media Centre

Two Pacific Island nations – Fiji and Papua New Guinea – have been ranked among the least active countries in combating human trafficking abuses such as forced labour, bonded labour, sexual exploitation and child labour.

Both countries were cited in the “least active” tier 3 group of countries in the ninth annual Trafficking in Persons Report released by the US State Department this week, focussing on international governments’ efforts to eliminate human trafficking.

The report ranked 173 countries.

The 17 tier 3 nations – also including Cuba, Iran and North Korea - purportedly do not comply fully with the US Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) and “are not making any significant efforts to do so”.

Only two other Pacific Island Forum countries were cited – Palau and Micronesia (both on the tier 2 “watch list”).

From the region, Timor-Leste was also ranked tier 2, while Australia and New Zealand were both grouped in tier 1, indicating full compliance with TVPA.

In the report, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called on all governments to “build consensus and leverage resources” to eliminate human trafficking.

Findings were based on information gathered from US embassies overseas, government officials, NGOs and international organisations, published reports, and other research.

Forced labour
The TIP review described Fiji and PNG as both “source” and “destination” countries for commercial sexual exploitation, forced labour, as well as the trafficking of children.

Individual country reviews said: “Fiji is a source country for children trafficked for the purposes of labour and commercial sexual exploitation, and a destination country for women from China, Thailand, and India trafficked for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation.”

It also said family members, other Fijian citizens as well as foreign tourists continue to exploit boys and girls for commercial sex.

In Papua New Guinea, women and children are reportedly trafficked for sexual exploitation and domestic servitude, while men were trafficked to logging and mining camps and forced to work. These include victims trafficked from Malaysia, Thailand, China as well as the Philippines.

The report also claimed that “unique and enduring cultural practices” in PNG reinforce the perception of females and children as commodities, such as trading females for guns or to settle debt.

The island governments were recommended to make stronger efforts to prosecute human trafficking offenders, protect the victims, and prevent further abuse.

At the same time, the report said the rankings were “based more on the extent of government action to combat trafficking than on the size of the problem”.

Trafficking in Persons 2009 Report - full text

Thursday, June 18, 2009

'Atenisi University inducts six fellows in honour of Futa Helu

'Atenisi fellows: Dr David Robie (from left), Dr Ian Campbell, Professor Futa Helu, Dr 'Opeti Taliai, Dr Wendy Cowling, Prime Minister Dr Feleti Sevele and Dr Ron Crocombe. - Pacific Media Centre. Dr Niko Besnier was also inducted but is not in this picture.

Pacific Media Centre

NUKU’ALOFA: Six international academics have been inducted as fellows of Tonga’s ‘Atenisi University, the only leading tertiary institute in the South Pacific independent of both government and religious influence, in a four-day celebration honouring the life and achievements of founder and philosopher Professor Futa Helu.

The event, including a recital, documentary excerpts, testimonial lectures by staff and birthday feasts at the Halaano campus, paid homage to Dr Helu’s 75th birthday and more than four decades of publication, critical thought teaching and intellectual leadership at ‘Atenisi.

The fellowship induction ceremony was attended by the Hon Lupepau’u Tuita, Prime Minister Dr Feleti Sevele, New Zealand High Commissioner Christine Bogle, Japanese Ambassador Yasuo Takese, faculty members, students and many international guests.

AUT University’s Associate Professor David Robie, director of the Pacific Media Centre who was awarded his media doctorate in history/politics at the University of the South Pacific, and two other New Zealanders were among the fellows.

Dr Robie also had talks with director Niulala Helu, 'Asena Helu and leading Tongan publisher and broadcaster Kalafi Moala about a planned communication studies major for the university next year. The university is also planning a new Pacific studies major.

Other academics inducted were Professor Niko Besnier of the University of Amsterdam’s Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences; Professor Ian Campbell, head of history at the University of the South Pacific and author of seminal historical works on Tonga; Dr Wendy Cowling, senior lecturer in anthropology at the Waikato University; Professor emeritus Ron Crocombe, of the Cook Islands and founding director of USP’s Institute of Pacific Studies; and Tonga’s Dr ‘Opeti Taliai, of Massey University, who is joining the ‘Atenisi faculty.

Dr Taliai is also a founding member and ongoing contributor to the Tongan Research Association.

Prime Minister Dr Sevele spoke of ‘Atenisi’s contribution to Tongan intellectual life and critical thinking in national and Pacific education.

He also acknowledged Professor Helu’s leadership as a philosopher and historian to education and learning in the Pacific. He praised the academic’s intellectual contribution underpinning the early years of Tonga’s pro-democracy movement.

Dr Sevele said differences between ‘Atenisi and the government were an issue of the past and he highlighted a P100,000 grant awarded to ‘Atenisi’s Foundation for Performing Arts.

The festivities included a recital by ‘Atolomake Helu, one of the Pacific’s leading opera singers, and other performers, and a preview of Lose Miller-Helu’s documentary in progress, and The Helu Hat, and other film excerpts on Professor Helu’s life.

Dean Dr Michael Horowitz led staff and colleagues in a series of testimonial lectures and discussions exploring aspects of Professor Helu's philosophy and perspectives and examining the future of the institution.

Futa Helu, who was born in Foa, Ha'apai, studied at Newington College and the University of Sydney in Australia in the disciplines of philosophy, English literature, mathematics and physics between 1953-61.

Upon returning to Tonga, he became a tutor to students who were having trouble keeping up with school; and in 1963 initiated ‘Atenisi Institute, or "Athens", named in honour of the early Greek philosophers and thinkers, notably Socrates.

The institute began as a downtown night school providing education for civil servants. It became a high school in 1964 and the university was added in 1976.

Marking his 70th birthday, the book Polynesia Paradox: Essays in Honour of Futa Helu was later published in 2005.

A further publication is expected to mark this week’s festivities amid efforts to revive the university with a new lease of life.

Photos: Top quartet - Dr David Robie, Dr Ian Campbell, Professor Futa Helu and Dr 'Opeti Taliai; Middle: 'Atenisi lecturer Hugh Gribben; Bottom: 'Atenisi students in the Pacific studies room - 'Anaseini Lauaki (from left), 'Ofa Funaki and Paea Lelenga. Rear: Heamasi Vaioleti. - Pacific Media Centre

‘Atenisi University inducts six fellows - Matangi Tonga
75th birthday celebration for Futa Helu – photos by Linny Folau
AUT journalism educator among ‘Atenisi international fellows
Couple plan pioneering projects in Pacific and media education

Friday, June 12, 2009

Harnessing the internet for traditional PNG archives

Pacific Media Centre: UPNG

At the National Cultural Commission's Institute of Papua New Guinea Studies, a team of local researchers has the mountainous task of recording the traditional knowledge of PNG societies.

With some 814 distinct cultures, Ralph Wari, the institute's director, freely admits that they have hardly touched the surface of local language, customs, arts, and music. But with limited resources, the team must record and archive as much material as possible as well as disseminate it, in many cases to help ensure its survival.

While most of the collected materials are currently residing at the institute's Port Moresby base, Wari is hoping that the internet will prove a useful tool in making the vast stores of local knowledge more widely available.

The Institute of PNG Studies is one of several potential information providers taking part in a project coordinated by the University of Papua New Guinea's South Pacific Centre for Communication and Information in Development (SPCenCIID) and funded by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) as part of its Pan-Asia Networking (PAN) programme.

The project – named PAN Information Networking and Services Papua New Guinea (PINS-PNG) – will lead to an information server being established and encourage institutions to publish electronically. Similar PAN country-level information servers have been funded in the Philippines, Vietnam and Nepal by IDRC.

PINS-PNG aims to bring together some of the country's best sources of local content to build up a PNG presence on the internet, as well as provide training for relevant organisations, and encourage the distribution of research materials within the country.

With one of the largest pockets of biodiversity in the world, PNG has long been a focal point for researchers from all parts of the globe.

Unfortunately, the same enthusiasm given to collecting data is not extended to its dissemination within the country.

Big potential
John Evans, a lecturer and book publisher within SPCenCIID and project leader for PINS-PNG, says that much of the research is published outside of the country and often does not make it back.

When it does, it is often limited to one location and its availability is not known elsewhere, particularly in outlying areas where much of it originates. To counter this, Evans will coordinate efforts to make more research information available through the internet as a result of the project.

“People used to go off and write their report somewhere else and it never got back again,” he says.

“Now people might be more inclined to put summaries of their research on the net.”

Locally, there is certainly no shortage of information providers with an abundance of potential content.

For the project, seven organisations have been identified initially - the Institute of PNG Studies, the University of Papua New Guinea, the National Parliament Library, the Government Office of Information and Communications, the Small Business Development Corporation, the National Association of NGOs (NANGO), and the Melanesian Institute.

Papua New Guinea has itself only been connected to the internet since 1997. But since then there is a growing awareness of its potential and no shortage of ideas on how best to use it within the context of PNG resources.

Webbing new and traditonal knowledge

Monday, June 8, 2009

Broadcasters, writers face up to NZ demographic media challenges

By Jessica Harkins: Pacific Media Centre

Challenge noun: a task or request requiring special effort.

If ever there was a word used to describe the task facing our broadcasters in the coming decade, it would be this, if last week’s ethnic diversity broadcasting forum is anything to go by.

New Zealand on Air
and the Office of Ethnic Affairs hosted the forum to ask: How will the changing demography of New Zealand be served and represented in the broadcasting media?

It brought together producers, writers and broadcasters from across the country to discuss the changing face of New Zealand, and what that change might mean for their industry.

According to many of those present, special effort was most definitely required to address the evolving demographic landscape.

British High Commissioner George Fergusson says there are some “fascinating challenges” in New Zealand. He quipped, “It’s not like Britain anymore.”

He said that Britain faces some of the same challenges faced in New Zealand, but that both countries “ended up at the same square quite differently,” referring to the varying diasporas within each nation.

Fergusson emphasised the need to serve the diasporas at least as much as the mainstream.

Open media
As well as the British High Commissioner, the forum was addressed by the BBC World Service’s Murray Holgate, who was quick to say that he wouldn’t be reminiscent of Brits past, who also came to New Zealand and “talked a lot.”

“I’m not going down the route of saying what you should do,” he said

“What we have is a really advanced and open media environment that brings us a lot of challenges,” he said, bringing up the “c” word again.

He spoke of the competitive nature of broadcasting throughout the world.

“We used to be the window to the world to our audiences in this area [South Asia], which we no longer are, because the local broadcasters are bringing the world to their audiences now too.”

He made it clear that the issue was not just putting different coloured faces on the telly, or different accents on the wireless, but included addressing the “hideously white” nature of the BBC’s newsrooms.

“There are many levels at which discrimination operates. It’s part of human nature to emphasise differences rather than things in common.”

To try to alleviate this, the BBC has implemented a policy in recruiting that says if there is a candidate who is of an ethnic minority, it must be proven why that person cannot have the job.

Policy success
He says this policy has been a success so far.

“As a consequence, certainly at the lower levels of the BBC, there is a far better spread of minorities. At the management levels the BBC is still rather hideously white, it has yet to travel up the organisation.

“At World Service on the other hand, many, many of the top jobs are from the target audience. It has allowed us to be more successful, in a world which is changing very rapidly and which could leave the BBC very isolated, it has allowed us to compete. Rather than seeing different ethnicity as a cost, it is actually seen as revenue for us, something that has value,” he added.

Holgate says one of the many advantages of having diversity in the staff at the BBC World Service is in having your target audience in the building. He believes a lot of time has been saved in having people in the know within the organisation.

He explains by using China as an example. He says that many of the FM radio frequencies are used as travel stations, where the traffic situation is updated, sometimes 24/7.

“Radio has taken on a whole different meaning in Beijing than say, in London. Again, if you haven’t got the people there, you’re not going to know this. You can sit there pumping out your shortwave until you’re blue in the face, and nobody’s listening to you,” he says in his polished blue-blooded accent.

When it comes to the World Service, Holgate believes one of the most important things to think about is language.

“We broadcast to linguistic groups,” he said, “we tend to leave the ethnic group out of it.

“We are broadcasting in a language because that language is about communication,” he added.

Culture preservation
Jim Blackman, chief executive of Triangle and Stratos, says: “As New Zealand changes its face, there is a need to focus more keenly on the preservation of culture, and the preservation of language.”

But he also had some choice words for the forum attendees, and perhaps its organisers.

He relates his thoughts when first asked to partake in the forum.

“I thought; how come cultural diversity has become the new black? After all we’ve been doing it for the past ten years. Not only in Auckland, but also over the past 18 months, nationwide, on Triangle Stratos.”

Blackman says: “The problem with ethnic broadcasting is that it’s not commercial, it’s not mainstream enough for the mainstream people because there ain’t no money in it sunshine.”

Jim added that the challenge facing all small channels over the next few years is the switch to digital broadcasting, which has a huge cost attached to it.

Radio, a medium that doesn’t have the same costs as television is arguably faring the best of the two, due to the reduced cost in setting up a station.

Dozens of niches
Terri Byrne from Planet FM says: “The market, or audience as I prefer to think of it, has splintered into dozens of niches.”

She says this split has benefited radio in New Zealand, by giving rise to some of the highest per capita numbers of radio stations in the world.

“Auckland with 50 stations has more than New York or London,” she says.

Planet FM is an access radio station, which broadcasts in more than 50 languages, all made by people of those language and ethnic groups.

“Minority is mainstream, and in 2020 will be more so,” said Byrne.

She quotes Bob Geldof: “The future belongs to those who make their own media.”

“New Zealand is fabulously diverse, and when what was once mainstream media catches up with that it will hand over the tools, relax the editorial control, embrace the new aesthetic and discover the riches already being expressed in a thousand ways,” she added.

She says Planet FM’s philosophy is about giving cultural groups a channel for expression, what she sees as the true definition of what public broadcasting is. As Leslie Rule (US academic and commentator) puts it: “It’s now more about broadcasting the public”.

Byrne’s hopes for the future are clear.

“It will not be about “them” becoming like “us”, and hopefully by 2020 it will not even be about “them” explaining themselves to “us”. Hopefully it will be about all of us discovering who we are as a nation.”

New settlers
Julia Parnell, producer of TVNZ programme Minority Voices, a show that focuses on new settlers to New Zealand, talked about some of the motivation behind the show. What did they want to find out from the people they featured?

“We asked them; “What do you want to say both to your own communities and to wider New Zealand?” “What do you think people need to know about you and your experiences settling here?”

She added: “The fact is, these people already know what they need to assimilate. They know exactly what wider NZ needs to know about them. They know how to live in NZ, they just need to be heard.

“Once we understand the needs and dreams of new New Zealanders, the “other” will become the “familiar” in New Zealand broadcasting. And from there true diversity will come.”

Keynote speaker Shaun Brown of SBS Australia opened his comments to attendees with a compliment.

“In my opinion, New Zealand is, in at least some respects, ahead of Australia in confronting and debating the issue of diversity in programme making.”

His comments were met with surprise by some people in the audience, who recall his past views of ethnic diversity in the media while news executive at Television NZ, which were somewhat different from those he expressed last week.

Browning era
Bharat Jamnadas of Asia Downunder remarked that we had witnessed “the browning of Shaun Brown!”

“Perhaps he realises the meaning of his surname now,” he laughed.

Brown’s history in New Zealand broadcasting aside, what he said on Thursday was acknowledged positively.

“Seeing indigenous faces on our screens and experiencing indigenous stories should be an incidental part of our television consumption – not something that is token or categorised as ‘special event’ television, or something that is the exclusive domain of public broadcasting,” he said.

Brown also pointed out the importance of SBS as a public service in the Australian media landscape.

“Prior to SBS, diversity or foreignness was presented as unpronounceable, unpalatable or incomprehensible in the Australian media landscape. Some would argue that the broader Australian media has done little to correct this imbalance.

He said that diversity in the newsroom was also an issue.

Behind the scenes
“I can acknowledge that behind the scenes we are open to criticism for not having enough cultural diversity in our management and programming teams.

Brown is not a fan of quotas, saying they can produce “artificial results” or give the impression that staff appointed in this manner “have not got there on their own merits.”

“However,” he adds, “people in leadership positions both in New Zealand and Australia can and must do more to foster talent in the independent production sector and to entice talented people from indigenous and multicultural backgrounds into the broadcasting sector in a range of roles.

“Diversity in our industry must become just as important and front of mind as diversity on our screens.”

Tapu Misa, New Zealand Herald columnist and chair of one panel of speakers, remarked: “There is a danger of talking too much among ourselves” in terms of narrow broadcasting that isn’t aimed at a mainstream audience.

Arguably, her comments can be transferred to the people who attended and listened to each other talk of the virtues of ethnic diversity in the broadcasting industry.

In a demographic that’s constantly changing, this is no easy feat. But the challenge has been laid.

Jessica Harkins is a postgraduate Bachelor of Communication Studies (Honours) student on the Asia-Pacific Journalism course at AUT University. Pictures of Tapu Misa and NZ On Air's Anna Cottrell (top) and SBZ's Shaun Brown are by Del Abcede (PMC).

BBC World Service
Cafe Pacific on the 'browning of NZ media'
Minority Voices
SBS Australia
Tapu Misa's New Zealand Herald articles

Tongans worry about land, administration more than politics, says CEC

By Josephine Latu: Pacific Media Centre

Tonga’s Constitutional and Electoral Commission (CEC) has released its first progress report to the public since being set up in January.

In its June 5 report, CEC chose not make any recommendations until it has received more proposals from the public specifically addressing governance structures.

This includes the roles of the executive and legislature branches, as well as the electorate.

The deadline for submissions has now been extended until July 6.

The CEC had conducted a series of public forums on Tonga’s main island districts (Tongatapu, Vava’u, Ha’apai, ‘Eua, and the Niuas later this month), to gather public opinion and feedback about the political reforms planned for 2010.

Twenty-seven written submissions, each supported by at least 200 members of the community, were also received by the CEC.

Land key concern
“It was apparent that many ordinary Tongans have little interest in politics or the structure of the government,” said the report, released both in English and Tongan.

“This may arise partly from a lack of ability to affect change over many generations.”

On the other hand, the report affirmed that land was a central issue of concern in every district forum, especially the fear of alienation as a consequence of reform.

“In many cases it appeared to be a matter of more significance and concern than electoral and representational change or other changes to the Constitution,” read the report.

Another common complaint was that “electors in the outer districts are ignored by their representatives once the election is over”.

The outer districts were more likely to be unhappy about lack of effective government and administration.

According to the CEC, many members from these communities felt that government, “however formed” would “simply continue to neglect their interests and devote most of its time, energy and resources to the central districts".

These concerns needed to be taken into account for reform to have any practical significance for the general population.

Public awareness
The report called for an extensive public awareness programme that will continue after the CEC’s final report and recommendations, due on November 5.

This is to educate the general public on the implications of political change, which may possibly herald drastic changes such as the election of the prime minister by the House (rather than appointment by the King), the dissolution of the King’s Privy Council, and a single “transferrable” vote system.

“The change from a paternalistic system of appointed ministers under a benevolent monarch to an elected government answerable to the people who elected them is profound,” said the report.

Although they admitted the 10-month time frame given to gather public input, make recommendations and draft legislation was “surprisingly short”, the CEC said it would do its utmost to fulfil public expectations that reforms will happen in the coming year.

However, recommendations “will and must be made in a Tongan context”, the report said.

The final CEC report will then be submitted to Parliament for debate.

The CEC membership: Justice Gordon Ward (chair), Tu’ivanuavou Vaea, Dr Sitiveni Halapua, Dr ‘Ana Taufe’ulungaki, Sione Fonua and Hon. ‘Eseta Fusitu’a, with alternate members: Hon. Tu’i’afitu, Masao Paasi, and ‘Aisea Taumoepeau.

Josephine Latu is contributing editor of the PMC's Pacific Media Watch. Pictured: King George Tupou V opening Parliament.

CEC information

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Farewell Luana, your dreams will live on

By Tupuola Terry Tavita in Apia

It’s always sad when a loved one passes on, but for someone so young and so full of life as Luana Cobcroft, 24, it is heart-wrenching.

In Samoa working on her Masters thesis, Luana, loved daughter of parents Adria and Adolf Arp and Gavin and Miti Cobcroft, was farewelled this afternoon by family and friends at the Anglican Church, Malifa.

In attendance were the Head of State, Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Efi, and Masiofo Filifilia Tamasese and members of the cabinet.

“Like other young women her age, Luana had many dreams, some yet to be fulfilled,” her mother, Adria, fondly remembers about her youngest daughter (pictured right in the blue dress with cousin Rhoda Young).

“We love her very much and it’s so sad to see her die young.”

Heartbroken sisters Natasha Cobcroft and Nola Adria Cobcroft-Gidlow say they will never forget “our dear half”.

“We are close sisters, we laugh, we hang out and we party together. Her smile and love will always be in our hearts forever, she had so much zest for life.”

A Bachelor of Arts graduate from Victoria University, Wellington, Luana was working on completing a Masters degree before coming home to serve her country, say close friends. She majored in geography and development studies.

And thus sad as today’s occasion was, there was a hint of gala with the hearse decorated with balloons and streamers - perhaps in celebration of a young life.

Barely a fortnight back in Samoa, Luana was involved in a tragic automobile accident at Vailoa early Tuesday morning. Her extensive injuries proved fatal when she died Wednesday night at the Tupua Tamasese Memorial Hospital, Motootua.

“Perhaps she came home to die,” says one of her classmates at Robert Louis Stevenson’s School.

Alhough born in Auckland, New Zealand, Luana spent most of her life in Samoa, a country they say where the moon succumbs to the sea and the fleeting clouds engulf the village in complete darkness when a loved one passes away.

That was certainly the mood at today’s service.

From the Anglican Church, Luana was taken home to Lotopa where she will always be close to her parents and sisters.

She leaves behind a family robbed of a young daughter and a country, robbed of an educated young mind.

Why do the good die young, raged the poet Oscar Wilde. But as long as we remember, loved ones never die, interposes the satirist Groucho Marx.

Tupuola Terry Tavita is editor of Savali newspaper in Apia, Samoa. This article under the title "Happy trails, Luana" is republished by PMC with permission.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Pacific ministry targets women in battle against rising unemployment

A long-term action plan about Pasifika employment in New Zealand is counting on a new report focusing on Pacific women’s demographics, education, and training and labour force deployment in the strategic mix.

By Kacey Maher: Pacific Media Centre

A better deal for Pasifika women in the labour market is a key target for the Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs in a new employment strategy expected to be unveiled later this month.

A report about “Pacific women’s work” is expected to be released before June 30 and is likely to have an impact on policy.

Pacific Island Affairs Minister Georgina te Heuheu is finalising the research report “examining the labour market positioning” of Pacific women.

Chief Executive Dr Colin Tukuitonga says the ministry has a long-term action plan and the report focusing on Pacific women’s demographics, education, and training and labour force deployment is part of this.

According to Tukuitonga, understanding the position of Pacific women in New Zealand’s labour market will help lift women’s skills and participation.

“For example, by better understanding the impact of the current recession on Pacific women who own small businesses, the ministry…is better able to develop programmes and initiatives which are effective in sustaining those businesses,” he says.

Compared to a 5 percent unemployment rate for all of New Zealand (a quarterly increase of 0.3 percent from December 2008 to March 2009), the rate of unemployment for Pacific Islanders within New Zealand has now climbed to 13.1 percent.

This not only has Pacific Island community members worried, it also has them searching for solutions, especially starting and only a worsening recession on the horizon.

“It has been suggested that almost 19,000 jobs have already been lost in the manufacturing sector between March 2008 and March 2009,” says Dr Tukuitonga.

Hit by downturn
Pacific workers are concentrated in primary industries (such as agriculture, fishing, mining) and manufacturing - occupations that are among the first to feel a downturn in the economy.

Dr Tukuitonga says also that the predominantly youthful population of the Pacific Islanders is among reasons they are among the hardest hit.

With a recent increase in Pacific Islanders reaching a working age combined with a corresponding fall in the jobs they are most likely to enter, it is no surprise this leads to unemployment.

Dr Tukuitonga, previously the Director of Public Health as also head of Pacific and international health at the University of Auckland, has been chief executive of the Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs since June 2007.

According to him, this increase in unemployment will have many greater consequences, putting Pacific Islanders under increased financial pressure and making them less able to provide basic food, housing, education, and health requirements - all areas where Pacific Islanders are already statistically struggling.

Recent studies have shown Pacific Island children are more likely than their European counterparts to contract infectious diseases and suffer from childhood obesity - results inflated by a higher ratio of Pacific Islanders living in low socio-economic status.

Situations such as these will only be exacerbated by high rates of unemployment.

“All this makes the current situation a high priority for the Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs,” Dr Tukuitonga says.

So what is the ministry doing to help?

“We have put in place a number of initiatives and pilots to combat redundancies and an increasing unemployment rate,” says Dr Tukuitonga.

Jobs fono
This includes the February 2009 Pacific jobs fono.

The jobs fono was a conference focused on brainstorming possible solutions for the immediate concerns facing Pacific workers.

According to Dr Tukuitonga, the fono addressed such questions as “how do we protect employment for Pacific people?” and “what support is there for those people who have lost their jobs?” - similar questions to those being asked now.

The fono also addressed the need for Pacific workers to adapt to current job openings and new job requirements.

Instead of remaining in fields historically dominated by Pacific workers - fields that are now seeing a sharp decline - workers must train for new fields or develop specific skills that increase their value as employees.

These suggestions combined with other conferences and surveys provide the basis for the ministry’s action plan, says Dr Tukuitonga. This plan includes:

• Training in literacy, numeracy, and financial literacy
• Administrative and management training
• Seminars and workshops to help businesses survive the recession
• Research on what industries will stabilise and grow the economy
• Promoting modern apprenticeships to Pacific youths

All these developments answer the question “how do we protect employment for Pacific people?”

However, none answer the more immediate question about what support there is for people who have lost their jobs.

Dr Tukuitonga says that Pacific unemployment will continue to rise as the recession takes a stronger hold on New Zealand.

He also says the ministry has many more programmes in the works - all of them targeting a wide array of problems caused by unemployment.

“The challenges faced by the Pacific workforce in today’s recessionary climate require innovative and creative solutions which not only keep Pacific people in work now,” says Dr Tukuitonga.

“But they also also equip them with a range of diverse skills which will see them well placed in a future labour market requiring different skills and abilities.”

Kacey Maher is an American student journalist on the Asia-Pacific Journalism course as part of her Study Abroad programme at AUT University. The photo is by Daquella Manera (Creative Commons).

Pacific jobs fono

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Planet FM - from minority broadcasting to mainstream

By Terri Byrne

In 1987, the Auckland Ethnic Council founded a radio station that would:
- allow non-English communities to hear their languages, their news, music and literature that
- would represent their culture, values and beliefs, and
- would allow them to have a public presence in a land they had lived in for decades if not generations.

Today that station is 22 years old and the most diverse medium in the country. Planet FM has full schedules, broadcasting in 50 languages, all made by the language groups concerned. It is multicultural and cross-cultural. Radio represents 42 percent of the media day. It is portable, intimate, comparatively inexpensive to make and always free-to-air.

Sadly though, this public broadcasting service is not adequately funded. The major constraint on its content is the need for the programme makers to pay to air their material.

One of our hopes for 2020 or much sooner is that those with the least ability to pay are no longer the only ones who have to pay for media that’s relevant to them.

Currently the station is obliged to choose those who pay, rather than those with the best ideas or the most needed content.

However, they are often the same thing and the programmes are vigorously supported by their contributing communities, with research revealing figures between 60 and 80 percent of targeted communities listening to their shows.

Around today’s forum I hear a lot of references to “mainstream” media, which I believe is an increasingly dinosaur concept.

Already SKY brings 80+ channel options to 50 percent of NZ households, there are another seven free-to-air and two digital-only TV channels and a range of regional channels. A number of our broadcasters have satellite dishes to pull in own-language television.

There are 212 radio stations in NZ and Auckland, with 50+ radio stations has more than New York or London. The commercial stations run an array of brands over about 140 stations. The national public broadcaster is on frequencies throughout the country including for a select minority on Concert FM. There are 11 community access stations nationwide, as well as student radio stations and countless LPFM stations.

About 60 percent of NZ homes are web-connected, more than half are broadband connected. The online population of this country is equivalent to 85 percent of the population.

So the market – or the audience as I prefer to think of us – has splintered into dozens of niches.

Minority is Mainstream and in 2020 will be more so.

To quote Bob Geldof, a man who has led the way in many areas of media:

“The future belongs to those who build their own media.”

We’re delighted that Planet FM is ahead of the curve on all this.

• We recognise the hundreds of niche broadcasters and their listeners …
• We facilitate the making of their own media
• We do not exercise editorial control, ensuring freedom of cultural and social expression…
• We support local.
• And we ensure their productions are archived for on-demand, online listening 5 minutes after broadcast – along with a range of other multi-lingual information services for settlers.

It is our belief that in 2020 we’ll all be shopping for our media on multiple platforms and the content will often be of our own devising rather than from a schedule devised for advertisers
addressing matters deemed relevant by programmers with a narrow cultural focus.

Already music radio is an iPod, but informational, entertaining and community-enabling content is flourishing.

Already NZ is fabulously diverse and when what was once mainstream media catches up with that, it will:

• hand over the tools,
• Relax the editorial controls,
• Embrace the new aesthetic
• And discover the riches already being expressed in a thousand ways.

It will not be about “them” becoming like “us” or hopefully by 2020, it will not even be about “them” explaining themselves to “us”. Hopefully it will be about all of us discovering who we are becoming as a nation.

And we should not imagine that only non-English audiences are interested in so called “ethnic” content. Māori Television attracts between 50 and 70 percent non-Māoriviewers.

In discussing the aging of PBS’s demographic with Gareth Watkin, Leslie Rule at KQED in San Francisco says:

“It’s about changing the idea of what public broadcasting is. It’s now more about “broadcasting the public."

This will require funding policies that are about where we are headed, rather than where we’ve been. Policies that promote equity of access to services.

Government agencies with responsibilities to non-English populations will take a leaf from the efforts of our Pacific people and make it mandatory for information campaigns to be extended - so if cervical screening is best understood in Farsi or Russian it is aired that way, that Tamil and Arabic communities are alerted to social policies, that education projects are broadcast in Tagalog and Amharic.

In 1975, SBS Radio came into being as a three-month experimental service to explain Australia’s new healthcare system. Now, independent audience surveys of Australia’s largest language groups show that for the majority, SBS Radio is their primary source of information about government and community services.

The Australian government spends in excess of $20 million of Vote Broadcasting on non-English radio and more again in information campaigns.

The least we can do is add existing multilingual broadcasters to government agency advertising budgets.

Terri Byrne is broadcast manager of Planet FM, run by Access Community Radio Inc. It was an address delivered at the NZ On Air seminar on diversity - "Screen and Heard: NZ Broadcast Audiences in 2020" in Auckland on 4 June 2009.

Pacific Beat producer calls on ethnic groups to 'break into' mainstream

Thakur Ranjit Singh: Pacific Media Centre

Ethnic communities need to break into the mainstream media by telling inclusive stories and giving the message that Pacific people are part of New Zealand, says a leading television producer.

Stan Wolfgramm, producer of Pacific Beat Street, says his own German, Tongan and Cook Islands heritage prepared him for a balancing act of operating in a commercial as well as a cultural environment.

He was speaking in a panel of television journalists and producers speaking about “finding the ethnic voice” at the diversity broadcasting forum in Auckland today hosted by NZ On Air in association with the Office of Ethnic Affairs.

Julia Parnell, producer of Minority Voices, said she sought to create programmes that provided opportunities to recent migrants, minorities giving their version of experiences in adjusting and settling in a new country.

She said her programmes allowed people to say what they wanted to say and to help them assimilate.

Her programmes were meant to be a springboard to promote cross-cultural understanding, assimilation and true diversity.

Bharat Jamnadas, senior reporter of Asia Downunder, said his programmes produced a magazine style, topical, relevant and entertaining - primarily targeted at the Asian communities but also to anybody wishing to get information on diverse people of New Zealand.

He said his programmes showed positive people stories with general interest.

'Freak stories'
They could easily be taken on board mainstream television programmes, but the networks tended to show “freak stories that may not be necessarily reflective of the Asian community”.

He said programmes needed to be more integrated, as ordinary stories about ordinary people should be part of the mainstream media and showed at prime time.

Jamnadas called for more diversity to be included in the mainstream media programmes.

Rachel Jean, head of drama in TV3, had ventured on making a drama series but ended up making a story on diversity depicting South Auckland, based at Otara Market, entitled, The Market.

She said drama was helpful in changing ethnic perceptions of people.

She criticised lack of funding and the programme being slotted late at night.

Her other drama, Ride with the Devil, involved a core Chinese cast and she said “true representation happens through drama”.

However, Jamnadas was critical of the programme, saying "it was too much of a stereotype with a Chinese boy racer as the lead role".

The panel argued that diversity ought to be incorporated in drama series and TV programmes.

NZ on Air was praised for organising such forums to air the views that would contribute to promoting change in funding policies to introduce more diversity in broadcast media.

Thakur Ranjit Singh is a postgraduate communication studies student attached to the Pacific Media Centre. Photo of Stan Wolfgramm and Bharat Jamnadas by Del Abcede.

Asia Downunder
Minority Voices
NZ On Air
Pacific Beat Street
Ride With The Devil
The Market

NZ media faces growing challenge over 'ageing, more ethnic' population

By Josephine Latu: Pacific Media Watch

The New Zealand media is expected to tackle some major changes over their audience base within the next 20 years due to a population transformation, says a leading demographer.

The director of the Population Studies Centre at Waikato University, Professor Richard Bedford, says the New Zealand population as a whole is not only growing older, it is evolving quickly in terms of ethnic diversity.

In fact, by the year 2021, current statistical projections show that the Asian population will have increased by more than 70 percent, the Pacific Islander population by 44 percent, and the Māori population by about 24 percent since 2006.

New Zealanders of European or “other” ethnic backgrounds (including from African and South American and other nations) are altogether predicted to increase by just below 6 percent in the same timeframe.

The number of people aged over 35 is also set to swell for all ethnic groups. Figures showed that between 2006 and 2021, those aged 35 and over will increase by 22 percent, compared to only about 5 percent for those under 35.

Professor Bedford presented his seminar as part of today’s forum on ethnic diversity in broadcasting, hosted by NZ On Air in association with the Office of Ethnic Affairs.

Titled “Screen and Heard, New Zealand Broadcast Audiences in 2020”, the event brought together decision-makers and leaders from various broadcasting backgrounds – including regional, mainstream and indigenous media - to discuss how the country’s changing demography will be served and represented on TV and radio.

Speakers included Minister of Ethnic Affairs Pansy Wong; managing director of Australia’s Special Broadcasting Service Shaun Brown; ethnic and English network manager from the BBC World Service, Murray Holgate; and Triangle TV chief executive Jim Blackman.

Professor Bedford added that despite the increase in ethnic diversity, “the reality of New Zealand’s population dynamics is that… the great majority is going to be older Pākehā descent people.”

At the same time, trends varied greatly by area and ethnic group. For instance, Dunedin and Hamilton had a disproportionately large population in their late teens and early 20s, reflecting the effect of universities.

Pacific Islander and Māori populations were also predicted to have a much younger population in 2021 than other groups.

'Finding the balance'
“The challenge [for media] is finding the balance in meeting the needs of these different communities,” he said.

Associate director of programming for TV3 Andrew Szusterman commented on the changing trends in demography, saying that as broadcasters, the media industry had to appeal to the broadest audience and reflect popular demand.

“We try to represent the populace – it’s about being with them at the same stage,” he told Pacific Media Watch.

According to Szusterman, TV3’s target demographic was mainly 18-49 year olds, and popular shows such as Outrageous Fortune, Target and Moneyman appealed to such a broad age group.

However, the commercial focus of the mainstream trade also meant that some ethnically based shows such as bro’Town and A Thousand Apologies would not have succeeded even five years ago because there was too little demand.

This had since changed.

“[Commercialism] is not a criticism, but an actuality of mainstream media,” added Szusterman.

'Coffee-colour' mix
Meanwhile, regional broadcaster Triangle Stratos chief executive Jim Blackman saw the profit-driven element as a threat to diversity.

“As long as you have a commercial imperative, you’ll never see true representation – just lip service,” he said.

He called for more multicultural representation on a mix of programmes to reflect New Zealand’s “coffee colour”.

The latest edition of Pacific Journalism Review with the cover theme “Diversity, identity and the media”, published by the Pacific Media Centre, was also launched at the conference.

NZ Human Rights Commission principle adviser on race relations Samuela Sefuiva launched the edition, complimenting AUT for its contribution to diversity affairs.

Josephine Latu is contributing editor of the PMC's Pacific Media Watch. Bro'Town graphic from NZ On Air. Picture of Sam Sefuiva by Del Abcede.

NZ on Air
NZ Population Studies Centre
Office of Ethnic Affairs