Reporting the South Pacific


QUT News correspondent group at Noumea

QUT News correspondent group at Noumea.

Student journalists from QUT have been on a reporting tour, looking to help redress an imbalance in information about the South Pacific region.

The six students, mostly in their final year of studies, will be travelling to New Caledonia, Vanuatu and then Auckland, where they will be hosted by the Pacific Media Centre.

The coordinator of the venture, Senior Lecturer, Dr Lee Duffield, said this week the idea of the project was for students to sharpen their journalistic skills by working outside of familiar territory, and obtain some inter-cultural experience.

“We have had at least seventeen such overseas field trips in the last fifteen years or so, of which four have been to New Zealand or Papua New Guinea, not further afield in the region.

“Yet for Australians the South Pacific is the neighbourhood, and we do not hear enough about it, even though there is much government-to-government contact, tourism, other business and immigration.

“More and better media coverage can of course make for much better flow of information and much better understanding.”

Emma Clarke

Emma Clarke

Bachelor of Journalism student, Emma Clarke, is preparing to take up a job with a country newspaper immediately after the field trip.

“Doing research on Pacific affairs is a different focus to that, but journalism is journalism, finding out and letting people know”, she said.

“From our backgrounding, it is plain that the focus in New Caledonia will be the ‘independence’ referendum, and the question of what date will finally be set for the vote.

“After the serious contretemps between Australia and France over nuclear testing, great efforts have been made to strengthen commercial, and also people-to-people ties, and we will be taking a measure of that.

“We have been interested in the news from Vanuatu about the reverence for custom, and many people’s determination to see that the pressures of modern life are matched with traditional values.

“We will be asking for explanations about it.”

The reporting group from Brisbane have been seeking out commentators with good knowledge of local conditions, in New Caledonia and Vanuatu, and later at Auckland.

Throughout the three weeks journey, the group are publishing their reports through QUT News on line, and packaging radio reports for broadcast on multi-cultural radio, 4EB-FM – a half-hour “South Pacific Special Report”, at 1pm, Tuesday 22 July.

“I hope that in a modest but worthwhile way we can have some impact”, says Lee Duffield.

“QUT Journalism is one of the leading Journalism schools placing people in the media industries, and if more of them are attuned to Pacific affairs, it is bound to flow on.

“Certainly the South Pacific is a seductive region where people want to go and stay; and there is no shortage of news or feature material to be obtained, whether it is about development issues and human health, the conflicts that arise, human rights and media rights, and the softer things, like finding magical places to be — or visiting a coffee plantation that keeps the café society going back home.”

Other team members on the travelling news bureau from QUT:

Nick Kelly, a Journalism-Law double degree students who has been finding out about custom-and-law in Vanuatu, as well as making a short video of the group’s field trip, (requested by the university’s International and Development department).

Jane Mahoney, a graduate student in the Master of Journalism program, adding a good professional credential to her portfolio.

Harriet Harvey, completing her Business-Journalism double degree. She is the field trip’s principal radio producer.

Jaleesa Simpson, in year 2, doing a Bachelor of Mass Communication degree with Journalism Major.

Danielle Veivers is a year 3 student who has changed over from a Business-Law double degree course to Business-Journalism; taking the opportunity to fast-track her learning in the journalism field.