REMARKS: Cook Islands PM Brown opens PIURN 2023

Opening speech

by Cook Islands Prime Minister, Hon Mark Brown

5th Pacific Islands Universities Research Network Conference

Rarotonga, COOK ISLANDS, Tuesday 4th July, 2023


Kia Orana and turou kia tatou katoatoa

Distinguished guests – Kings Representative, Sir Tom Marsters, Lady Marsters, Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Henry Puna, Hon Akaiti Puna, Professor Pal Ahluwalia, Vice Chancellor and President of the University of the South Pacific, Professor Catherine Ris, President, University of New Caledonia, Associate Professor Tuifuisaá Patila Malua Amosa, Vice Chancellor and President, National University of Samoa, ladies, and gentlemen warm greetings to you all.

It gives me great pleasure to welcome you all and to officially the 5th Pacific Islands Universities Research Network (PIURN) Conference, here in the Cook Islands on the island of Rarotonga.

We are thrilled to be hosting more than 200 outstanding academics who have come from all corners of Te Moana-nui-o-Kiva, our great Pacific Ocean.

The University of the South Pacific (USP) Cook Islands Campus has organised, with Te Puna Vai Marama (Cook Islands Centre for Research), to bring you this conference, focusing on “Exploring this Sea of Islands,” while engaging with the work of one of the Pacific’s most revered academics, Epeli Hau’ofa.

This conference highlights the diversity of research in the region and brings together academics, researchers, and students to meet, exchange and discuss the common challenges faced by this “Sea of Islands.”

From politics to biodiversity, linguistics to art and filmmaking, communities to indigenous knowledge, the delegates will experience new methodologies and discover potential research collaborations.

As a country that is embarking on a voyage of discovery, the knowledge economy and the role of research becomes more important to our Nation. This is most recently evidenced by the approval of Cabinet in 2021 of the Guiding Principles for Research in the Cook Islands.

This document sets out our ambitions to provide every opportunity for research to be pursued on our shores.

At the centre of these guiding principles are Tu Oa’oa – Reciprocal relationships and Tu Ta’aka’aka (Respect).

Respect between the researcher and research participants is vital to the maintenance of reciprocal relationships in the Cook Islands.

On a personal note, it is particularly fitting that this conference is being held here at the University of the South Pacific Cook Islands campus – the home of one of our most celebrated academics and authors – USP alumni the late Dr Marjorie Crocombe.

A sandalwood tree that stood tall in her backyard, tells the story of where her fascination with researching history began.

In 1813, an Australian ship captain, Theodore Walker returned to Sydney with a tale about an island in the South Pacific that was covered with sandalwood trees – growing from the shores to the very tops of the mountains.

Although he never ventured onto the shores of Rarotonga, he named the island Walker’s Island.
While up in court on a charge of hanging a seaman on board his ship, Walker shared his story with the court’s magistrate D’Arcy Wentworth.

In 1814, the Cumberland with Wentworth on board set off on a mission to find the sandalwood trees, which at the time could “make a man rich for the rest of his life”.

Ultimately, not one sandalwood tree was found on Rarotonga.

Crocombe’s book They Came for Sandalwood was the culmination of her research into those events. She authored many books that have been used by schools and universities as educational resources.

Dr Marjorie Crocombe was a fierce advocate for education, a self-confessed lifelong learner, who always encouraged others know and learn more.

The special celebration, a “Festschrift,” to honour her life and work on Wednesday is testament to the regard in which she was held by all of you, her colleagues, and fellow academics.

On that high note, I wish you well in your deliberations and I am proud to declare the 5th PIURN Conference officially open.

Kia Manuia! – ENDS


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