Our Oceania: Forging a Path in Uncertain Times

Grief is a funny thing.

We’ve reached a period of global uncertainty. A pandemic that has caused governments around the world to introduce an array of measures to slow the coronavirus’ spread.

In this time of unknown, looming economic instability, and mounting fear, I’ve been reminded of the struggle of those most vulnerable, and most exposed to the risks of COVID-19.

Our elderly. Our Indigenous communities. And our under-resourced areas.

“We sweat and cry salt water, so we know that the ocean is really in our blood,” Teresia Teaiwa

Some moons ago, we had just celebrated our daughter’s first birthday when my best friend, also known simply as hubby, was diagnosed with cancer. In shock, we both went on with our work that day, as if it hadn’t happened.

Following three years of extremes, he lay on a bed in our living room as I said our final goodbye.

No longer able to speak, he listened. It was a special time to say thank you for fifteen years of life shared together.

It was through this tsunami of loss and deep grief, I was reminded of another and ongoing struggle.

Rewind to 2004, a young group of us sat in Pacific Studies, a class led by the great Dr Teresia Teaiwa at Wellington’s Victoria University.

We were reminded so passionately by Teresia that the struggle for self-determination is not new to the Pacific, and globally, native indigenous peoples.

She taught us that our Pacific histories, native ways of knowing, our own indigenous knowledge; was, and always has been, equal.

Hawaiian academic and activist, Haunani Kay Trask.

And building on Epeli Hauofa’s concept of Oceania, the moana (ocean) that unites us all, and Haunani Kay Trask’s deliberate liberation and decolonisation of native minds when it comes to unquestioned re-told histories, we were exposed to new ideas and alternate ways of thinking.

Our young class was awakened and introduced to Konai Helu Thaman, Albert Wendt, Witi Ihimaera, Sia Figel, Vilisoni Hereniko, Linda Tuhiwai Smith, Tusiata Avia, Selina Tusitala Marsh, and so, so many more.

Each encouraging us with new waves of thought, stirring possibilities for Pacific peoples beyond the existing and restrictive representations. And instilling in us, our young minds, hope.

Through their work, they demonstrated tides of change.

Today’s climate

Currently, protests against the giant 30-metre telescope on Maunu Kea in Hawaii enters its eighth month.

Hundreds of temporary residents camp near the access road to Mauna Kea in the attempt to protect the Mauna, a sacred site from further desecration.

Demonstrations at Mauna Kea, the tallest peak in Hawaii, have taken place on Hawaii’s Big Island since mid-July 2019. Image credit: Darren Miller Photography.

And as this piece is written, efforts continue to curb the spread and impact of the coronavirus.

The Pacific’s first case of COVID-19, officially termed a pandemic by the World Health Organisation over the weekend, was last week confirmed in Tahiti.

To combat the arrival of the virus, most Pacific countries have now imposed stricter border controls.

In Samoa, over the weekend, the government further tightened travel restrictions.

Fiji, Vanuatu, Tonga, Papua New Guinea, New Caledonia, Tahiti have introduced stricter health checks and turned away cruise ships in recent weeks.

Our Brisbane Pacific Connect Talanoa

(Pacific Connect Entrepreneurs Dialogue: Back row L-R: Kim Graham-Nye, Anna Blackman, Salote Waqairatu, Martha Raka, Dorothy Parang Talia, Tina Briggs, Gina Zheng, Dinah Lewis Boucher. Middle L-R: Ashish Narayan, Va Hart, Donna Wate, Samantha Kies-Ryan, Roselyn Mua Andreas , Catherine Fritz-Kalish, Rosie Fong, Niki Goulding. Front: Esmeralda Lo Tam, Shurti Kumar, Kylie Ellwood, Wilma Vocor, Mere Roden, Georgina Benson, Nelma Yagabo, Som-Ling Leung, Mary Handen, Emma Koster, Rutha Omenefa, Ronna Luna Pastorizo-Sekiguchi, Elizabeth Galomule, Kajaal Kumar.)

As a group of women, each of us attended the Brisbane talanoa with our own dreams and hopes for our lives and for our families.

And while the road ahead is marked with challenges and unknowns, it is my prayer that these dreams are realised for each and every one of us.

Our crossing paths at the Brisbane talanoa was refreshing, and as women of the Pacific, a reminder that we all shared the common goal; to create a better more sustainable future for our Pacific region and the wellbeing of its people.

As we enter unprecedented times with many unknowns ahead, if history shows us anything – it is from the darkest of moments that real change and growth can occur, if we are somehow able to find it and take hold of it.

Given my penchant for a good quote or two, I leave you with Martin Luther King Jr, and a word from James Baldwin.

The first reminded me to keep getting back up when I felt like I had nothing left, and the latter, well, it’s pretty self-explanatory, on looking at yourself first, and perhaps relative to the current pandemic.

“If you can’t fly, then run. 

If you can’t run, then walk.

If you can’t walk, then crawl,

But by all means, keep moving.” MLK

“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” JB

As news continues to develop, wishing everyone safe passage during this time.

Soifua lava

Dinah Lewis Boucher

Dinah Lewis Boucher


Dinah is a Journalist and producer with The Urban Developer

She has a keen interest in sustainable development in the Pacific region, and the power of storytelling as a platform to connect people and ideas.