Cogito, ergo sum. I think, therefore I am. (René Descartes, mathematician and philosopher,1599-1650)

Monday 7 December 2020

pn635. AUT meet, and farewell to Professor David Robie and Del Abcede

Del, David and John Pulu, Tagata Pasifika
Presentations at the AUT Pacific Media Centre-organised symposium last Tuesday (pn627) included cross-cultural documentaries, an industry panel on “transition”, Pasifika “brown table” initiatives, a forthcoming Asia-Pacific conference, and an Internews project on climate and coronavirus reportage.

The highlight —or I should say the highlights—of the evening were the numerous accolades paid to PMC Director Professor David Robie  and Del Abcede who will be retiring at the end of the year.   They will be sorely missed amid concerns about  David's successor and the continued existence of the Centre.

David has lived in the Pacific, been involved in Pacific human rights and media freedom issues, or taught journalism to Pacific Islanders and others for 40 years. He will be a hard man to replace.

He was aboard  Greenpeace's Rainbow Warrior in Auckland harbour in 1985 shortly before it was sunk by French saboteurs (Opération Satanique), and close at hand when other French "state-backed terrorism" targeted independence leaders  in New Caledonia and French Polynesia. The Warrior had been on its way to a protest against a planned French nuclear test in Moruroa. He has actively criticised the Indonesian government for the ruthlessness of its attacks on the West Papuan independence movement, the Philippines government for murdered journalists, and has protested media suppression in Tonga, Samoa and Fiji.  

Del Abcede spoke on behalf of the West Papuan students at their request, declaring: “I will say the things they cannot say because it puts them at risk”. She appealed for more support from New Zealand and Pacific countries for the West Papuan self-determination cause.

From 1993 to 1997  David  headed the journalism programme at the University of Papua New Guinea, where he also the Pacific Journalism Review (the latest PJR edition has papers on climate change and the pandemic)  and Pacific Media Watch. From 1998 to 2002 he was head of journalism at the University of the South Pacific in Suva.  He  joined AUT 2002 and became the first PhD in Journalism and Politics at a New Zealand journalism school in 2004 (degree from USP supervised by  Prof Stewart Firth) and became founding director of the Pacific Media Centre in 2007. In 2012 he became the first professor in journalism at a NZ journalism school and has been its director since.

Students are not known for their accolades, especially  for teachers who are leaving. But then many teachers do not inspire their students as David does.  

His own inspiration comes from using his head and  passionately believing in what he is doing.

Kia kaha, David raua ko Del, aku hoa korua.

-- ACW 

P.S. A list of David's books can be seen on this web site.


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