The Australian National University
Emeritus Faculty Member

Maev O'Collins

Reflections on a busy life since ‘official’ retirement

After twenty wonderful and challenging years at the University of Papua New Guinea I retired in December 1989 with the official title of ‘Professor Emeritus’ and moved to Canberra where earlier contacts with the ANU Department of Political and Social Change meant that I once again became an honorary Visiting Fellow. Since that time I have continued to be  involved in consultancies in Papua New Guinea and other countries in the South Pacific and as a sessional lecturer, post-graduate supervisor and thesis examiner for several Australian and overseas universities. I have also been able to provide advice to students and colleagues with an interest in the South Pacific and to post-graduate students from Papua New Guinea and other parts of the South Pacific. Since 2002, after completing research and writing a book on Australia’s relationship with Norfolk Island, I have found that this is another area where students and colleagues from ANU and other universities frequently seek my advice.

Over the past ten years, while continuing contacts with Papua New Guinea and Norfolk Island and presenting papers at ANU and other conferences, I have given lectures to the University of the Third Age, Rotary Clubs, other  voluntary organizations and government departments, and also provided background briefings to Australian Federal Police participating in the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands. I have also become an honorary Adjunct Professor at the Canberra Campus of the Australian Catholic University.  At the same time, my involvement with ANU has deepened since the establishment of the Emeritus Faculty and the opportunity to present two papers in the Emeritus Faculty Lecture Series.

Recently, my interest in the roles played by Australian universities in the Asia/Pacific region has led to consideration of the importance of collaborative research and involvement in social justice issues in Australia. On 12 May 2011, I assisted colleagues at the Australian Catholic University in arrangements for a public forum on “Tackling intolerance: encouraging acceptance and friendship in Australian society” held at the Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture, Charles Sturt University Canberra campus. The Honorable Ed Husic opened the session with speakers from ANU, ACU and CSU and this illustrated the importance of universities working together to promote a more just Australian society.  On 12 November 2011, I presented a paper on this theme at a conference held at the Australian Catholic University Melbourne campus.  Returning to Canberra in December, I was once again in touch with students and colleagues who share my interests – both in the Asia/Pacific Region and in the valuable roles which Australian Universities can and should play in promoting social justice.

I look forward to continuing these involvements in the years ahead.

Curriculum Vitae

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Photo - Bob Cooper Coombs Photography

Emeritus Professor, University of Papua New Guinea
Visiting Fellow, Political and Social Change, RSPAS, The Australian National University
Adjunct Professor, Canberra Campus, Australian Catholic University

After undergraduate studies in Australia, completed a Doctorate of Social Welfare at Columbia University, New York. From 1972 to 1989 taught at the University of Papua New Guinea, appointed Professor of the Department of Anthropology and Sociology in 1979; received an MBE in the Papua New Guinea Honours List in 1987 and was awarded the title of Professor Emeritus by the University Council in 1989. Since returning to Australia, has undertaken consultancies sponsored by AusAID, the Asian Development Bank, the World Bank and other UN agencies; provided written and oral submissions to a number of parliamentary committees and non-government organisations.

Selected Publications:

2003. 'Insider/outsider perspectives on local-level aid to Bougainville and Papua New Guinea: Dilemmas for communities. NGOs and donors, Development Bulletin No.61 May 2003:73-78. (with Ruth Saovana-Spriggs), Development Studies Network, ANU.

2002. An Uneasy Relationship: Norfolk Island and the Commonwealth of Australia, Pandanus Books, ANU.

2000. 'Images of violence in Papua New Guinea: whose images? Whose reality?' in Reflections on Violence in Melanesia, S. Dinnen and A. Ley (eds.), Hawkins Press, Leichhardt and Asia Pacific Press, ANU.

'Reflections on poverty assessments in Papua New Guinea, Fiji and Vanuatu' in Pacific Economic Bulletin, 14(1):33-46.

1993. 'Women and Youth: Groups with special needs. Experiences from Papua New Guinea'. Development and Planning in Small Island Nations of the Pacific, United Nations Centre for Regional Development, Nagoya, pp. 153-171.

1993. Social Development in Papua New Guinea: 1972-1990, Monograph 18, Department of Political and Social Change, ANU.

1992. `Logging in Solomon Islands: Economic necessity as the overriding issue?', in Resources and Development in the Pacific Islands, S. Henningham and R.J. May (eds).Crawford House Press.

1990. 'Social and cultural impact: a changing Pacific?' and `Carteret islanders at the Atolls Resettlement Scheme: a response to land loss and population growth', in Implications of expected climate changes in the South Pacific Region: an overview, J. C. Pernetta and P. J. Hughes (eds). Regional Seas Reports and Studies No. 128. Nairobi: United Nations Environment Programme. 1990.

Main Interests

Social and Environmental Change, Community Development, Australian Aid, South Pacific


Post-graduate supervision and thesis examination, consultancies, sessional lectures