Intersections: Memorial for Ron Crocombe
eJournal of the Australian Association for the Advancement of Pacific Studies
Issue 1.2 and 2.1, April 2010

Ron's academic work began in Cook Islands, writing on land tenure, but he became the greatest scholar of the modern Pacific region as a whole. He was unfailingly generous with his help but had no patience with pious or self-serving arguments from academics, aid donors or politicians. He was an exemplary public intellectual, unafraid to speak truth to power, local and international. Ron was trusted for his unsparing but unsentimental commitment to the interests of the people of the region. He was lucky to find love and intellectual companionship with Marjorie and a platform for his regional work as Professor at the University of the South Pacific.

I first met Ron as a student in his USP land tenure course, when I was working in the Lands Department in Solomon Islands. He was setting up the publishing program at the USP's Institute of Pacific Studies, a huge project that will be one of his legacies. Research about the region was then dominated by outsiders, including the Australian National University, where he did his PhD. Ron's project, carried forward by Asesela Ravuvu, Howard van Trease and others, was to correct this imbalance by encouraging, cajoling, commissioning, editing and publishing Pacific Island writers and scholars. I was lucky to have the opportunity to help by editing several books, mainly by Island writers, on land and politics. When I went on to teach at the University of PNG I came across another aspect of Ron's legacy: the Waigani seminars, which brought together scholars and policy makers, and the New Guinea Research Unit, which he had directed, and which became the National Research Institute. He had been a sharp critic of Australia's late-colonial policy in PNG, but he was no apologist for post-colonial Island leaders. Recently we had been sharing notes and clippings on corruption in the region (his book on Cook Islands Politics was a pioneer in this field of Pacific Studies). His final work on the relationship between Asia and the Pacific tracks the shift of the region away from its colonial relationships. We will miss him terribly.

From left to right: Brij Lal, Colin Filer, Robin Hide and Claire Golson at Ron Crocombe's memorial at ANU.


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