Bougainville, Solomon Islands and the Limits and Possibilities of Transitional Justice

Event details

SSGM Seminar

Date & time

Monday 16 July 2018


Hedley Bull Theatre 2, Hedley Bull Centre (130), Garran Road, ANU
ANU Canberra


David Oakeshott


Hannah McMahon

This seminar synthesises the major findings from David’s PhD project on the contribution of schooling to the transitional justice processes of Bougainville and Solomon Islands. The Asia-Pacific region (Melanesia in particular) and formal education, have only recently been caught up in the rapid expansion of the aims, scope and mechanisms of transitional justice. An analysis of schooling at the sites of the Pacific’s two largest conflicts since the Second World War can, therefore, offer new insight into the possible limits and possibilities of transitional justice. To this end David conducted fieldwork at three secondary boarding schools in Solomon Islands, and two in Bougainville. Data were gathered through qualitative interviews and participant observation with teachers and students and through semi-structured interviews with representatives from government and civil society. These data show that relationships to the civil conflicts which Bougainvilleans and Solomon Islanders construct in their everyday lives shapes the nature of daily life at school. That relationship to the violent past is in both cases based around the maintenance of silence about conflict, the drivers and effects of which will be discussed in the seminar. David will also discuss some of the ways schools do help students and teachers re-shape identities that were in play during the Bougainville Crisis and Solomon Islands ‘Tension.’ Notably this happens less as part of the formal curriculum than in the course of everyday life at school as students and teachers learn to live together. Despite this, however, the applicability of transitional justice in Melanesia is limited by its (so far, at least) poor appreciation of the productive use of everyday silences as a mode of relating to the violent past.

About the Speaker

David Oakeshott has been a PhD candidate in the ANU’s Department of Pacific Affairs since March 2014. He has a long-standing interest in Melanesia’s contemporary challenges, particularly the transitional justice processes of Solomon Islands and Bougainville, and has built on this interest during several field trips to the region. In 2013 David conducted fieldwork in Solomon Islands for the completion of his Honours degree, and in November 2014 participated in the SSGM’s election observation mission to Solomon Islands. In July 2016 he returned from 10 months PhD field research in both Solomon Islands and Bougainville that built on themes he explored in his Honours thesis. While his Honours research considered the contribution of formal history education reform to transitional justice in Solomon Islands, David’s PhD takes a more holistic look at formal schooling. It critically assesses the mechanisms through which students and teachers learn to live together both inside and outside the classroom.

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