Patrick Reeder is the Communications Manager at the Department of Pacific Affairs (DPA). He does a terrific job promoting the great research work undertaken by DPA’s 60 research scholars, 21 academics, 15 visiting fellows and 30 PhD scholars. He also informs appropriate methods to communicate to different audiences, supports a range of important events and develops engaging stories.
Prior to joining ANU in September 2018, Patrick had extensive experience working in public policy and international development in the public and private sectors. His jobs had taken him to the most interesting places in the world.
Patrick spoke to us about his volunteer experience with the Central Tibetan Administration, his favourite place in Canberra and what he is passionate about in his role.
Tell us a bit about your background.
I’m quite a new Canberran, only arriving here last year, but before moving I knew it reasonably well from an internship and previous roles – particularly a role I had as an advisor for a Federal MP. As well as becoming acquainted with Canberra, flying up and back from Melbourne every sitting week for several years I got to know every town, hill, and valley on the flight route!
Before Melbourne I lived in Sydney, and I grew up in the Blue Mountains, but I’ve also lived in several other places - Paris, Amsterdam, Vilnius in Lithuania (it’s a long story), and Dharamsala in India (see below).
As well as working for the politician I’ve had a couple of government relations-type jobs, and prior to joining ANU I was responsible for communications at an international development not-for-profit which placed Australian volunteers on international projects, including in the Pacific. It was my experience in this role which inspired me apply for my current role in the Department of Pacific Affairs (DPA).
What attracted you to the ANU?
Something I really like about ANU is its strong links to government, and the strong focus on policy, and impact. With my background in government relations and development that really appealed to me. The practical policy relevance of a lot of DPA’s research is what makes it particularly interesting. Another attraction was definitely the physical and intellectual environment – it’s a great location, so much greenspace, close to the lake etc, and working at ANU there are so many seminars and other events that you have access to.
What is your favourite place in Canberra?
That’s a difficult one, but I’m going to say the lake, and in particular the walking/bike paths around it. Whether it’s a bright summer morning, or a crisp autumn afternoon, whenever I can, I do a lap on my bike - it’s just far enough to make you feel like you’ve done some exercise but not so far (or steep) that it takes up half your day. Access to nature is one of the main reasons why we decided to make the move here.
Could you share with us one of your most meaningful volunteer experiences?
Well, probably my most unique volunteer experience was with the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), better known as the Tibetan Government-In-Exile. CTA is based in Dharamsala in the foothills of the Indian Himalayas. It’s well-known on the Indian backpacker circuit as the home of the Dalai Lama. The other thing it’s known for is rain – it has the highest rate of precipitation on the subcontinent. I forget what the average annual rate is, but having been there over the entire monsoon, I can tell you, it is a lot.
The CTA is a remarkable organisation. The idea is that it will be ready to govern when Tibet is independent - there’s an elected legislature and executive, and a whole infrastructure of government including departments of education, health, etc. Mostly it looks after Tibetans living in India and elsewhere around the world, but the department I was volunteering in – the Department of Information and International Relations was its political arm. It was fascinating to see this team working to keep the idea of an autonomous Tibet alive, so many decades after the communist takeover, even when many of them had never even visited their ancestral homeland.
What are you passionate about in your role?
DPA really is the leading global centre of expertise for research on the Pacific, and it’s a privilege to learn about the societies and politics of the Pacific, from people who have such a breadth and depth of expertise about the region. DPA’s research agenda is focused around the most pressing development issues in the contemporary Pacific, and if I can contribute to translating and communicating that research to those thinking about, and developing policy for the region, then I’m happy.
What is the next exciting project you will be working on?
I’m currently working on a more strategic approach to communicating the research we are doing. This approach will see a series of outputs; seminars, workshops, publications, etc exploring a particular theme over an extended period. It’s not finalised but potential themes could be, for example ‘democracy’, ‘gender’, or ‘security’ in the Pacific. This new approach is exciting because, by aggregating the research we are doing already, it has the potential to increase awareness about the ground-breaking research DPA does, and deepen its impact both in the academic space and in terms of policy.