Inspiring Women of CAP: Associate Professor Katerina Teaiwa

07 March 2018

To mark International Women's Day this year we are celebrating some of the professional and academic staff who make our College a world-leading institution for research and teaching on Asia and the Pacific.

In this piece, we chat to Pacific academic and artist, Associate Professor Katerina Teaiwa.

What inspired you to get into your field of research and why?

I started in interdisciplinary Pacific Studies as a Masters student at the University  of Hawai'i at Manoa in the late 1990s and still maintain a passion for this dynamic  and complex region today. It is my home region and this is reflected in my work  which is motivated by my own family history and the voices and experiences of Pacific Islanders.

Who is a woman in your field that you look up to?

I always looked up to my elder sister, Associate Professor Teresia Teaiwa, who sadly  passed away from cancer last year. She was a passionate leader in Pacific Studies  and greatly respected and loved by her students and colleagues. Before she passed Teresia laid the ground work for a scholarship for Pacific Islanders to do Pacific Studies and seeded it with her own funds. 

What is a teaching/research project you are currently working on that motivates you?

I recently presented a visual arts exhibition that converted my ANU research on the impact  of phosphate mining on indigenous Banabans into a multimedia installation for Carriageworks in Sydney. It was one of the most challenging things I've ever done. The support and response to that project motivated me to encourage other scholars and  students to imagine their work in creative forms that can reach broader audiences beyond the academy. 

What are you most proud of?

I'm most proud of my book, "Consuming Ocean Island: stories of people and phosphate from  Banaba". I shared stories of my ancestral island from the perspective of many different stakeholders in the mining operations.  I reminded readers of the environmental, ethical, political and economic stakes of resource extraction for indigenous peoples and global consumers. The larger, more powerful countries who were involved, including Australia, rarely have to face the consequences of their actions. 

What’s your advice to your younger self about choosing the right path and juggling life’s different demands?

I would tell my younger self to do yoga and not to work sixty hours a week. There are so many other things in life to experience and enjoy. As a mother of two young children I cherish family time much more now than  I did in the earlier parts of my academic career. It's not about work/life balance, just balance.

Image credit: by Zan Wimberley





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