Volume 53 1944 > Volume 53, No. 2 > The South Seas Regional Commission, by Ernest Beaglehole, p 59-71
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- 59

IT is already clear that the reconstruction of the post-war world is likely to demand the solution of an enormous number of extremely complex problems. These problems are of all kinds: some of them economic, some political, some educational, some health problems—but all of them, in their fundamentals, human problems. Whether or not this reconstruction is successful and how lastingly successful it is, will depend upon the ability of our statesmen to plan the sort of institutional set-up not only in occupied Europe, in Germany, in Asia, but in other parts of the world as well, which will make possible co-operative living instead of conflict-living. Statesmen will hopefully use the advice, the knowledge and the skilled techniques of the scientist in solving this world-wide human problem. The social sciences, in particular psychology, anthropology, economics and medicine, will thus have to meet large scale responsibilities in this post-war world. For upon the knowledge and the skills of the social scientist must rest the burden of providing the sort of information without which effective human planning will be unsuccessful and co-operative living impossible.

The Atlantic Charter is presumably an expression of the hopes, expectations and overall plans of men of democratic good will. It recognizes as a fact that there are many different peoples in this world each with its own way of life. As long as this way of life does not endanger the common life of other peoples in the world, then a people has the right to enjoy its own customs, habits, values and morality, to be as happy or as unhappy as the next man without fear or favour from anyone. Cultural diversity and respect for the positive values of these cultural differences thus become one of the foundations of a brave new world.

If cultural differences are pronounced and facts stubborn in Europe, they are equally important in the Pacific. They are important not only because there are many peoples, many languages and many cultures in the Pacific area, but also because these Pacific peoples live in small, isolated groups and are therefore dependent peoples. They are relatively powerless and relatively backward in a material sense. Yet they occupy land areas that in a post-war world will be of great strategic value. This is the tragedy of these Pacific peoples in one sense. On the other hand if the Allied nations are sensitive to the responsibilities and duties that power confers on them, then what might be tragic for the Pacific Islander may well turn out to be a situation full of immediate good.

That one should not be too cynical about the future welfare of the Pacific peoples is shown by the recent ratification of the Australian-New Zealand Agreement, 1944. Articles 28 to 31 of this Agreement - 60 relate to the welfare and advancement of the native peoples of the Pacific. The Agreement recognizes that the principle of “trusteeship” is applicable to all the peoples of the Pacific. It also recognizes that this principle cannot be fully and successfully implemented without collaboration among the authorities concerned with the control of these peoples. Therefore the Agreement proposes the establishment of a South Seas Regional Commission. The Commission would consist of accredited representatives of Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, the United States and the French Committee of National Liberation. Its function would be purely advisory and would have as its purpose that of securing a common policy of social, economic and political betterment of the Pacific native peoples. Six means are suggested whereby this common policy might be achieved:

  • (a) Recommending arrangements for increased participation of natives in administration;
  • (b) Recommending arrangements for material and economic development;
  • (c) Recommending arrangements for co-ordination of health, medical and educational services;
  • (d) Recommending arrangements for improving native labour conditions and social services;
  • (e) Recommending arrangements for collaboration in economic, social, medical and anthropological research;
  • (f) Making and publishing reviews of progress achieved in the previous five spheres of activity.

Thus stated, it is clear that these provisions of the Agreement hold high promise for the future welfare of the Pacific peoples—if and when the Commission is constituted and in operation. It is also clear that the Commission and the governments accredited to it will assume far-reaching responsibilities both for advising and initiating enlightened policy on the one hand and carrying out this policy on the other. Before we discuss very briefly some of these responsibilities, something may be said about a possible organization for the Commission and the peoples whose welfare will be its charge.

The Agreement refers only to advisory powers of the Regional Commission. Presumably therefore the Commission would have to depend on publicity and persuasion in order to have its recommendations implemented by the participant powers. It would also seem possible under this advisory scheme for any one of the powers to refuse to carry out suggestions if these seemed inconvenient or troublesome. This clearly raises the question as to whether it would not be advisable to vest the Commission with more than merely advisory powers. The members of the Institute of Pacific Relations Mont Tremblant Conference held at Quebec in 1942 came to the conclusion that if power were allied with responsibility (if, for instance, the United States, as a member of a regional commission, were prepared to accept a proportionate share in furthering the economic and social development of the South Pacific) then a regional commission for any part of Asia or the Pacific should be given wide powers. Some of the proposed powers were: the right to suggest general lines of development for self-governing institutions; the right to receive and the obligation to demand and publish with its own comments reports on the social and economic progress of a dependent people; the right to suggest lines of social and economic policy; the right to make on the spot inspections and investigations of grievances of an indigenous group against the administering power. These rights and obligations - 61 are far-reaching. They go well beyond the giving of advice which is either taken or tabled according to the vagaries of the power concerned. But if these broad rights of a regional commission were operating in the Pacific they would afford a means for securing a rapid and coordinated development of the whole area. The Mont Tremblant conference incidentally did not favour an international administration of dependent areas nor any form of condominium-like government. It did, however, recommend that regional commissions should be set up without waiting for the termination of hostilities. 1

Nothing has yet been said officially about the constitution of the Commission. Very possibly it may be composed of a minimum of five commissioners, one each from the five accredited governments. Its executive officer could very well be a full-time director with full responsibilities for administration, staffing and periodical review. Under the director there could very well be four departments of the Commission, each in charge of a principal research officer with such assistants as each department needs: one for economics and material welfare, one for health, one for education, one for anthropology. In addition there would be attached to the Commission from time to time temporary research workers carrying out investigations into specific short-term projects. The headquarters of the Commission would probably be in Sydney. The cost of the Commission is anyone's guess at the moment. If we assume that the Commissioners themselves each have another job (such as a high commissionership or a consular appointment) and meet together, say six times a year to map the overall policies of the Commission, then the staff will consist of five or more permanent officers with office staff and short-time researchers. The cost of such a set-up might be eight or nine thousand pounds a year. Travel and publication expenses would need a further two thousand pounds as a minimum. Thus the total cost of the Commission's work each year would be about twelve thousand pounds. Presumably this would be contributed in equal shares by the five accredited governments. Incidentally the sum is approximately equivalent to a per capita levy of twopence on all the native peoples controlled by the five governments involved.


The national interests at present controlling the island groups that would presumably be brought under the advisory supervision of the Commission are shown in the following table: 2

Country South Pacific Populations Controlled Percent of Total South Pacific Population
Australia 919, 993 66.5
Great Britain 266, 080 19.3
France 73, 378 5.3
New Zealand 71, 633 5.1
Great Britain-France 40, 000 2.8
United States 11, 291 1.0
Total 1, 382, 375 100.0
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This table includes the island territories, dependencies and colonies at present controlled by the five named powers in the Southwest and South Pacific—roughly, in those parts of the Pacific east of 130 degrees longitude and south of the equator. Of the total population of almost one million four hundred thousand, 90.9% are at present controlled by Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand. About 8% of the remainder are controlled by France or by France and Great Britain together. Only 1% of the total population is controlled by the United States. If the Maori of New Zealand were included in these totals New Zealand's control would increase from 5% to just over 11%.

It is clear from these figures that the principal governments involved in the Regional Commission are, and perhaps should be, Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand. These three could form in themselves a useful and worthwhile Commission were the remaining two powers unable to co-operate. Possibly, however, because of the sacrifices of men, equipment and wealth that have been made recently in the Southwest Pacific by the United States Armed Forces, the figure of 1% given in the table does not give a very fair indication of the likely post-war interest of the United States in this part of the Pacific. But a discussion of this point obviously depends on questions of politics, defensive strategy and the like. Hence it is outside the scope of the present paper.


Some idea of the Pacific distribution of native peoples that would come under the advisory eye of the Commission can be obtained from the following tabulation:

Island Group Land Area (in square miles) Number of Natives Percent of Natives in Total Population Total Population
Fiji 7, 083 104, 252 49.5 201, 518
Solomons 14, 600 94, 700 99.2 95, 500
Tonga 250 32, 490 96.2 33, 785
Gilbert and Ellice 200 34, 638 97.0 35, 720
New Guinea 93, 000 581, 342 98.9 587, 625
Papua 90, 540 337, 000 99.3 339, 400
Nauru 8 1, 651 48.8 3, 383
Western Samoa 1, 133 55, 558 93.7 59, 306
Cooks and Niue 201 16, 075 98.3 16, 350
New Hebrides 5, 700 40, 000 92.8 43, 119
New Caledonia 8, 548 29, 178 48.0 60, 809
French Establishments 1, 577 37, 200 84.6 43, 962
Wallis and Futuna 48 7, 000 99.3 7, 050
American Samoa 76 11, 291 87.5 12, 908
Total 220, 964 1, 382, 375 1, 540, 435

If we assume that the island groups given above will constitute the majority of those controlled by the Commission, then the work of the Commission will extend from New Guinea westwards to the Tuamotus and Marquesas, from the Gilberts southwards to the Cooks. These island groups make up a land area of over two hundred thousand square miles, a total population of one and a half millions of whom almost 90% are natives (the remainder being Europeans, Chinese, East Indians, half castes). Of the fourteen island groups listed, nine have over 90% native population, eleven have 85% or more native populations, while only three—Fiji, Nauru, and New Caledonia - 63 —have native populations amounting to a little less than 50% of the total populations. Thus in the large majority of island groups, the problems of the Commission will be almost solely those of native peoples. Only in two or three groups will sizeable numbers of immigrant European or Indian peoples complicate the human problems.

Two further points may be noted about these island groups. The first is that most of the native populations are increasing in numbers. The range of percentage increase since 1921 is from 7.8% for New Caledonia to 66.7% for Western Samoa. This increase is occurring despite a relatively high death rate and a relatively very high infant mortality rate. When serious measures are taken in the future to reduce the Pacific native infant mortality rate, then, provided the birth rate keeps at about its present figure, the island populations will grow enormously. This increase in itself will require careful watching and thoughtful planning for the future by the Commission if overpopulation and its accompanying evils are not to play havoc with island land tenure and economic affairs. In the Gilbert and Ellice groups over-population is at present being controlled to a limited degree by planned migrations to other unoccupied Pacific islands. Whether such means will be available to relieve future surplus populations elsewhere remains to be seen. At least it points up quite vividly the immediate need for a geographic and demographic survey of the South Pacific in order to evaluate probable future population trends and the various possibilities for handling the problem of surplus populations.

The second point to be kept in mind when considering these different island groups is the fact that together they include a tremendous cultural diversity. The native peoples involved range the scale of cultural differences from the isolated hill tribes of Melanesian New Guinea at one end up to the now somewhat sophisticated peoples of the Cooks or Tonga at the other end of the scale. Not only are there represented the major cultural divisions of Melanesian and Polynesian but within these two large divisions there are a great many significantly different cultures and mutually unintelligible languages. Moreover, the amount of contact with European civilization has varied greatly. Therefore the number of changes that have been introduced into the aboriginal native cultures by borrowing, diffusion or forcible imposition will also vary considerably.

These wide variations in culture and experience with European civilization will doubtless be accentuated in many respects by the impact of war. You cannot, after all, eat a dead Jap or bedeck yourself in salvaged war equipment or flee from bursting bombs or widen your experience with American cigarettes, coffee, manners and morals and remain the same ignorant Pacific island native for ever afterwards. Some of these war experiences are likely to be in the nature of temporary personal or social upheavals. Others will have more lasting effects. In any case the job of sorting out and classifying these Pacific cultural diversities and then fitting a policy of planned social change to the specific culture involved will be no light one. It will need wise judgment on the part of the Commission. It will also demand a very thorough anthropological survey to close up existing gaps in the anthropological literature on the area and thus provide the basis of firm facts without which the best judgment and the most intelligent planning are doomed to futility.

It may be worthwhile now to consider a few of the many research and administrative problems that are likely to arise and about which - 64 the Commission will be expected to plan a common island policy immediately it begins to operate.


It is a truism to say that no island administration can ever be any better than the quality of the administrators and other civil servants whose job it is to implement the policy of the controlling power. Doubtless one of the first problems that will attract the attention of the Commission will relate to the quality, methods of selection and training of the civil service personnel now controlling the island territories. The Commission will find wide differences in personnel. One of its first jobs may very well be that of planning certain uniform minimum requirements that must be met if the standards of administrative efficiency are to be raised.

Before the war the British Colonial Service probably had the best conditions of service to offer to potential island administrators and at the same time insisted on the most rigorous training and selection. After this war it should be the aim of all the other South Pacific powers quickly to improve their own standards in respect to service and training until the Colonial Service standard is reached. This will not only mean increased salaries and better pensions but also better selection and training of cadets for the island services. For doctors this means post graduate training in tropical medicine and anthropology, perhaps at a centralized medical school like Sydney. For key administrative personnel perhaps, training in anthropology at Oxford or Cambridge. For teachers, nurses, other administrators and missionaries such training would also mean specialized courses of instruction before taking up island duties.

Provided the Commission is able to standardize as far as is necessary the training prerequisites, it is doubtless desirable for each government to provide its own training facilities and programme. By this means a common basic training can be given to every island official, specialization for specific territories is made possible while at the same time the training is provided most cheaply. For New Zealand a suitable scheme would involve the setting up of a department of Pacific studies or a school of anthropology at one of our University colleges. For the small sum of say, two thousand pounds a year this department should be able to provide not only general student courses but also more specialized training in native custom, law, psychology and social life for all those proceeding to the islands on civil service, nursing, teaching or missionary duties. There seems to be no reason why today's government should not anticipate the Commission's future advice by providing the financial means now for the necessary University facilities.

It should hardly need to be emphasized in this context—but the elementary fact is often forgotten—that the successful administration and teaching of natives both demand and depend upon a sympathetic understanding of the culture, the values, the psychology and the way of life of the natives whose collective life is being controlled and whose children are being changed by the process of education. This sympathetic understanding, critical where necessary, but fundamentally friendly and helpful, depends mainly on informed knowledge. This knowledge can be picked up in a stumbling, laborious, hesitant fashion by the best civil servant today after a year or two of island duties. By the less intelligent and more insensitive administrator under today's system the knowledge is never acquired. As a result, personal - 65 tensions often develop, the course of administration or teaching becomes a bumbling routine, the specialized job is badly done. A six months' course in Pacific anthropology before island experience would not work a miracle of course. But at least it would provide a firmly built frame into which the bits of subsequent island experience could be quickly and neatly fitted. Thus armed with ever increasing and exact knowledge of native custom and psychology, the administrator, the teacher, the nurse, the doctor could function more efficiently at his job—and even the missionary might learn that tolerance of another people's values is not incompatible with the spirit of Christian teaching.


There is probably no aspect of the social welfare of the Pacific islanders that is so loaded with thorny and difficult problems as that of education. Unlike health problems, for instance, where everyone will agree that better health is in itself more desirable than ill health and where therefore the aim of island services being defined, collaboration becomes purely a matter of arranging means and services, — in education the matter is vastly different. The questions of content, curriculum, methods, amount and kind of education, the question of who shall be educated, where and by whom—the answer to all these depends on prior solution of the question, What are we educating for? Because of cultural diversity and the differing impact of cultural change in the Pacific, it is probably true to say that no simple definition can be given of the aims of education that would hold good for all the islands coming under the advisory eye of the Commission. The Commission therefore would be forced to give several definitions of the aims of education and thus to indicate the sort of content and technique that should prove most suitable or desirable for differing island blocs.

At the present time there are wide differences in the amount and kind of education that the Pacific islanders receive. In most island groups the various mission societies control much of the education. In groups like Fiji and Tonga there are in addition, government or private schools. The number of natives who receive education varies greatly from group to group. In New Guinea, Papua and the New Hebrides, for example, there is very little education and only a small percentage of literate natives. On the other hand in Fiji the percentage of literacy is said to be high, while in Tonga it is claimed that 100% of the people are literate—but this last figure is probably unduly exaggerated, unless the word literacy means something other than it generally means in common speech.

The Commission will doubtless suggest that the missions continue their education of the natives in those areas where they are already firmly entrenched. It may also recommend some uniform training requirements and minimum teaching standards if government assistance is to be given to mission schools. For many of the island groups the very minimum of education in the three R's—and this only for those natives who are likely to come into contact with the white trader or official—should be sufficient for some years to come. Where the native cultures are still relatively well integrated the remainder of the educational process may very well be left to the natives' own indigenous educational techniques. Should the attempt ever be made seriously to implement (as article 31, sub-section (a) of the Agreement has it) “arrangements for the participation of natives in administration in increasing measure with a view to promoting the ultimate attainment - 66 of self-government”, then some further education will clearly be necessary for selected natives not only in the backward but in the more advanced island groups as well.

The exact form and type of such education for leadership is a matter that is open to difference of opinion. In American Samoa the Feleti school established and maintained by the Barstow Foundation has for some years been attempting an all-round indigenous training of youths especially selected with a view to their later succeeding to chiefly and other leadership positions in the local Samoan communities. In Western Samoa on the other hand, it has recently been announced that the Administration proposes with the help of the New Zealand government to send selected youths to New Zealand for higher education. Of the two schemes it would seem that the American plan is superior. Not only are the youths kept in intimate contact with their own people, their own country and their own people's problems during the plastic years of youth, but also the educational content, technique and aims can be specially adapted to the needs of the youth and the problems that they will later on be expected to solve. Whereas by contrast the New Zealand plan means uprooting the youth for a shorter or longer period and then giving them a more general education that may have special value for New Zealand Pakeha or Maori youth but is not particularly relevant to Samoan society and Samoan problems (and this after all is one of the most important criteria of the goodness or badness of any educational system: how far is it in intimate and integral relation to the culture and special problems of the people being educated?).

Because one of the aims of the Agreement is to secure in all the island groups a greater degree of self-government, the Commission might very well consider recommending the establishment of a special school of government, supported financially by all five Pacific powers, staffed by well trained teachers. To this school would be sent selected youth from the island groups for specialized training in leadership, the arts (or science) of government, and related subjects. The curriculum would be related both to the general problems of leadership and social control as well as to the particular problems of each island group. In this way representatives of each island group would get to know each other and their own version of wider Pacific problems. Training would be specialized and to the point. The dangers of uprooting youth and imbuing them with mistaken values (often Pakeha values of no consequence to native life) would be reduced to a minimum. The success of the Central Medical School at Suva in providing training of a different type for youth from many Pacific island groups suggests that a centralized and common school of government or leadership should also have every expectation of success.

For all the island schools the Commission would undoubtedly initiate-some scheme for an immediate survey of curricula, methods of teaching, the special problems of bi-lingual students and teaching, the provision of adequate text material (both in the native language and in Basic English perhaps, for the British islands), standards of selection and training for white and native teachers, training in native custom and social life for the white teachers, the quality of school buildings, classroom equipment and like educational matters. On the basis of this survey the Commission would then be in a position to present well-grounded recommendations to the proper administrative or governmental authorities.

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Nowhere else in the field of native administration does there lie so much power for helping the natives as in the field of education. Nowhere else therefore is there so much need for clear-sighted vision and firm decision in the light of the best planning possible. This is particularly true in such island communities as Western Samoa or the Cooks where education must not only help prepare the child for life but also for successful and happy living in a culture that is itself changing from year to year under the impact of the white man's ways, example, custom and laws. Thus education has here a dual task. It can only succeeed if educators give prior thought to the probable lines of change in native society and then direct their energies towards fitting the child into this changing world. The educator may be incorrect in some of his anticipations. The future after all is only partly predictable. But education without a firmly grounded basic policy and sense of direction is worse than no education at all. Its accompanying theme is likely to be frustration to both teacher and pupil. Its only result is to discredit the real function of native education which ultimately is that of helping the native to adjust to the changes which the white man has forced (often unwittingly) upon the native himself.


There can be no dispute about the aims of an islands’ medical service. It is to cure people of indigenous and introduced diseases. It is to prevent people becoming sick. It is to prevent avoidable mortality among young and aged alike. In its most general expression, it is to give the islanders more abundant and happy life. There can also be little dispute about the means whereby this happy state is to be realized. It is through the application of western European medical concepts and practices and through the widespread use of the skilled services of men and women trained in scientific medicine.

The great problem that arises in the attempt to put these aims and techniques into operation comes from the facts that sick people are many, medical care is expensive, that there is as yet no unified health service for all the Pacific islands and finally, that the natives have themselves their own ideology and practice of medicine, their own skilled practitioners with vested interests to conserve. These obstacles to enlightened medical knowledge are many and difficult to surmount. It is only through long-range planning, patient and often heart-breaking work over several generations that much improvement is likely to be brought about.

The kinds of disease that infect island people include not only some that were once a scourge in European countries and thus represent one of the gifts of European civilization to the natives, but others that thrive in warm tropical climates and are presumably indigenous to the tropics. The roster of important diseases includes small pox, measles, dysentery, leprosy, influenza, typhoid, malaria, tuberculosis, venereal diseases, yaws, some other more minor skin infections, and various intestinal parasites of which hookworm has been most closely investigated. The incidence of these diseases varies greatly from one part of the Pacific to another. Malaria is a Melanesian infection which so far has not spread to the eastern Pacific— though filariasis is a pest in Polynesia that is hard, if not impossible, to control. Hookworm infection, according to Dr. S. M. Lambert, was found in 93% of the Fijian people, 70% of the Cooks, 52% of the Ellice, but only 9% of the Gilbertese people. Lambert attributes this differential incidence to similar or differing sanitary conditions in these - 68 various island groups. Thus the disease or diseases that are chosen for first attention will vary from one part of the Pacific to another. Because some diseases are more widespread or more resistant to treatment than others, the health situation in the Pacific is always going to be one of many-pointed attack, but even so, one in which slow progress only is to be expected.

As long as each protecting power works in relative independence from the others in regard to health services (as has roughly been the case in the past), it will always be difficult to provide conditions of service that that will attract first-rate doctors, and enough of them, to island problems. Enthusiasts with a high sense of their calling there have always been in the past. Medical missionaries and others for whom the values of tropical life exercise an understandable attraction have worked well. But now the time is near for a standardization of medical services with adequate pay, pensions, training in tropical medicine, and the like. This standard should make possible a free exchange of experts between one island group and another. Thus all would benefit from the increased experience and better skills of the doctors. But past experience has also shown that one of the best methods of handling island health problems is through the widespread training and use of Native Medical Practitioners. It is to be expected that the Commission will not only recommend an extension of this scheme (and probably include in it a scheme for training native nurses), but will also insist on closer co-operation between the powers in supporting the Central Medical School at Suva. There seems no reason for more than one such training school in the South Pacific for Native Medical Practitioners. The advantages of centralization are so obvious that matters of prejudice or prestige should no longer be allowed to block the achievement of centralized efficiency 3

There is clearly no way of overcoming the vested interests of the native herbalist, the quack expert, the black or the white magician, the religiously-minded faith healer or the exponent of native folk medicine —most of whom thrive in the Pacific islands as they thrive at home in New Zealand among Pakeha and Maori alike—except by the long-term process of education in the schools, vigorous propaganda among adults for more enlightened methods of infant care, a vigilant enforcing of practical sanitary regulations, a sympathetic and understanding medical services’ personnel that will offer a better, more effective, more human sort of medical treatment. If the problems of island medical care are of great magnitude and extremely complex, they nonetheless offer a challenging opportunity to the Regional Commission and its supporting powers to bend their best energies toward the task of planning an adequately financed and co-ordinated many-sided programme of attack.


Article 31, subsection (e) of the Agreement states that one of the duties of the Regional Commission shall be that of recommending - 69 “arrangements for collaboration in economic, social, medical, and anthropological research”. Medical research will obviously become an important aspect of a fully developed island' medical service. Economic research will presumably relate to the study of production, finance and marketing of island' products. It is unclear at to what the term “social” research is meant to cover. Presumably one meaning of the term might be research into standards of living, work conditions, general welfare and education. But in this sense of the word “social” would be included in a modern programme of anthropological research.

Today the science of anthropology is rapidly becoming a sort of over-all blanket science which covers none too warmly, securely or happily at least four sharply defined scientific bed-fellows. These are physical anthropology (really a branch of biology or anatomy), archeology (functionally a backwards extension of history), material culture (an aspect of technology), and social or cultural anthropology. The main pattern of the blanket that provides a shelter for these four sciences is defined by the fact that all study primitive, or pre-literate (in one case long dead) peoples—their physical form, their historical remains, their arts and crafts, their functioning social and cultural life.

Now it seems fairly clear that without necessarily denying some sort of essential unity to all aspects of anthropological science nor the purely scientific value of these aspects, the most relevant aspect of anthropological research at present needed in the Pacific islands is research into the facts and processes of the changing cultural life of the native peoples. The past and present physical structure of the people, their ultimate racial antecedents, are not of great importance; their past inferential history and possible migrations are of theoretical interest only; the classification and typological study of material artifacts is of value to the museum curator but of little significance to the administrator. The long series of Pacific island' studies prepared by the Bishop Museum experts have given us about as much as can now be expected concerning the pre-European phases of Polynesian culture. This means therefore that present and future anthropological research should necessarily be of the type that is often called “applied” anthropology. It is anthropology in other words that is applied to the solution of particular problems. The problems may be various: Who should be selected for training in a youth leadership school, for instance, or, What is the best type of education for people in island A as compared with island B, or, What can be expected to happen if this law is passed or that regulation amended, or, How can this health campaign be best conducted, or, What will be the hardships involved in increasing taxation? Problems of this sort are likely to be everyday problems to some administrator somewhere. Often in the past he has had to act on inadequate information, insufficient advice or else, for lack of knowledge, he has thought it safer not to act at all. But these and other like problems are or should be the daily diet of an applied or government anthropologist. His is the knowledge gained by close personal contact and study of the lives, customs, rules, conduct and beliefs of the native people. To him, therefore, the administrator should first turn in seeking that information without which policy is misformed or misapplied.

The British Colonial service has in the past been able to make use of anthropologists in the service of colonial administration, notably in Africa. Administrators have also often profitted by training in anthropology at one of the English universities. Australia again, has had its government anthropologist in Papua and in New Guinea. It - 70 has been able to make use of additional skilled anthropological surveys in various sections of both mandate and territory. The New Zealand government and its island' administrations have remained consistently and continuously unaware of the benefits that would accrue to Pacific administration by the use of a government anthropological service or the commissioning of reports by private anthropologists from time to time as need arose. Which seems to suggest either an already incredibly efficient island' administration, or a certain myopic insensitiveness to the skills of the modern anthropological and socio-psychological field worker.

The point is probably obvious and does not need elaboration. It does suggest, however, that one of the first efforts of the Regional Commission will be that of persuading the supporting governments to utilize to the full the services of modern applied anthropology. These services should be available not only for the training of island' personnel but also for help derived from field surveys and social research into specific and pressing island problems.


The aim of this paper has been to outline a few of the many problems that the proposed South Seas Regional Commission will inevitably have to consider in its assigned function of “securing a common policy on social, economic, and political development directed towards the advancement and well-being of the native peoples themselves”. Ultimately, perhaps, the solution of any or all of these problems of human well-being will depend on prior and basic decisions regarding the fundamental economic and strategic role which is planned for these Pacific islands in a future national or international order. Copra, sugar, gold, nickel, chrome, phosphates: these are the principal island commercial products. They are all of them of vital importance to one or another phase of the economy of the modern world. Can the economic development of these Pacific islands be made subsidiary to the welfare of the island people?—This is the first basic problem about which a decision must be made before the Commission can see its work in proper perspective.

The second question is: What will be the future strategic value of the islands to the five South Pacific powers? The post-war Pacific world is clearly going to be focussed for a while on air fields and naval bases, on calculations as to future naval, military and air strategy, on negotiations for air transport privileges and control. The questions have a proper importance without doubt. Until they are settled, however, it is likely to be difficult to know what power is responsible for whom and how far, again, human welfare must be subordinate to a possible future offensive or defensive strategy.

These two factors of trade and strategy therefore, are likely to be the major forces that, unknown to the islanders, will dictate the shape of the post-war Pacific islands world. They will dictate not only the major contours of this world but also the direction in which change itself will take place. It is only after major economic and strategic decisions have been made that a total view of the Regional Commission's task will be apparent. This is not to argue that nothing can yet be done toward establishing the Commission and setting it a-functioning. As war swings north and west from the South Pacific there are left behind many pressing and immediate social problems of island life. Taking these problems as the focus of its first investigations, the Commission might well begin now to plan the rough - 71 outlines of a common policy of native administration. There is clearly much work to be done before the five South Pacific powers can justly claim that the policy of “trusteeship” is being fully, whole-heartedly, and conscientiously implemented.

We do not know how long it will be before the proposed Regional Commission will be established—whether it is going to be a matter of months or one of years. If long discussions and complicated arrangements are necessary before a common accord can be reached, we hope that this will not be taken by the New Zealand and Australian governments as an excuse for marking time or delaying certain fundamental decisions and preliminary organization. The welfare of the Pacific peoples in those areas free of, or recently liberated from the Japanese, is just as vital and important today as it will be a year or more hence. Therefore we would wish for immediate signs of government activity here and now in New Zealand. There is much that can be done that does not have to wait upon ultimate economic or strategic decisions.

These immediate activities might very well include such matters as planning and staffing (in conjunction with the University) the personnel training school, commencing a programme of anthropological and social research, organizing economic and medical surveys, overhauling the island educational service (and experimenting with Basic English), building up in the present island administrative staffs the sort of informed public opinion that will later welcome, understand and use the results of social research, rather than subtly sabotaging it by a cold indifference. There are many activities of this nature which are of paramount importance to island welfare whether or not the Regional Commission is ever established. If New Zealand wishes fully to carry out the doctrine of trusteeship, then no occasion is better than the present and no time ought to be lost. Perhaps the recently created New Zealand Island Territories Department is already planning and organizing along the lines we have suggested. If not, we hope such thinking and action will not be long deferred.

1   For the details of the recommendations of this conference see the Institute of Pacific Relations report War and Peace in the Pacific, New York, 1943, pp. 56-57.
2   The figures in this and the following table are adapted from Keesing, Felix M., The South Seas in the Modern World, New York, John Day Company, 1941, pp. 306-307. They refer to census or estimated numbers of population for the latest year of report after 1936. Keesing's book is of the greatest value to anyone wishing for a balanced survey of South Pacific people and their problems. See also Woodman, Dorothy, An A.B.C. of the Pacific, London, Penguin Books, 1942, for a brief account that sets the South Seas in the wider perspective of the whole Pacific area.
3   Since this paper was written it has been announced by the Acting Prime Minister of New Zealand that proposals for a comprehensive co-ordinated health service for islands, dependencies and colonies in the South and Southwest Pacific are now being closely examined by authorities in the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Fiji. The scheme under consideration involves not only development of the Central Medical School in Suva hut assistance for the central leper station at Makongai and also the interchange of medical officers between the various island administrations. For all interested in the welfare of the South Seas people these proposals are very welcome. They may be taken as an indication of a genuine desire to implement the recommendations of the Agreement.