Saturday evening (24 July 1999) I heard the news that there had been a plane crash in Fiji and that 17 people had been killed, amongst them five (now six) Australians. Two weeks ago I left Fiji in high spirits after attending the Imagining Oceania conference at the University of the South Pacific. I wondered if any of the conference delegates had tarried in Fiji for one reason or another and were on the flight. I also wondered about the fate of the Fijians I know, most of whom are academics and travel a lot.
Sunday morning I headed for the newsagent to scope the reports on the front pages of Australia's main daily newspapers. It was the same story -- five Australians dead. One of them, AusAid worker Ray Lloyd and I had spoken on the phone just under a year ago about a conference that I was convening on Pacific Representations: Culture, Identity, Media. I rememberhim saying that he was about to go on a posting in the Pacific and I remember noticing him at the conference. I tried to put possible identities to the brief descriptions of the other Australians on board and ended up figuring that I didn't know any of them.
But there was still the issue of the remaining 12 passengers about whom no information was given in the papers. I felt frustrated and angry. Didn't they matter? It is not as if the crash happened in a place in any sense remote from Australia. The historical, political and cultural relationships that bind Australia to Fiji are incredibly strong and rich. In part, these continue to be expressed in a steady flow of people, goods and ideas between the two countries. You have only to look at the people and their packages arriving on an Air Pacific flight in Sydney or Nadi airports to be reminded of this. So why wasn't this expressed in at least some reference to the other 12, even if only to say that no information was yet available?
Recommended CitationChanter, A., Editorial: In this issue, Asia Pacific Media Educator, 6, 1999, 3-5.