Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands Forum: a critical review

Stephanie Lawson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


The relationship between the Pacific islands and the region’s ‘bigger brothers’ – Australia and New Zealand – is often seen in two-dimensional terms with the latter appearing to act in concert and in terms characterised by underlying neo-colonial attitudes and a determination to dominate the regional agenda. Given that both are former colonial powers with considerable political and economic resources and are the major aid donors in the region as well as being members of the powerful geopolitical entity known as ‘the West’, it is not difficult to sustain an image of neo-colonial dominance. But to do so also requires casting Pacific island countries in a certain role, not only lacking agency but also cohering around a common identity and set of interests. This article examines key aspects of regional relations as played out through the region’s premier organisation, the Pacific Islands Forum, and assesses the extent to which a simple political divide between Australia and New Zealand on the one hand, and the island states on the other, can be maintained.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)214-235
Number of pages22
JournalCommonwealth and Comparative Politics
Issue number2
Early online date31 Jan 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Australia
  • New Zealand
  • Oceania
  • Pacific Islands Forum
  • regional organisation


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