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Oliver Lilford is fascinated by Pacific environments and societies.
Originally from Toowoomba, Oliver decided that he didn’t want to follow the path of many of his classmates and attend university in Brisbane. He wanted a new experience.
‘Moving to ANU was a move away from home, away from what I thought was comfortable and normal. And I think the biggest influencing factor in that was probably Open Day. So I came down, crisp winter day, and I just loved the whole atmosphere, the whole environment. I decided then I was going to ANU,’ he says.
Oliver is studying a Bachelor of Philosophy—Asia and the Pacific. The PhB is a research-intensive undergraduate degree that provides students with mentorship by senior academics.
The flexibility of the PhB has enabled Oliver to pursue a diverse range of interests. He has completed units in environmental science, Indonesian, international relations, and is specialising in Pacific studies.
‘I’ve always had this love of coastal environments and marine environments. I’ve visited Vanuatu several times, and did a French exchange to New Caledonia in school. So I wanted to learn more about that. But I wasn’t prepared for everything I was going to learn. Pacific studies turns your worldview on its head.’
Oliver especially appreciates learning about the active role that Pacific peoples have taken in combatting climate change, which is already having a significant impact on nations in Oceania.
‘There’s a power in those Indigenous ways of knowing, such as in the climate change debate. They’re always described as the victims, but in doing so you deny them agency,’ he says.
In 2017 Oliver attended the Pacific Islands Field School, where Associate Professor Katerina Teaiwa took the group on a learning tour of the arts industry in Samoa. ‘It really opened my eyes to a whole other side of development, that being arts,’ he says.
He will also be going to Fiji in winter on the Regional Policymaking for Pacific Development study tour, and is hoping to go on exchange to Hawai’i, Vanuatu or Fiji soon.
Oliver has completed a research project on farming and fisheries in the Pacific, and is interested in working in that area in the future.
‘There’s a lot of things happening with community-based natural resource projects and working in that space, particularly around fisheries management and resource management, is something I’d like to do.’
Oliver says that he has benefited from the flexibility and unique opportunities he has experienced at ANU.
‘All my courses have been really small, very niche, you get to know the lecturer very well. I’ve sort of bypassed the mainstream uni experience. But I really like that.’