Book launch and discussion: Helpem Fren by Michael Wesley
On 14 March 2023, Australian foreign policy expert and former Lowy Institute Executive Director Professor Michael Wesley launched his new book Helpem Fren: Australia and the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (MUP 2023). The book is the first comprehensive history of Australia’s RAMSI intervention, which was aimed at preventing the collapse of the Pacific Island state. Helpem Fren draws on still-classified official documents and more than 30 interviews to explore the motivations and dynamics behind the 14-year Pacific-wide mission — a project that cost more than $2 billion and involved thousands of soldiers, police and public servants from Australia and across the Pacific. RAMSI was remarkably successful in an age of disastrous interventions, yet its legacy has largely vanished from Australia’s public consciousness. Professor Wesley joined the Lowy Institute’s Pacific Islands Program Director Meg Keen, to discuss the challenges of interventions and development assistance in a Pacific that is more geopolitically contested than it has been for 70 years.
Michael Wesley is Deputy Vice-Chancellor International and Professor of Politics at the University of Melbourne. His research and writing focus on Australian foreign policy and the international affairs of Asia and the Pacific. Previously, he was Dean of the College of Asia and the Pacific at the Australian National University. He has also held positions as Executive Director of the Lowy Institute, Director of the Griffith Asia Institute at Griffith University, and Assistant Director-General for Transnational Issues at the Office of National Assessments. He has a PhD in International Relations from the University of St Andrews.