Hailing from Papua New Guinea, Teddy is a PhD Candidate in Political Science, College of Arts, Society and Education at James Cook University’s Townsville campus. He has a political science background and the research he is currently embarking on is cross-disciplinary between political science, anthropology and sociology. His research analyses the impact of patron-clientism on corruption within the context of both the modern Weberian system and socio-cultural constructs such as the 'wantok' and the 'big man' systems found in PNG. This study is an effort to tackle a problem as complex as government corruption in a society where a strong traditional culture of reciprocity intersects with burgeoning individualism. The 'wantok' and 'big man' systems are examples of informal systems of reciprocity (ISRs), which are most often used as an excuse to justify corrupt actions and behaviour. There is little current research into this area of which he hopes to explore this gap further to make an important contribution to the scholarly literature and deficits in government policies, not just in PNG but also for better understanding of the cultural and systemic process across the Asia-Pacific region.
Teddy started his journey as a MPhil candidate in 2019 under the Australia Awards Scholarship (AAS) Program and applied to upgrade to a PhD. Teddy advised that his time so far at JCU has been supported by a reliable team of academic advisors of which he is very grateful for the excellent relationships. His desire to upgrade to a PhD now was in part the confidence and great support he received from his advisory team. The Covid-19 pandemic has brought many challenges and disappointments and despite this unforeseeable circumstance, he says he has not lost faith.
The traditional face-to-face interaction was his main technique for data collection and could not proceed as planned. Teddy scrambled to identify options to keep the research project alive. Restrictions on international travel between Australia and PNG meant that traditional face-face-face interviews with his potential participants in PNG was unlikely. Having considered all available options and to avoid compromising the research, the focus was shifted from field work face-to-face to online interaction using the most relevant online interactive tools available. He employed three online data collection tools to collect data: 1) The online survey generated by Google Form, 2) The facilitator assisted face-to-face focus group discussions (FGDs) using WhatsApp video calls, and 3) Online focus group discussions (OFGs) using a closed Facebook Group. The OFG discussions through the closed Facebook Group was also the main participant recruitment tool for online survey. Participants from the facilitator assisted FGDs were recruited by two research assistants based in Port Moresby.
Teddy found it challenging to pull through the Covid-19 environment, as he was unable to leave Australia to reunite with his family in PNG. However, he said the upside to Covid-19 was that it has opened new learning opportunities, particularly with the use of online tools for research, conferences, and seminars. He is currently analysing data and discussing preliminary findings with his supervisors and hopes to submit his thesis in December 2022. His advice to those who starting on a PhD journey is to ensure you create a healthy relationship with your academic advisors, and always leave room for readjustment for the “uncertain” future.