David Lawrence

Dr David Lawrence is an anthropologist who has worked in Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, the Solomon Islands and Finland. He has academic qualifications in Asian history, political science, languages and in museum curatorial practice and librarianship.

David’s doctoral research examined the traditional and contemporary aspects of economic ties between Torres Strait Islanders and coastal Papuans.

In Australia he was Coordinator of the Torres Strait Baseline Study for the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and later was commissioned to write on the nature and development of Aboriginal joint management in Kakadu National Park.

Among his publications are: Customary Exchange across Torres Strait (Queensland Museum 1994) Kakadu: the making of a national park (Miegunyah Press 2000); The Great Barrier Reef: finding the right balance (Melbourne University Press 2002) and most recently, Gunnar Landtman in Papua, 1910 to 1912 (ANU Press 2010).

Between 2005 and 2007 David was Research Coordinator on the Community Sector Program Community Snapshot: a national survey of 300 rural communities across the Solomon Islands. The final reports, Hem nao, Solomon Islands, tis team, were presented to AusAID in 2007. In 2005 he was a Frederick Watson Fellow at the National Archives of Australia and in 2010 he was Scholar-in-Residence at the National Film and Sound Archive.

He is currently a Resident Visiting Fellow at the Resource Management in Asia Pacific program at ANU and a consulting anthropologist on the 2010 and 2011 RAMSI People’s Surveys in the Solomon Islands.

Gunnar Landtman in Papua »

1910 to 1912

Authored by: David Lawrence, Pirjo Varjola
Publication date: January 2010
Despite poverty and neglect the coastal Kiwai of the northern Torres Strait and Fly estuary are a strong and vibrant people with a long tradition of work in the marine industries of the Torres Strait. Regrettably their current social, economic and political problems are marginal to both Papua New Guinea and Australia. Gunnar Landtman’s research, undertaken between 1910 and 1912, is still a foundation stone for understanding the position of the Kiwai today. In those two years in Papua, Landtman managed to record a large collection of valuable legends and stories, many of which are still told today. He travelled widely throughout the Torres Strait, the southwest coast of Papua and the Fly estuary and even to the Gulf District. He made a comprehensive collection of Kiwai material culture now housed in the Museum of Cultures in Helsinki and a second, duplicate set for the Cambridge Museum. He also collected some of the earliest examples of Gogodala material culture available for research. In 1913, he published, Nya Guinea färden [New Guinea expedition], a detailed travelogue of his work and life among the Kiwai and, while he wrote a substantial corpus of work on the Kiwai in English, Swedish and Finnish over the next twenty years, this personal account in Swedish has not been translated into English before. It forms a crucial link between Landtman’s serious academic works and his intimate personal journey of discovery. The aim of this book is to bring the personal face of the serious anthropologist to greater attention. David Lawrence began studying the Gunnar Landtman collections held by the National Museum of Finland when he was researching customary exchange across the Torres Strait for his doctorate at James Cook University. He was also fortunate to be able to spend two years of fieldwork in the Fly estuary region and visited nearly all the communities described by Landtman. He is a Visiting Fellow at the Resource Management in Asia/Pacific program of The Australian National University and has published works on Kakadu National Park and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.