In 2006 Dr. John Synott from Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia was elected Secretary-General of APPRA, bringing a shift in the location of the Secretariat to Brisbane, Australia. John has been a long-term APPRA member, convenor of IPRA Commission for the Rights of Indigenous People, and the executive council of the Peace Education Commission, and on the IPRA council for several years. He was also the inaugural editor of the Journal of Peace Education and was for some years a co-editor of the IPRA newsletter. He has researched and taught extensively across Asia, is an expert in Korean Studies, and in recent years has been working on the educational vision of Mahatma Gandhi.
The initial tasks of the new secretariat were:
- To re-build the Directory of expertise of APPRA members and list them on the APPRA website
- To build a new website for APPRA
- To explore opportunities for an APPRA conference
- To explore options for funding for APPRA activities
The 2009 APPRA Conference (September 10-12): was held at the College of Indigenous Studies, National Dong Hwa University, Shengfou, Hualien, Taiwan. Professor Cheng-Feng Shih, Dean of the College and a long-term APPRA member collaborated with Dr Synott to organise and hold the conference. After a trend towards community/action-oriented conferences this conference focussed on the presentation of academic research and scholarship papers.
With 48 papers and 65 delegates the conference was focussed on the theme of Innovation and Change: Peace Research, Studies and Education in Asia-Pacific.
There were three sub-themes within this frame work and these were The Challenges of Sustainability, Building Cultures of Peace and Governance & Government.
With the conference generously hosted by the College of Indigenous Studies at NDHU there was important participation by local Taiwanese indigenous people. Indigenous elders conducted an opening ceremony, and a cultural welcome concert. Local singers shared their musical tradition with participants in the evening and a number of papers examined the peaceful struggles of indigenous people in Taiwan and throughout the Asia-Pacific for cultural and political rights.
This conference will be remembered as one where not only high-quality papers were presented but where the participants developed a strong sense of community, due to being accommodated in a single hotel near the campus and sharing meals and many delightful evening and excursion activities that introduced participants to the wonderful Taiwanese culture and sights.
Selected Papers from the conference were edited by John Synott for a special issue of the Australian-based journal Social Alternatives and were published under the theme title Peace-building from Below in Asia-Pacific in Vol 29, No 1, 2010.