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Patricia O’Brien

Patricia O’Brien

Dr. Patricia O’Brien is a historian, author, analyst and commentator on Australia and Oceania. She is a faculty member in Asian Studies at Georgetown University and in the Department of Pacific Affairs, Australian National University.

Patricia O’Brien is a wide-ranging historian and analyst of Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific Islands. She is the author of “Tautai: Sāmoa, World History and the Life and Ta’isi O. F. Nelson” (2017), “The Pacific Muse: Exotic Femininity and the Colonial Pacific” (2006), and is co-editor of “League of Nations: Histories, Legacies and Impact” (2018) and numerous other works. She was the resident Australian and Pacific historian at Georgetown University, Washington DC from 2000-2013, the Jay I. Kislak Fellow in American Studies at the John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress in 2011, and the J. D. Stout Fellow in New Zealand Studies at Victoria University Wellington in 2012. From 2014-2019 she was an Australian Research Council Future Fellow in the School of History, Australian National University, Canberra.

In 2020, she returned to Georgetown University’s Asian Studies Program to teach on Pacific pasts, presents, and futures. As well as ongoing historical writing and research, she has done analysis, podcasts, and media commentary on Pacific-related topics, from Samoa’s constitutional crisis (she is also co-editing a book on this complex topic), regional relations with Papua New Guinea, U.S. atomic testing in the Marshall Islands, the current Compact of Free Association negotiations, the AUKUS agreement and COVID-19 in the Pacific and U.S.-based Pasifika communities. In 2021, she also joined the Australian National University’s Department of Pacific Affairs as a visiting fellow and the Pacific Partners Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Washington DC.


Posts by Patricia O’Brien
March 08, 2024

Is This the End of the COFA Saga?

By Patricia O’Brien
With COFA funding expected to finally get congressional approval, the U.S. will need to work to overcome the negative perceptions generated by the protracted struggle to fund vital U.S. Pacific partners. 

March 06, 2024

What’s Next for Papua New Guinea After Violent Start to 2024?

By Patricia O’Brien and Douveri Henao
2024 has already tested Papua New Guinea, with deadly unrest in the capital and tribal fighting in the highlands. Where do matters currently stand for the government of James Marape?
February 12, 2024

Marape’s State Visit Puts Australia-Papua New Guinea Bonhomie on Display

By Patricia O’Brien
For Australia, it is critical to keep good ties with PNG amid China's growing influence.

February 09, 2024

COFA Collateral Damage and Its Consequences: A View from Palau

By Patricia O’Brien
Palau President Surangel Whipps says that “there was optimism and hope” when the Palau-U.S. compact agreement was signed. But concerns are mounting as funding stalls in the U.S. Congress.

January 20, 2024

Is Christianity Marape’s Political Saving Grace in Papua New Guinea?

By Patricia O’Brien and Douveri Henao
PNG, recently rocked by riots, is likely to declare itself a “Christian nation” in early 2024.

January 18, 2024

Nauru’s Geopolitical Clout  

By Patricia O’Brien
The diplomatic battle between Taipei and Beijing is but one arena where Nauru is flexing muscle that greatly exceeds its demographic and geographic size.
January 09, 2024

Australia’s Start to 2024 Sets the Stage for a Challenging Year

By Patricia O’Brien
At 2023 came to a close, Australia found itself facing a bevy of difficult issues both at home and abroad.

November 14, 2023

Bougainville’s President Toroama Goes to Washington

By Patricia O’Brien
The people of Bougainville, President Ishmael Toroama, says, “do want their freedom and do want justice.” Will the U.S. support that quest or leave an opening for China?

October 30, 2023

Can the Australia-US Alliance Overcome Fraught Politics in Washington?

By Patricia O’Brien
Biden and Albanese might be in lockstep, but actualizing AUKUS requires U.S. congressional support that cannot be guaranteed, even at this high point of Australia-U.S. relations.

October 16, 2023

Australia Says ‘No’ to Indigenous Voice

By Patricia O’Brien
The Indigenous Voice to Parliament has been strangled by hands seeking short-term political gains.

October 10, 2023

‘Oppenheimer,’ Nuclear Amnesia, and the US Pacific Legacy

By Patricia O’Brien
At the very time the Marshall Islands COFA negotiations began to falter over the U.S. atomic legacy, “Oppenheimer” appeared in cinemas.
September 28, 2023

US Pacific Policy Forges Ahead With Successful 2nd Summit

By Patricia O’Brien
Despite domestic political headwinds, Biden’s engagement at the second U.S.-Pacific Islands summit was welcomed, as were newly announced funds, initiatives and an expanding diplomatic footprint.

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