Pacific Beat

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Boat People
Cold Comfort for the Huddled Masses
Visitors to australia during last year's Olympics were struck by the friendliness of its people. More recent arrivals-thousands of asylum seekers from the Middle East-would likely have a different take. The Federal Government last week bolstered its controversial policy of mandatory incarceration for illegal immigrants by announcing it would convert three defense sites into detention centers. The six existing facilities, which some detainees and activists have likened to concentration camps, are creaking at their barbed-wired extremities: nearly 3,700 asylum seekers have arrived by boat this year, and more are reportedly on the way.

The government has "an obsession with control," says Margaret Piper, of the Refugee Council of Australia. "It sees votes to be won in taking a hardline approach." Australians have a warped perspective on the issue of illegal immigration, says Deborah Cobb Clark of the Australian National University: the numbers entering Australia are much smaller than those flooding into poorer and more crowded European and African countries. The R.C.A.'s Piper favors releasing asylum seekers into the community after basic checks of their background and stories. Some of the arrivals are "opportunists," she says, but most will eventually be granted refugee status.

A spokesman for Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock says the message for people smugglers and asylum seekers is "that our policy of mandatory detention is not about to unwind." Millions of people "would like to come to Australia for a better life," he says, but only those fleeing persecution or physical threat-as opposed to poverty, flood or famine-can expect to stay. For the others, their first big Aussie smile will probably come from the official who waves them goodbye.
-Daniel Williams

Indigenous Math
An Elbow of Pigs, Please
How do you count? by 10s, most likely. But the people of Papua New Guinea have other ways-hundreds of them. Some tribes do it by fives, using hands and feet; others by twos, fours or sixes. Some keep tally with bundles of taro; others with body parts-five might be the left thumb, 14 the elbow (in one tribe, the penis is 33). Different words may be used for counting objects and people, and some things, like gifts of food, may be sized up not by number but by the area they cover or (in the case of pigs) how big they are.

Thousands of years older than the base-10 system, these diverse approaches to math offer valuable clues to the origins of ideas about number. And they may yet survive the attack of the killer decimal, thanks to Goroka University's new ethnomathematics center. Named for Australian educator Glen Lean, it aims to continue his life's work of analyzing P.N.G. counting systems-over 200 of them. In some local languages, that goal translates as "indefinitely large." But for director Rex Matang, it will be just "a small beginning." After crunching P.N.G.'s numbers, he plans to tackle Oceania's as well.
-Elizabeth Feizkhah

Te Aroa Hey!
Village People
When it comes to Maori, it seems, tourists just want more. New Zealand has one Maori theme park, in Rotorua, on the North Island; now its founders, brothers Mike and Doug Tamaki, are planning an "even more ambitious" version for Christchurch, on the South Island-which attracts almost half of the country's international tourists. The

new village will include a marae (traditional village), demonstrations of traditional arts and crafts like weaving and carving, and a "time tunnel" in which visitors will be guided through Maori history. Mike Tamaki says painful episodes like the decimation of local tribes by musket-based warfare and European diseases will be recreated "without sacrificing our dignity or bastardizing our culture." The park, due to open next August, will reflect the culture and beliefs of the South Island's 30,000-strong Ngai Tahu tribe and draw on the skills of the local Nga Hau E Wha National Marae. But "tourists aren't that interested in North and South Island tribal distinctions," says David Brennan, chief executive of the Nga Hau E Wha, "so long as they have a good time."
-Leora Moldofsky