The founding of SPERA

SPERA arose from an informal discussion early in 1990 between Murray Matthews of the National Radiation Laboratory (Christchurch) and Christian Poletiko of le Laboratoire d’étude et de surveillance de l’environnement (LESE, Papeete) about the difficulties scientists face working in isolation in remote locations with little contact with peers, as was the case in the days before modern means of communication. The idea of forming an association to foster communication was mooted, which Murray agreed to present at an informal Environmental Radioactivity Workshop in Adelaide later that year. The idea was welcomed by workshop participants so an inaugural meeting was planned, which the Scientific Director for French Polynesia generously agreed to host in August 1991.

With the help of Malcolm Cooper (Australian Radiation Laboratory), a list of invitees from Australia was drawn up and these together with two delegates from New Zealand and one from Chile attended a four-day meeting at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Papeete. Meeting participants unanimously agreed that an association should be formed, and the name ‘South Pacific Environmental Radioactivity Association’, SPERA, was adopted. Further discussion focused on issues such as membership, fields of interest and the Constitution, laying the foundation for the present Constitution.

It was agreed that the Association should be formally incorporated in Australia where most members would inevitably be based. Accordingly, Malcom Cooper was appointed initial President and Susan Brown (ANSTO) Secretary/Treasurer, and the process of incorporation begun. It was agreed that the first SPERA conference would be held in 1992, and biennially thereafter. Keith Hunter of the University of Otago (Dunedin) offered to host that meeting in August 1992. Murray Matthews took over as President in 1993 and when incorporation formalities were completed published a formal announcement of the existence of SPERA (J. Environ. Radioactivity 23, 211–212, 1994).