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MELBOURNE, Australia (April 9, 2001 - Radio Australia’s Pacific Beat)---Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer will present a gift to the South Pacific: a 664-page encyclopedia of the Pacific Islands.

Funded by Australian aid money, the encyclopedia was produced at the Australian National University and printed by the University of Hawai‘i Press.

The project has been five years in the making, using the works of 200 experts and academics.

The encyclopedia covers the environment, history, politics, economy, culture and other aspects of the Pacific Islands.

One of the editors, professor Brij Lal, said the encyclopedia comes at a time of bewildering change in the region.

"Encyclopedias are very difficult to do, especially in this day and age when facts are contested and there is no one truth," he said.

In addition to facts and figures, the encyclopedia also includes personal accounts of the human experience through interviews with various Pacific Islanders.

The encyclopedia costs US$ 100 each.

For additional reports from Radio Australia/Pacific Beat, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Radio/TV News/Radio Australia/Pacific Beat.

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