Australian High Commission
Papua New Guinea

131029 - Speech - AusAID

29 October 2013

Address by Minister, Development Cooperation, Stuart Schaefer
Church Partnership Program Forum 2013

Theme: Church State Partnership Moving Together

9am, Thursday 24 October 2013
PNG Institute of Public Administration, Port Moresby 


  • Honourable Charles Abel, Minister for National Planning
  • Ambassador Lucy Bogari, Independent Chair for the Church Partnership Program
  • Church leaders, CPP Coordinators
  • Other Government and Non-Government Partners

Thank you for inviting me to speak to you today.

This is an interesting, challenging and hopeful time for PNG and for you, as leaders of your Churches.

We in the aid program really value this opportunity to hear and talk to you about partnerships.

We all bring a wealth of experience that we can share and learn from.

I first came to PNG in 1997 as a truce monitor in Bougainville and since then have been fortunate to return three times to work in your beautiful country.

I have always been struck by important and unique role that Churches, and you - Church Leaders- play in PNG.

You support communities, deliver services and see the problems people face.

You run about half of PNG’s health and education services, and have a proven track record delivering services.

You are integrated into nearly every community and you reach the poorest and most remote villages.

Australian strongly supports your work.

We work together in the Church Partnership Program, Strongim Pipol Strongim Nesen, and in our health and education programs.

In keeping with this forum’s theme, I’d like to reflect on how we have moved together to reduce poverty.

I will also highlight some more opportunities to work together as the PNG Government establishes an Office of Religion and a Churches Development Council; while we in the aid program roll out our new governance strategy.

The Church Partnership Program is now a nine-year collaboration with seven Churches.

This strong and effective partnership is driven by you.

We have many achievements, confirmed by a recent independent review of the program.

Your Theology for Development, developed in partnership, is a crucial, underpinning achievement, which clarifies and supports approaches to reducing poverty.

Your collective research on the social impact of the PNG LNG Project in Hela has helped the community respond to its challenges and opportunities.

The Mother Child Support Project has delivered greater opportunities for women and supported better household incomes.

Through the Church Partnership Program you have built organisational capacity to deliver more effective services.

The program also has impressive standalone achievements.

In the past year alone, the Anglican Church has trained 94 women in Madang in basic numeracy and literacy skills.

The Seventh Day Adventist Church has trained 24 people in child trauma counselling, and established a support network of 25 schools and congregations.

Forty six female teachers recently graduated from the Salvation Army’s Literacy program.

The Baptist Union and the United Church have successfully continued their peace training with communities.

The Catholic Church’s drug and alcohol awareness raising programs in settlements throughout PNG continue to yield positive results.

The Lutheran Church continues to support the Gum Rimasip Disabled People’s Organisation in Morobe, highlighting the rights of people living with disability.

Through the program you increasingly promote gender equality, disability and child protection.

Supporting the improvement of good governance is also a program objective, and remains a challenge for us all.

Your work in this area is resulting in some positive changes and opportunities for more gains.

This is particularly evident in your work to date to support the Government to establish a Churches Development Council.

The Churches Development Council offers the promise of more transparent and accountable Government funding for church development programs.

But it also provides a platform for the Churches and the Government to engage on important issues of public policy – for example on the effectiveness of government spending.

The Churches Development Council promises to provide K50 million per annum to PNG’s Churches for development programs.

But this is just a small part of a K10 billion plus Government Budget.

In 2013, an impressive K1.5 billion (or 13 per cent of the national budget) has been allocated to service improvement program grants for provinces, districts and Local Level Governments.

In his electorate of Alotau, Minister Abel sets a fine example of how to manage and transparently account these funds.

But funds are not always spent or acquitted well across all provinces, districts and LLGs.

The Churches are probably the only organisations in the country apart from the Government who have the capacity to monitor how that money is spent.

Churches can use their wide networks and their moral authority to encourage greater transparency and accountability in the use of these funds at local, district, provincial and national levels.

The Churches and the Australian aid program work hard with the PNG Government to improve health and education.

There are some promising signs in education, but access is mixed and progress on improving literacy and quality remains poor.

PNG’s partnership with Australia recognises the scale of challenges, and is starting to yield some good outcomes.

We support Government school subsidy funding and reform, which improves funding levels to eligible church-run schools and provides clarity around what funds can be spent on.

We are helping the Divine Word University to develop a twinning program with the Australian Catholic University to improve research, student services, financial systems and operations.

Our health program works with Churches to reduce maternal mortality, train health workers, build and upgrade facilities, and tackle HIV.

The Australia Awards provided 450 scholarships this year for Papua New Guineans to study midwifery, nursing, community health and teaching in PNG.

Church based institutions are delivering many of these courses.

We are upgrading midwifery schools including Madang’s Lutheran School of Nursing and the Pacific Adventist University.

We are establishing a fifth midwifery school at St Mary’s in Vunapope.

St Mary’s hospital is one of many church-run facilities that we have partnered with under the Incentive Fund to upgrade facilities.

I visited St Mary’s several weeks ago to see the difference new facilities make for your hard working staff, and for patient care.

Next year we will start a new, separate, program of Kina for Kina infrastructure upgrades in partnership with Churches and the PNG Government.

Earlier this year, we funded a technical assistance mission to identify the number of current church-run health facilities, and the appropriate staffing levels and conditions, to meet PNG’s minimum standards.

The outcome of this mission has been the development of cabinet and budget submissions recommending a K39 million increase in annual recurrent funding for the Christian Health Services.

If successful, this will directly improve service delivery outcomes.

And in 2012-13 we procured and distributed quality assured medical supplies to all Christian health service facilities in PNG.

I would like to recognise the critical partnerships with Anglicare, the Salvation Army, the Catholic HIV/AIDS Services and the Baptist Union to support your work tackling HIV.

Vision 2050 and the Platform for Action highlights the Churches’ important work, and commits to increasing their role in health and education services, and to the establishment of an Office of Religion.

The PNG Government also recently agreed to redesign the Church-State Partnership, narrow its focus to health and education, and to the establishment of a Churches Development Council.

This is positive recognition of the Churches’ role, and a commitment to work with, and engage more effectively with, Churches and communities on issues of national importance.

It should also allow for greater alignment between the Government’s and Churches’ objectives.

This year’s National Haus Krai is a recent example of aligned objectives.

Some of you joined Government leaders, officials, and people from all parts of the PNG community to call for an end to violence against women.

This is very positive, but much more needs to be done – particularly to encourage men to support women’s equal participation in all parts of PNG’s society.

Papua New Guinea currently ranks 156 out of 186 on the United Nations Gender Inequality Index.

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on violence against women notes that the status of women remains low, and attributes this as the major cause of violence against women.

Papua New Guinea is off track in its progress against all gender-related MDG indicators.

We recognise that gender is a challenge that you are grappling with, both within your own Churches, as well in your work with communities.

This is not a reason to stop trying.

Promoting good governance in PNG is arguably the aid program’s most important current task.

Achieving good governance is most likely to result in development that is sustainable and Papua New Guinea-led.

Improving public governance requires effective leadership at all levels of government and strong engagement from Churches, the business community and non-government organisations.

The Australian aid program’s new PNG Governance Strategy proposes a new, more coherent approach for supporting improved governance in PNG out to 2020.

The strategy will guide the design and implementation of the next phase of governance support, as current programs end.

It is the result of strong analysis and extensive consultation involving many of you here.

Rob Brink will speak more about this later.

I would like to say now, there will be new ways for us to work together, including under the next phase of CPP.

The principles underpinning the new strategy, which will guide our new programs, include:

  • focusing on accountability and the incentives to deliver improved outcomes;
  • supporting and strengthening PNG leadership, and focusing efforts where there is good political and administrative leadership;
  • focusing on governance issues directly affecting service delivery rather than ‘organisational strengthening’ for its own sake; and
  • refocusing attention on provinces, districts and LLGs which have a direct impact on service delivery.

This recognises the significant shift in resources to this level of government in the 2013 PNG budget.

Community development will be an important element, in line with the PNG Government’s own emerging approach.

Australia will look to build stronger partnerships between political and bureaucratic levels of government – working through and with government.

Our new strategy presents new opportunities and ways of working together.

We welcome continuing dialogue on the new strategy, and your views on what you would like to see the next phase of CPP look like.

You may be aware that Australia’s recent general election resulted in a change of government.

As with all new governments, it is currently considering its strategic, budget and funding priorities, including for the Australian aid program.

The Government has announced AusAID and the Department of Foreign Affairs will be integrated into one department to support the closer alignment of aid and diplomatic objectives.

This change comes into effect next Friday.

The new Government remains committed to playing its part in achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

The Government will provide detailed information on the funding priorities of Australian aid in due course.

Finally, I want to recognise the cornerstone of our partnership with Churches remains our relationships and how we can bring together diverse but interdependent interests.

Relationships between people deeply matter, as does combining our resources in a spirit of solidarity, and looking to understand the PNG worldview.

That’s why this forum is so important.

Thank you and I wish you well your deliberations over the next two days.