Australian High Commission
Papua New Guinea

140207 - Speech - Divine Word University

07 February 2014

Address by Minister (Development Cooperation) Australian High Commission Papua New Guinea, Mr Stuart Schaefer at the official launch of Divine Word University 2014 academic year, Divine Word University Madang, Madang Province


  • Father Jan Czuba, Divine Word University President
  • Professor David Kavanamur, Office of Higher Education Director General
  • University staff and students

I am delighted to join you today.

I spend a lot of time in Waigani, so I take every opportunity I can to talk with people outside of Moresby and see Papua New Guinea’s development.

I always enjoy visiting this beautiful corner of PNG and this campus.

I see changes with every visit. The Divine Word University’s hallmarks are its vibrancy and forward thinking. These are very much products of your strong leadership and commitment to quality education.

I am grateful to the President and University members for this opportunity to speak to you today.

Australia’s High Commissioner Deborah Stokes very much wanted to attend. She sends you her apologies and best wishes.

The Divine Word University has strong links with Australia. We have worked together through the Incentive Fund and our education program. The university’s infrastructure, influenced by Father Jan’s own architectural expertise, is world class and conducive to student learning.

Your multinational staff has extensive experience studying and working in Australia. This provides your students with exposure to international thinking, an experience many of their peers in other institutions do not receive.

I want to take this opportunity to congratulate Professor Croucher for winning the Australian Prime Minister’s Award for University Teacher of the Year in 2013.

I hope today Australia and Divine Word University will further strengthen our links.

To the students, I know your heads are probably spinning as you juggle orientation and new schedules and making and renewing friendships.

Big questions may also be in the backs of your minds.

Questions like: Where will my degree take me? Where is PNG and its economy heading?

How can I get the most out of my degree and influence PNG’s future?

Women may be thinking, will I have an equal chance as men to hold a job and live the life I want after I graduate?


I want to talk about these issues today. I can’t promise you answers to these questions, because it is for Papua New Guinea’s people and leaders to determine the path of PNG’s development.

Value of education

The fact that you are here shows how greatly you value education.

Nelson Mandela stated that “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

Education is a key driver of change. It exposes us to new ideas and knowledge.

It gives us the confidence to contest the status quo. We acquire the skills to apply our new knowledge and develop solutions appropriate to our circumstances.

Education also enables us to gain technical skills that can help you to contribute to PNG’s economy, innovate and create new products or ways of doing things, and influence government policies and programs.

But education alone is not enough to change the status quo.

To fully realise education’s transformative effects, a nation needs to have clear, strong leadership, quality governance and an environment conducive for economic growth.

And a nation needs young people willing and able to contribute to achieving these goals

Value of leadership

Papua New Guinea’s universities have a major role in building leadership and improving governance.

Without leadership, without your engagement on critical issues, the improved governance that is necessary for sustainable development will never materialise.

Governance affects development possibilities and outcomes. We know that effective institutions and organisations are critical to good governance and therefore to development.

We also know that none of this can be imposed by outsiders. Only PNG’s leaders, like you, can build, shape and maintain legitimate institutions that are accountable for the public good.

Vision 2050 clearly acknowledges the need to improve political, bureaucratic and private sector leadership as the basis for transformational and systemic change. We can see from its words and funding in the 2014 Budget that the Government of PNG is still committed to this vision.

The Australian Government will support PNG’s own efforts.

There are many positive things happening in PNG. I encourage you to seek them out. Get involved.

When you see something that is not right, find others who feel the same way and speak out.

There are organisations that can connect you with other like-minded young leaders.

The PNG-Australia Network will make connections between young Papua New Guineans and Australians.

Watch out for the formation of this Network this year.

Leadership PNG and the PNG Alumni Association are also groups that bring like-minded young leaders together.

The Divine Word University itself sets an example of the type of leadership PNG needs.

Strong leaders have a clear understanding of where they need to take an organisation to improve it.

They take responsibility for problems. They know that the standards you walk past are the standards you accept.
They do more than talk– they are involved with solutions.

Strong leaders respect women because they know it is the right thing to do for their people and for PNG’s development.

As leaders, I encourage you to think about where PNG needs your leadership.

Think about the need to respond to corruption at the local and national level.

Corruption undermines the better governance necessary for sustainable and equitable development.

Think about the need to respond to gender based violence, which affects an estimated two in three Papua New Guinean women.

Gender based violence is both a cause and symptom of gender inequality, which prevents women from opportunities including reaching their potential through education.

Gender equality and education

As a close friend and partner of PNG, Australia is committed to helping PNG create the conditions that allow women and girls to have opportunities that are at least equal to those of boys and men in PNG.

Internationally, investing in the education of girls has been shown to deliver immense economic and social benefits.

It is the single most important activity that any country can support.

Nations are unable to reach their full potential when half of their citizens are excluded from important leadership and economic opportunities.

Papua New Guinean women are less likely to attend university than men.

In 2011, males represented two thirds of university enrolments.

It was estimated that around 30 per cent of technical and vocational enrolments were women.

The consequences are that young women do not have the same employment and training opportunities as men.

Investing in women’s economic empowerment is not just the right thing to do, it is the smart thing to do.

Having women in the workplace improves capability and leads to better performance.

Companies with more women on the Board outperform those with the least women by 53 per cent.

The World Bank estimates that eliminating barriers to women’s full participation could increase labour productivity by as much as 25 per cent in some countries.

Investing in women’s economic empowerment is not just a job for government or business. PNG needs both men and women to be agents of change, to show leadership.

As I said before, the standards you walk past are those you accept. All men can make a difference by showing respect to women and speaking up when you see behaviour that is not acceptable.

Economy in transition

Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has spoken publically about the need for PNG to transform from a narrow, resource-based economy to one that is sustainable and diversified.

A diversified economy produces a range of sophisticated goods and services that are competitive on the global market.

The direction of where PNG diversifies – into services, manufacturing or rural export – is a matter for PNG.

The commodities sector will always remain important.

Sectors such as tourism, fisheries and agriculture offer potential for growth.

PNG can continue to improve the productivity, quality and consistency of the primary products you export.

As graduates, you can play a role in helping PNG to diversify and improve its economic performance.

Science graduates can explore drought resistant crops.

Business graduates can consider new marketing strategies to expand into new markets.

You have the opportunity to observe PNG’s economy, identify trends and expand your understanding of PNG’s partners in Southeast and Northern Asian countries.

As future leaders, you will set the economic and political governance arrangements that determine the level of international investment.

Education can oil the cogs of the PNG’s economic transition.

It can provide foundational skills to allow the economy to develop, if there is clear direction on where it will go.

But it’s not simply enough to produce more graduates in more disciplines.

Quantity must be matched by quality.

PNG also needs an environment conducive to economic activity.

Employers want workplaces and workforces that are healthy, safe and accessible.

Investments in health, law and justice and transport infrastructure contribute as much as education to the conditions for economic production of goods and services.

In education, the most important investment that PNG can make right now is in improving quality.

Quality of education

The Divine Word University is a leader in embracing the quality agenda.

Quality of education spans governance, administration, research and academic programs.

Quality is critical to the standing of an institution and its recognition by its national and international peers.

It ensures that a university can bring the issues that matter to PNG to the attention of the world’s best minds through research, publications in international journals, and academic participation in international conferences and discussions.

To the students, it is about helping you achieve your potential.

The quality of your experience here is not only about what Divine Word University brings for you.
It is also about whether you seize this opportunity to question, probe issues, challenge the status quo, and believe you can exceed your expectations.

PNG’s Universities Review identified improving the quality of teaching and learning as critical among its recommendations.

Both PNG and Australia have committed to improving the quality of education that students receive, by pursuing university quality.

I would like to acknowledge the leadership of the Office of Higher Education and Professor Kavanamur in taking up the mantel of the higher education quality agenda.

The Office of Higher Education led the establishment of the quality assessment processes which Divine Word University and other institutions have undertaken.

Australia is proud to support the good work of the Office.


Divine Word University seized the opportunity to build on its already ongoing activities to improve its university quality by participating in the recent university quality assessments.

You, the university, completed an Academic Audit in 2011 and a Post Audit in November last year. You reconfirmed you are a university that can meet international standards.

You have reaffirmed your commitment to work with Australian universities.

A twinning relationship will provide you with the opportunity to further your quality agenda. You will refresh long-standing relationships to improve academic programs, undertake collaborative research and expand student experiences.


I congratulate the Divine Word University for your commitment to realise the vision of a strong network of quality universities suited to the needs of the 21st century.

To the students, I encourage you to remember that your being here is a major achievement in itself.

Tertiary education in PNG in a luxury. So many school leavers in PNG miss out on the opportunity to study at this level. Currently around two to three per cent of children who begin elementary school make it to university.

As leaders, I encourage you to help future generations of students by encouraging the government to spend more on education. Lobby your local member of parliament. Use your networks of influence, including your alumni.

You are attending Divine Word University – an institution with strong values, a proven track record of successful graduates and a strong commitment to improving the quality of your education.

You may have the opportunity to undertake further studies. I encourage you to embrace it. Further studies will change your life. More and more countries will want you to study abroad. Australia is among them. Consider the opportunities we provide like the Australia Awards. At least half of the awards go to women.

While not all of you may choose to continue studies or enter public life, many of you will make significant contributions as business owners, academics, or managers in your chosen fields.

The contributions you make to PNG may not be in those fields at all.

It could be in how you respond to questions like where is Papua New Guinea heading? What kind of institutions and leaders will provide me with sustainable development and the economic environment that promotes growth? What sort of opportunities do I want for my daughter, or sister, or niece, in the future?

As highly educated women and men, Papua New Guineans will be looking for you for answers to ensure PNG can make the most of its enormous potential.