Australian High Commission
Papua New Guinea

141117 HOM Speech AAwards pre departure briefing

Remarks by Australian High Commissioner to PNG
HE Ms Deborah Stokes
Australia Awards – Pre Departure Briefing
Crowne Plaza Hotel, Hunter St, Port Moresby
17 November 2014

Minister for Public Service, Honorable Sir, Puka Temu,
Distinguished guests, Representatives of the Australia Awards PNG Facility, Awardees, Ladies and Gentlemen.
It is one the highlights of my year to address Australia Awardees before they depart for Australia.

It is a highlight because you are an inspirational group of Papua New Guinean women and men, who have worked hard to get here, and who have been awarded a prestigious scholarship to study in Australia.

We want you to benefit from your study and we want PNG to benefit on your return. Wewant to be proud of you.

You are about to embark on what I hope will be a rewarding professional and personal journey.

Your award is likely to represent the culmination of many years of effort, sacrifice and commitment by you and your families.
I congratulate you on your impressive achievements so far.

The Power of Education

The Australian government has provided scholarships for Papua New Guineans for over 30 years.

Since 1996, more than 2000 Papua New Guineans, have studied in Australia on scholarships.

There are many politicians, business women and men, and senior public officials who are Australia Awards alumni.

You will join an esteemed group.

Education brings tremendous opportunities. It opens up the range of choices we have. It is transformative.

My life is an example of this. You might think an Australian diplomat by definition would come from a privileged background.

Neither my mother or father completed year 12 at school.

My father joined the Australian army in 1939 – in his words – to get a roof over his head and a clean pair of underpants. That decision took him to the Middle East and then Papua New Guinea – Lae and then Bougainville.

Out of four children in my family three of us have university degrees and have had very rewarding careers.

We have had many opportunities that my mother and father could not have even dreamt of.

So in one generation, our family has seen incredible change as a result of education.

I am sure that in this room there are many stories just like this.


On your return to PNG, you will bring back new ideas on how you and your organisation can operate more effectively and provide the services which the people of PNG need.

You also have the opportunity – indeed responsibility - to show leadership in your community, in your organisation, or in the political sphere.
We want you to be the part of the next generation of PNG leaders.


And it must be both women and men contributing in this way.
This is why at least 50 per cent of our Australia Award scholarships are provided to outstanding women.

I would like to thank the Department of Personnel Management in helping us to reach the 50 per cent goal.

The Department must also be acknowledged for its dedication to the Gender Equity and Social Inclusion intiative, which increases awareness and promotes gender across the public sector.

We know that having women in the workplace improves capability and leads to better performance.

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 invest in.

As President Obama said in his address at the University of Queensland on Saturday, ‘the best measure of whether a nation is going to be successful is whether they are tapping the talents of their women and treating them as full participants in politics, society and the economy’.

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.

People-to-people links

I hope you will find your experience studying in Australia both professionally rewarding and personally enriching.

I encourage you to have a rounded life in Australia – get involved in sporting teams for example or attend a local church.

We want you to succeed with your studies in Australia.

But we also hope that you will help grow the bandwidth of ties between our two countries.

The history of our two countries is a shared one and so is our future.

We hope that you will be ambassadors for PNG in Australia and help Australians to gain a better understanding of contemporary PNG.

You might also encourage Australians to visit PNG. – surely one of the most beautiful countries in the world. You can quote me on that.

With fellow Australian students, you could alert them to the possibility of studying in PNG under the New Colombo Plan. Under this scheme, the Australian Government provides scholarships for Australian university students to study for a part of their degree at universities across the Asia Pacific region, including PNG.

Purpose of pre-departure training

Your time in Australia won’t always be easy.

Separation from your families is difficult and adjusting to life in Australia may take some effort.

Big cities and big universities may seen cold and impersonal places.

Some of you may encounter different approaches to teaching, research, writing essays, and undertaking analysis.

This week’s pre-departure briefing will address these challenges and many other issues that you are likely to encounter.

I urge you to participate fully and don't be shy about asking questions. Like other areas of our life, it is always best to be prepared and soak up as much information as you can in advance.

We want your experience in Australia to be rewarding.

And please remember – that we have support in place in Australia – for you to reach out to, if you are facing some challenges.

You are not alone. Your university or institution,and your Case Managers, are there to support you while you are in Australia.

Please use them for matters big or small, and as soon as they arise.

You will also have learning support and extra tutorials available to you assist you.


I wish you all the very best for a productive and happy time in Australia.

We expect great things from you when you return.