Australian High Commission
Papua New Guinea

141201 SPEECH Crying Meri

Remarks by HE Ms Deborah Stokes
Australia’s High Commissioner to Papua New Guinea
Exhibition of Crying Meri Photographs
Pikinini Witness Workshop, 24 November 2014

Good afternoon.

It is a great pleasure to be here, at this important workshop for police and prosecutors – the first of its kind in Papua New Guinea.

And also at this photographic exhibition, demonstrating the realities of family and sexual violence for women, children and communities.

Family and sexual violence is a crime that affects millions of women and children around the world. They are usually hidden and unreported.

These photographs are brutal, harrowing proof of the magnitude of the problem.

In addition to the trauma suffered by survivors, violence is also one of the largest barriers to the achievement of gender equality, and the empowerment of women.

Both Papua New Guinea and Australia understand that violence not only fractures our families and our communities, but impedes Papua New Guinea’s economy, and seriously undermines its development.

This week Police Commissioners from across Australia and New Zealand spoke out against violence against women and children.

They made a united statement “that it is never okay to use violence and we won’t accept it”.

The Police Commissioners explicitly recognised that not all men are violent, but that all men have the capacity to make a difference to help prevent violence against women and children.

This message was strongly endorsed by the Australian Prime Minister who described domestic violence as a "social scourge", and an "absolute crime".

Those of you working in the law enforcement have a real opportunity to personally make a difference in upholding the law, in setting the values of a modern PNG and in ensuring that everyone has access to justice, and is safe.

Violence against women and children is a problem that can be tackled through determined leadership to change attitudes and behaviour to prevent violence, as well as through protecting survivors, and – importantly – through prosecuting offenders.

Which is why this week’s workshop is so important.

This workshop shares best practices for interviewing children and women who have suffered traumatic events, to gather strong evidence of crimes, to support the best possible prosecution.

Due to the fear and shame felt by survivors, and the many other disincentives to reporting that exist, violence against women and children is a crime that is usually hidden away, and unreported.

It is therefore crucial to respect and encourage witnesses and survivors to come forward, and, when they are confident to do so, to provide professional investigative services and referral pathways that minimise the ongoing trauma from the crime.

Seeing improved outcomes for survivors will grow confidence in the formal justice system to legally resolve child sexual abuse and family violence.

I congratulate the Office of the Public Prosecutor and the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary on their identification of this vital opportunity to improve justice in this traumatic area, for the betterment of families, communities and the nation.

It is through initiatives like this, working together, we can create a better Papua New Guinea, for everyone – especially its most vulnerable.
Thank you again for the opportunity to speak here, and I look forward to learning of the success of strengthened investigative skills to support prosecutions of family and sexual violence crimes.