Australian High Commission
Papua New Guinea

SPEECH 150209 AA Fellowship

Speech by HE Ms Deborah Stokes

Australian High Commissioner to Papua New Guinea

at the official opening ceremony of the Graduate  Certificate in Governance & Public Policy

Monday 9th February 2015

Australia Awards Fellowship

Firstly, let me congratulate you, as successful awardees of an Australia Awards Fellowship. You were selected based on your potential to reach the highest levels in your professional careers within the public service.

You are role models for your female colleagues. All of you are already leaders in your departments, and this Fellowship aims to support you to realise your potential as the next generation of female senior management and government leaders. PNG needs more of you!

Educational opportunities like Australia Awards fellowships are critical to ensuring women can contribute to, and benefit from PNG’s economic development.

We know that having women in the workplace improves capability and leads to better performance. Internationally, investing in the education of women and girls has been shown to deliver immense economic and social benefits. It is the single most important activity that any country can support.

Currently, Papua New Guinean women are less likely to attend university than men. In 2011, males represented two thirds of university enrolments. The consequences are that young women do not have the same employment and training opportunities as men.

In PNG, as you would know, leadership positions are often occupied by people with post graduate qualifications. This is especially true in the public sector. So women are doubly disadvantaged by the lack of educational opportunities in PNG.

Australia Awards Program in PNG

The Government of Australia is committed to working with the Government of PNG to improve gender equity in education.

Each year, the Australian Government provides around 500 scholarships for Papua New Guineans to study at health and education institutions across PNG. Around 70 per cent of awardees last year were women.

We also provide around 150 scholarships to Papua New Guineans to undertake tertiary studies in Australia. At least 50 percent of these scholarships are awarded to women.

Last year, Papua New Guinean women received 55 percent of all awards for study in Australia.

I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the Department of Personnel Management and acknowledge its hard work to achieve these figures, particularly that of at least 50 per cent of women receiving awards.

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

To succeed, Papua New Guinea needs all of its citizens educated and able to participate in the nation’s development.

Gender, Leadership and Governance

Supporting governance in PNG is also important to ensuring both men and women benefit from PNG’s development.

The Governments of Australia and Papua New Guinea agreed in December last year to establish the Pacific Leadership and Governance Precinct.

This Precinct is supporting the transition of the School of Business Administration at the University of Papua New Guinea into a new School of Business and Public Policy. It is also supporting the revitalisation of the PNG Institute of Public Administration.

The goal of the Precinct is to influence transformation of the PNG public sector, because Australia understands that a stronger public service is critical for PNG’s future prosperity and ensures that services reach those in need.

More women in leadership positions will contribute to these aspirations and translate into better outcomes for women. And this is why the Australian government is proud to be supporting the Australia Awards Fellowships.

Graduate Certificate of Governance and Public Policy

Over the next seven months under your fellowship award, each of you will be completing a Graduate Certificate of Governance and Public Policy from the University of Queensland, a postgraduate qualification from one of Australia’s most prestigious Universities.

A pilot version of your course will also be running for a cohort of PNG public servants at the Precinct this year.

Fellowships are short courses, which provide greater study options particularly for women and those in critical public and private sector roles, who are unable to spend long periods in Australia.

They provide useful alternative models to address public sector training needs, reducing time required away from work, while at the same time delivering targeted skills and an Australian experience.

They also aim to overcome some of the societal barriers PNG women face which limit their opportunities to study for longer periods in Australia.

Unlike other qualifications, the skills and knowledge you develop on this course will also relate to the real situation you face in your department and in the PNG Public Service arena.

You will be challenged intellectually to achieve your qualification.

But on return you will perhaps face a greater challenge - that of implementing your knowledge.

To help you with this – as part of your course and one month in Australia, you will work with the University of Queensland to develop a work plan. This will be your blueprint to improve a key process or to develop a crucial piece of policy you have identified for your department.

The University of Queensland will then provide mentoring to you for six months once you are back in PNG. The Australia Awards – PNG Facility will also provide you with ongoing support.

This approach within the fellowship program, should maximise the opportunity to immediately transfer knowledge and – to make change in your departments.


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

You are a groundbreaking group in many ways, female leaders in the Public Service, with a lead role in Papua New Guinea’s development.

Through this Fellowship we want to ensure that you will be able to connect with each other as the future women leaders of PNG. And through your studies, contact with other students and UQ lecturers, you will learn about different approaches to tackling the challenges you have identified.

We will watch with great interest over the next seven months, how you progress. And - we expect great things from each and every one of you, when you return to your Department.

Please accept my best wishes for your exciting future journey. All of the Australian High Commission and the Australia Awards – PNG Facility program staff wish you well.

Congratulations once again to you all.