Address by HE Ms Deborah Stokes
Australian High Commissioner to Papua New Guinea
Launch of Powerful Voices photobook and Harim Mi film
Wednesday 18 February 2015
Paradise Cinemas, Vision City
• Lady Lynda Babao-O’Neill
• Daniel Tesfaye, Country Director, FHI360
• Jeremy Syme, Program Director, SPSN
• Powerful Voices participants – Cathy Napri, Susan Manangop, Nancy Kons and Veronica George
• Ladies and Gentlemen
It is a great pleasure to be here to launch this important book, Powerful Voices, and film, Harim Mi.
Family and sexual violence is a crime that affects millions of women and children around the world – in Australia and in Papua New Guinea.
These crimes are usually hidden and unreported.
Violence against women and girls is one of the largest barriers to the achievement of equal opportunity and empowerment for over half of the world’s population.
Violence not only fractures our families and our communities, but is a barrier to economic development.
Powerful Voices and Harim Mi has given women in PNG’s provinces the platform and opportunity to speak for themselves about family and sexual violence in PNG.
In their stories, we meet survivors as well as those who provide survivors with vital support.
We meet brave leaders, both women and men, who with their communities are taking a stand.
We see in these stories the need for community actions aimed at stopping violence against women and girls.
We also see the need for effective action by the police and courts, as well as by the delivery of education and health services.
Violence against women and children is a problem that can be tackled through determined leadership that changes attitudes and behaviour to prevent violence, as well as through protecting survivors, and – importantly – through prosecuting offenders.
Impunity from police and prosecution action is damaging and corrosive.
Gender equality and women’s empowerment is a key priority in Australia’s international engagement. It is also at a central pillar of our engagement with Papua New Guinea.
Australia wants PNG to be a strong nation, where all of its citizens are able to enjoy the benefits of economic growth.
One of the best ways to achieve stronger communities, societies and economies is to empower women and girls.
The Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Julie Bishop, has set a target requiring that 80 per cent of all aid program investments will effectively address gender issues in their implementation.
In PNG we already meet this target.
In PNG we work in partnership with all levels of government, civil society, international partners, women and men to respond to violence against women through a range of different programs.
As one example, we will invest Aud$55 million dollars in PNG to enhance women’s leadership, increase women’s incomes and reduce violence and access to services through the Pacific Women Program over the next five years.
As part of this, I am delighted to announce Australia will provide a further Aud$2.5 million dollars for FHI360 to continue its ground-breaking work in Sepik and Western Highlands Provinces.
This extension will support the organisation’s innovative work with young people in schools and changing attitudes to violence.
Another innovative program we are proud to support is the Case Management Centre in Lae.
The Centre is staffed by case workers who help women and children receive medical support as well as immediate shelter, legal support and other services they need.
Through our Pacific Women program, we are also supporting Oxfam to develop the Women Human Rights Defenders Network, continuing their impressive work rescuing victims of extreme, and sorcery related, violence and helping families reintegrate into society.
We continue to support the law and justice sector, helping police, prosecutors and magistrates to improve legal protections for survivors of family and sexual violence.
Through our aid program, Australia has supported the establishment of 14 Family and Sexual Violence Units in police stations across PNG.
Magistrates and district court clerks have received specialist training to improve practices for issuing Interim Protection Orders – these are valuable short-term interventions aimed at preventing further violence in the home or community.
There is no better way to promoting gender equity than educating women and girls.
And we commend the PNG Government for its free-school fee policy. This is creating many more opportunities for girls as well as for boys.
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 per cent of these scholarships are awarded to women. Last year, Papua New Guinean women received 55 per cent of all awards for study in Australia.
This year we will provide 10 scholarships to female students at Enga Teachers Training College to undertake the country’s first and only, two year elementary teacher training program.
We are also working to support women in leadership.
Last week, in partnership with the Department of Personnel Management, 20 female public servants were awarded an Australia Awards Fellowship.
Female leaders from the public service will undertake a Graduate Certificate in Governance and Public Policy at the University of Queensland in Australia.
This certificate can be used as a building block for a Master’s degree at a later stage.
A further eight women public servants from a number of government departments participated in a two day executive short course in Governance and Public Policy.
This is the first training delivered under the new Australia-PNG Pacific Leadership and Governance Precinct involving the IPA and the University of PNG.
The course was delivered by the University of Queensland in Partnership with the University of PNG.
All of these initiatives are examples of how we are working to support women and girls in PNG.
Today, I hope that this book and film we are launching will encourage all of us to think about our roles in preventing violence, and how together we can create a future that is safe and secure for all women and children.
I congratulate FHI360 for this work.
I hope the new book and film will be accessed widely throughout PNG.
It is my pleasure to launch this photobook and film and to invite you to join me in viewing Harim Mi.